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The Pagoda's 253 steps at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in Richmond

PUBLISHED: 13:46 20 April 2012 | UPDATED: 20:23 20 February 2013

The Pagoda's 253 steps at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in Richmond

The Pagoda's 253 steps at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in Richmond

The Pagoda and the Alhambra might cause a stir among some other new visitors at Kew: sheep are grazing nearby as they did in the time of George III, known as Farmer George

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2006


The Pagoda and the Alhambra might cause a stir among some other new visitors at Kew: sheep are grazing nearby as they did in the time of George III, known as Farmer George


Photo: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew


The Pagoda is a familiar landmark at Kew Gardens but can you imagine the comments as the construction scraped the sky?


We begin to perceive the tower of Kew in a fortnight you will be able to see it in Yorkshire, wrote Horace Walpole, a politician and writer living in Twickenham. He was describing what he could see in Richmond, Surrey, to a friend in Richmond, Yorkshire.


And theres such a fantastic view from the top you could almost imagine glimpsing Yorkshire on the horizon. Visitors can now take the 253 steps to the top with the opening of the Pagoda to the public, part of Kews celebrations for Heritage Year 2006. Its well worth the climb: the lack of buildings within the park ensures you get a good view of the landmarks spanning the ages from the glasshouses of Kew to The Citys Gherkin and Wembleys new arch.


Its appropriate to be able to pick out the latest architecture on the skyline. The Pagoda represents the fashion of the mid-18th century for decorative buildings and follies. Chinoiserie was of particular interest, inspired by travellers who had seen


the wonders of the Orient. The Pagodas architect, Sir William Chambers, had made his own drawings when he travelled China as an employee of the Swedish East India Company.


The Pagoda has ten storeys and is 163ft tall. It was completed in 1762 for Princess Augusta, the Dowager Princess of Wales and mother of George III. She had employed Sir William to ornament the estate at Kew and it was flanked by his follies, the Turkish Mosque and the Alhambra. They were not built to last like the Pagoda but the spirit of these overnight follies has been recreated for the Alhambra with a flat-pack on a two-thirds scale erected like stage scenery.


The Pagoda and the Alhambra might cause a stir among some other new visitors at Kew: sheep are grazing nearby as they did in the time of George III, known as Farmer George. And in the grounds of Queen Charlottes Cottage wallabies have been introduced in a re-creation of one of Kews menageries.

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