Kew Palace

Kew Palace

Find a Hidden Gem at Kew Palace

Kew Palace, summer home of King George III, is one of the less well-known royal residences in London and is hidden within Kew Gardens, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Highlights

  • Find out more about the palace by taking a guided tour with expert (and costumed) hosts; the tour lasts an hour and reveals the striking life of the king and his family
  • Visit the Royal Kitchens, which have been preserved as they were more than 200 years ago; projections and sounds really bring the place to life
  • Climb the 253 steps to the top of the Great Pagoda in the Kew Botanic Gardens and catch some spectacular views across London

What to see and do

Visit Queen Charlotte’s Cottage

Explore Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, which was built as a retreat for members of the royal family in the late 18th century. They’d drop into the cottage for refreshments whilst out on walks in the gardens.

Find out more about “mad” King George III

King George III, who reigned from 1760 to 1820, was a complex man with a great interest in science and culture. He was also devoted to his family and his duties, but his bouts of illness made his life difficult and were possibly exacerbated by the era’s primitive treatments.

Examine the frames of some rooms

While most of the rooms at Kew Palace are preserved in period style, some have been stripped bare so you can see the timber structures, as well as evidence of historical changes and renovations. This makes for an interesting and intimate experience which takes you further into the fabric of this small, homely building.

Stroll through the Queen’s Garden

The plants grown in this garden behind the palace, are solely those grown in Britain during the 17th century and before. This garden is also home to several sculptures, including a marble satyr, a Venetian well-head and five sculptures commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1734.

Did you know? (5 Interesting Facts)

  1. Kew Palace is the smallest royal palace in the country and its diminutive size offers a more intimate picture of the Georgian royals. Writer Horace Walpole (1717-1797) joked that Kew was so small that George’s three daughters had to hang their dresses on the backs of their bedroom doors!
  2. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage is set in a paddock which became home to England’s first-ever kangaroos in 1791! The kangaroos bred successfully and by the early 19th century there were 18 living in the gardens.
  3. The sink in the Royal Kitchens was lead-lined! Scullery boys would scrub the pots and pans with a mixture of sand and soap in this sink and some historians believe that lead could have contributed to King George III’s illness.
  4. The chair in Queen Charlotte’s bedroom is the one she died in on November 17 1818. Charlotte had been suffering from dropsy, then pneumonia and found it difficult to lie down so she would sleep in her favourite chair.
  5. Kew Palace was built in 1631 as the home for the merchant Samuel Fortrey. Over the house entrance, you can see a lover’s knot with the initials S and C, for Samuel and Catherine, his wife.

History

  • 1550s: Underneath the palace is the undercroft (underground chamber) of a 16th-century building. The land was owned by Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, a court favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.
  • 1619: Samuel Fortrey leased the original building over the undercroft and demolished it, before building a larger, south-facing manor house. The house had an artisan mannerist style of architecture with prominent Dutch gables that earned it the nickname of “Dutch House”.
  • 1727: Queen Caroline and George II ascended to the throne and leased the Dutch House for their three eldest daughters, Anne, Amelia and Caroline.
  • 1731: Queen Caroline’s son Frederick, Prince of Wales, started to remodel the houses in the Kew Gardens, adding what’s now known as the Royal Kitchens. He settled in Kew Palace with his wife Augusta and their children until his death in 1751.
  • 1738: George III, Frederick’s son, took the throne and reigned from 1760 to 1820 (although he was declared unfit to rule in 1811).
  • 1800s: The Dutch House began to fall into disuse and disrepair due to George’s increasing ill-health and also because he was building his Castellated Palace at the nearby Kew Farm so lived mostly in Windsor.
  • 1844: Queen Victoria sent three of her children to live at Kew for the summer, after which it was unoccupied until 1898, when she transferred ownership to Kew Gardens to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
  • 1969: A replica 17th-century Dutch garden was developed at the back of the house and the house and gardens were opened to the public.
  • 1996: the house closed for major restorations, including renovations to the physical building, the manufacture of period draperies and an external lift shaft for disabled access.
  • 2006: The house opened to the public again.

Facilities and accessibility

There’s a lift on the west wing for disabled access to the higher floors. There are also two wheelchairs available for the palace, although be aware that the corridors are narrow. There are also wheelchairs available at the entrances to the gardens.

The Kew Botanic Gardens offer free entry to accompanying carers and to registered blind and partially-sighted visitors. Guide and assistance dogs with their leads and documentation are welcome in the palace and kitchens.

Audio description tours and sign language interpreters are available as long as you book 14 days in advance by calling 03333206000.

You can find accessible toilets at the Palace Welcome Centre and at several places nearby, including Brentford Gate and The Food Village.