Kew Palace, 44m north of No.2 Kew Cottage.
Reasons for Designation
Country houses of the late Tudor and Jacobean period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. Built after the dissolution of the monasteries they are the product of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard; later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a U- or H-plan. The hall was transformed from a reception area to an entrance vestibule and the long gallery and loggia were introduced. Many houses were provided with state apartments and extensive lodgings for the accommodation of royal visitors and their retinues. Designs and stylistic details were often copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models; further architectural ideas were later spread by the use of foreign craftsmen. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle.
About 5000 country houses are known to have been standing in 1675; of these about 1000 are thought to survive, although most have been extensively altered or rebuilt in subsequent centuries to meet new demands and tastes. Houses which are uninhabited, and have thus been altered to a lesser degree, are much rarer. Country Houses stand as a significant record of an architectural development and provide a valuable insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period.
Despite later repairs and alterations, Kew Palace is a fine example of an early 17th century country house. The building is an early instance of a house constructed in Flemish bond brickwork and includes some impressive classical columns on the south front. The brick-work is in parts cut and rubbed with decoration of great virtuosity for its date and the use of ruddle (terracotta-coloured lime-wash) creates a striking exterior. The incorporation of earlier 16th century fabric within the cellar is of additional interest. Kew Palace is also of considerable historic significance as a royal residence during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 25 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an early 17th century country house and royal residence situated on the flood plain south of the River Thames at Kew.
Kew Palace is orientated north-south and has a double-pile plan. The house is constructed of red brick in Flemish bond and is faced in terracotta coloured lime-wash. It is three-storeys high with attics. The principal approach is the south façade, which is a symmetrical design with projecting double bays on either side of a three bay centre. The outer bays have 18th century sash windows but the central bay has semi-circular windows with moulded surrounds. The entrance is flanked by rusticated brick banding on plinths. Timber jambs and moulded impost capitals frame the doorway which has a semi-circular over-light. A series of pilasters and pillars with capitals of the classical orders originally embellished each side of the central bay, extending to second floor level. However the Doric pilasters on the ground floor were removed in the 19th century. The first floor Ionic pilasters and second floor Corinthian pillars remain. Between each of the floors are deeply moulded and tiled string courses. Three Dutch gables, each with a sash window, adorn the top of the building. It has a pan-tile roof and several tall diagonal chimney stacks in 19th century stock brick. The north façade has three-central bays flanked by projecting-wings, spanned at ground floor level by a modern three-arched classical loggia and balustrade above. Recessed within the loggia is a double door with semi-circular over-light and flanking windows. The loggia is rendered and painted white and includes three semi-circular arches framed by four Doric pilasters. Above the loggia is a panelled door giving access to a balcony. The north front has rectangular sash windows except for those above the first floor doorway, which are semi-circular. Triangular and semi-circular pediments are situated above the second floor windows and atop the gables. The west front has two shallow projecting bays with several blind windows, except for some that remain in the second-floor and attics. Above the second floor windows and atop the gables are triangular pediments. The east front is the plainest design of the four elevations. It is five bays wide with sash windows and two triangular gables. The interior of the house is divided on each main floor by a north-south axial corridor. A substantial amount of the original hall survives in the King’s Dining Room on the ground floor and includes early 17th century panelling. The rest of the interior is largely 18th and 19th century in date. However the cellar dates from the 16th century and has irregular quadripartite vaulting springing from substantial octagonal piers.
Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester, owned the Kew Estate in the later 16th century when a house was first built on the site. The cellar survives from this house and has been dated stylistically to about 1550-1570. Documentary evidence suggests Queen Elizabeth I may even have been entertained by Dudley at the house. In about 1630, the site passed into the ownership of a merchant, Samuel Fortrey. The present building, Kew Palace was built in 1631; the date is carved in brick over the south door together with the initials of Samuel Fortrey and his wife. It was known as the ‘Dutch House’ at this time, although it is uncertain whether this originated from the supposed nationality of its inhabitants or the style of building. In 1697, it was purchased by Sir Richard Levett, soon to be Lord Mayor of London. In about 1728, it was leased by the Crown and served as a royal residence for the daughters of King George II. From about 1751, Prince George (future George III) and his brother Edward were educated at the house. The freehold of Kew Palace was purchased by the Crown in 1781. From about 1800, the house was refurbished; the scullery was turned into a musician's sitting room, an organ was put into the King's dining room and the private rooms were decorated. In 1818, Queen Charlotte died at the Palace and in the following years it fell into neglect and decay. The service wing to the west was demolished in 1880, together with other modifications. In the late 19th century, Queen Victoria initiated a full programme of restoration, after which the house was opened to the public. These included structural repairs to the south-east corner of the house, which had been subsiding. In the 1970’s, repairs were carried out and a loggia was reinstated in the north front. A major refurbishment project, including adding an external lift shaft to the west elevation, was completed in 2006. Archaeological watching briefs were carried out on and in the vicinity of the house in 1998 and 2005-6. These recorded Tudor structures and later features during works to reinstate 19th century garden paths on the Great Lawn.
Kew Palace is Grade I listed. It is within the bounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a Grade I registered Park and Garden.