Last week I took a trip down to the other end of town for a day out at Kew Gardens, visiting the lovely Japanese Landscape garden and Kew Palace. I’ve never visited the palace before (it’s actually inside Kew Gardens and they only recently changed the rules so you could get in without paying extra) but I reckoned it would be perfect on a hot day.
Kew Palace is quite small, more of a cottage than a palace in royal terms, and a startling shade of brick red. It was built around 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, a merchant of Dutch origin and originally just leased to the royal family until George III bought it in 1781.
It has a rather lovely formal garden at the back (which I suspect many visitors to Kew fail to spot), which was created in the 1960s by the then Director of Kew in 17th century style using only plants known to have been grown in the period.
Kew Palace was a favourite place of George III (yes, the one who went mad), Queen Charlotte and their daughters. Here is a wax bust of King George, cast from a mould made by Madam Tussaud, which is on display as you enter the palace:
And here is a portrait of Queen Charlotte, which hangs in her bedroom:
Many of the rooms are furnished as they would have been in George and Charlotte’s day – like Queen Charlotte’s sitting room on the first floor next to her bedroom:
And the dining room which is set for dinner as though they’ll be back any minute (fake food, unfortunately).
The place was beautifully cool and charmingly atmospheric, with staff dressed in period clothes adding to the sense of history. I plan to visit it again as the seasons change.
When I left the palace I headed over to the opposite side of the gardens to the lovely Japanese Landscape garden with its central carved Japanese Gate, the Chokushi-Mon, or Gateway of the Imperial Messenger.
It’s built in the style of the Momoyama (or Japanese rococo) period in the late 16th century, with finely carved woodwork depicting an ancient Chinese legend about the devotion of a pupil to his master.
I noticed for the first time that people had thrown coins onto the paving in front of the Chokushi-Mon. I wonder why?
I was amazed at how lush the Japanese Landscape Gardens looked compared to when I last visited in the spring.
I finished the day with a look at the Rose Garden Tea Party, which is part of Kew’s focus on edible plants this summer. A variety of different edible plants grow out of plates, cups, teapots, dishes, jugs and platters. The plants are grouped and themed at each dining place with hints at each place about what plant is used in what food.
If you want a cool, shady place to hang out in the hot weather, Kew Gardens is for you.
It opens at 9.30am and currently closes at 6.30pm (7;30 at weekends and Bank Holidays). Entry costs £16, Concessions £14, Children free.
Kew Palace is open daily from 9.30am until 5.30pm (last entry at 4.45pm).
The Rose Garden Tea Party is on show until 3rd November.