Kew Palace: History and the Grounds

This post will provide context to the grounds and history of Kew palace, where the menus which are included in our series of posts were written and served. This residence changed fairly dramatically over its history, hosting some influential and royal guests. Frederick Prince of Wales was one occupant who shaped the grounds and houses on the property greatly, including the Royal kitchens (which will be discussed in the next post). George III, the main figure in this project, saw it as a family refuge, slightly removed from the bustle of London. In his later reign while mentally unstable, which will be discussed in later posts, he was confined there. The area of Kew Gardens and Richmond were also key to the menus, especially for the sourcing of foods through farming and hunting.

Kew itself is situated in Richmond, London, extremely close to Richmond park, the site of another, larger royal palace. The original grounds were far different to what stands today. Originally the land contained a larger palace which was used as the primary royal residence, built and remodelled for Frederick Prince of Wales. This was located opposite the Dutch house, which is now the largest and only palace on the grounds; the site of which has been commemorated with a sundial. [1]

The Dutch House at Kew Gardens, taken by Jasmine Moran at Kew Palace 03/05/19

The Dutch house was built in 1631 for silk merchant Samuel Fortrey, however, from the early 1700s it was utilized by Fredrick Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Caroline as a short-term retreat. It was likely they would have occupied the White House. From contemporary sketches we can understand what the original house must have looked like; below is a sketch of the palace from a text detailing the appearance of Kew. [2]

The White House at Kew, 1763 [2]

As the image depicts it was a more fitting royal establishment than the house which stands today, nevertheless, George and his family happily spent many times at the Dutch house. With its beautiful exterior and huge size its shocking that it would become derelict.

Sadly, the White House fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1802 for the preparation of a new “castellated Palace”. [3] Work began in the early 1800s, however George grew tired of its development by 1806 due to his developing eye issues. Although £100,000 had been spent and a significant amount had been constructed the project was abandoned. It stood for 20 or so more years before it was destroyed by George IV. [3]

The grounds had gone through many tumultuous years, and by the end of Georges’ reign the Dutch house was the only one standing (apart from Queen Charlottes’ cottage). It was also a house which saw much emotional hardship, particularly periods such as the confinement of George III during his bouts of insanity and then the death of Queen Charlotte in 1818. Although most of the original palace no longer stands, the red brick Dutch house (the current Kew palace), Queen Charlotte’s cottage retreat, and the kitchens remain.

The kitchens, which were constructed separately to the rest of the accommodation were large and well-suited for the royal inhabitants. They were created to be functional for a significantly larger property, being the White house, and contained many of the most important implements to a Georgian kitchen. The kitchens were the site for the preparation of the Royal menus and their creation, with some foods being sourced on Kew Garden grounds, or in the Richmond area, which was the site of another palace. This will be examined more closely in the next post.


References:

[1] Rachel Knowles, The White House – a Regency History guide, <https://www.regencyhistory.net/2014_02_01_archive.html> [date assessed 25 April 2019].

[2] A Description of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew, in Surrey, (Brentford, 1763), p. 15. Bibliographic number: T117923 (estc), <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0085801500&terms=A%20Description%20of%20the%20Gardens%20and%20Buildings%20at%20Kew> [date assessed 15 April 2019].

[3] Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection, Local History Notes, <https://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/6315/local_history_kew_palaces.pdf> [date assessed 28 April 2019], p. 3.


1 thought on “Kew Palace: History and the Grounds

  1. It’s really interesting the different roles spaces assume during the different reigns of monarchs.
    Did you find anything about the emotion of household involved with King George III and his confinement or the move of the court to Kew at various points in his reign?

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