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Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens - temple of the sun
Kew Gardens - temple of the sun

Historical Accounts

Daniel Lysons (The Environs of London, vol.1, 2nd edition, p.150) refers to Sir Henry, afterwards Lord Capel, of Teweksbury who became Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1696. He acquired Kew House by marriage and had a particular fondness for the garden, planting several new fruits brought from France. Lysons cites a book written by J. Gibson in 1691 that includes comments on Sir Henry Capel's garden. Gibson refers to two Jentiscus (or mastic) trees that cost £40 and four white striped hollies costing £5 each. Another book written in 1724 claims that the fine gardens produced the finest fruit in England.

Kew House was later acquired by the Royal Family and 120 acres were laid out as pleasure gardens. According to Lysons (p.151):

'Notwithstanding the disadvantages of a flat surface, the grounds are laid out with much taste, and exhibit a considerable variety of scenery. They are ornamented with various picturesque objects and temples, designed by Sir William Chambers, among which is one called the Pagoda, in imitation of a Chinese building: it is forty-nine feet in diameter at the base, and 163 feet in height, which renders it a very conspicuous object in the neighbourhood. The green-house is of very large dimensions, being 142 feet long, 25 feet high, and 30 feet broad.

'The exotic, or as it is usually called, the botanic garden, was established in the year 1760, by the Princess Dowager. The present Royal Family being much attached to the study of Botany, His Majesty has bestowed great attention upon this garden, which exhibits the sinest collection of plants perhaps in Europe: persons selected for that purpose, by the late ingenious gardener Mr. William Aiton, were employed from time to time to collect new and rare plants from Africa, and other distant countries; this system is still continued, and the collection has been constantly increasing also by the communications of the President of the Royal Society, and such other zealous promoters of the science, as have frequent opportunities of procuring new feeds and plants from distant parts of the world. As a proof of the rapid increase of this collection, it was found necessary, in the year 1788, to build a new house, 110 feet in length, for the reception of African plants only; a house for New-Holland plants was erected in 1792; another with a span roof for New-Holland and Cape plants in 1803, besides some smaller houses for plants of various descriptions, on the ground purchased a few years ago by His Majesty of the Rev. Mr. Methold, and added to the botanic garden.

'A catalogue of the plants in the exotic garden at Kew was published in 1768, by Dr. Hill, under the name of Hortus Kewensis; and a second edition in 1769: a much larger and more scientific work, under the same title, was published by the late Mr. William Aiton, in the year 1789, in three volumes 8vo. A new edition of this work, which, from its having been long out of print, and from the very numerous additions to the royal collection since its publication, has been much wanted, is now preparing for the press by his son, Mr. William Thomas Aiton.'

Kew Gardens - Ruined Arch
Kew Gardens - Ruined Arch - card posted 1917

From the Gentleman's Magazine

[1772, p.400.]

The buildings in Kew Gardens are deservedly the admiration of all foreigners; and, among them, none deserves greater applause than the beautiful mosque, the plan of which (see the plate -note: not included) was drawn and executed by W. Chambers, Esq., member of the Imperial Academy of Arts at Florence, and of the Royal Academy of Architecture at Paris. The body of the building, according to the architect's description, consists of an octagon salon in the centre, flanked with two cabinets, finishing with one large dome and two small ones. The large dome is crowned with a crescent, and its upright part contains twenty-eight little arches, which give light to the salon. On the three front sides of the central octagon are three doors, giving entrance to the building; over each of which there is an Arabic inscription in golden characters, extracted from the Alcoran by Dr. Moreton, of which the following is the explanation:

"Ne sit coactio in Religione,
Non est Deus ullus prseter Deum.
Ne ponatis Deo similitudinem."

The minarets are placed at each end of the principal building, and the architect's design in them, and in the whole exterior part of the building itself, seems to have been to collect the principal peculiarities of the Turkish architecture, which he has very happily effected.

Kew Gardens Pagoda
Kew Gardens Pagoda - vintage postcard

Kew: Historical Accounts
The village is pleasantly situated on the southern bank of the Thames

Kew Church: Historical Accounts
Parish church built in 1714 on waste ground donated by Queen Anne

Old Counties and Islands


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