Restoration of the Great Pagoda
Polly Putnam, one of the Historic Royal Palaces curators who has worked for the last 2 years on the restoration of the Great Pagoda, has kindly provided us with the text of the speech she made at the re-opening of the Great Pagoda, described in the update below.
Here is the text – it is a fascinating and very personal account of the meticulous research behind the restoration, uncovering definitive evidence that the dragons were indeed an original feature of the design.
In recognition of our sponsorship of one of the newly restored dragons, we were invited by Historic Royal Palaces to the opening of the Great Pagoda yesterday in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
The Prince of Wales at the opening
The Pagoda is now open to access so you can climb to the top and take in the panoramic views across the Gardens and beyond. The dragons are most easily seen from the outside though you can see their snouts and the occasional claw if you look hard from inside.
The ground floor entrance has been transformed with information on the history of the Pagoda, a panel showing who contributed to the restoration, including the Kew Society, and two large encased automata – turn the handles and different objects and figures in the scene start to move. Below is a picture of the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Richard Deverell admiring one of the installations which depicts William Chambers, the architect of the Pagoda, visiting Canton.
At each level the floor you have reached is shown in beautiful lettering. Here is the number 5 – the level occupied by our dragon.
At the top floor are equally beautifully executed descriptions of the vistas, including our dragon’s view of the Royal Observatory.
There is no doubt that the restoration was necessary. Here is a photo of one problem area now addressed:
Update 04/07/2018The Great Pagoda within the Royal Botanic Gardens has been beautifully restored to its former glory. The meticulous work has been overseen by the Historic Royal Palaces. The Kew Society sponsored 1 of the flight of 80 dragons which were one of the original features of the Pagoda. Our dragon is on level 5, position 6, and, appropriately we think given our concerns for the heritage of Kew, faces the historic King’s Observatory.You can see our dragon here:You can see more background to the history of the Great Pagoda here: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/attractions/great-pagodaAnd on the King’s Observatory here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Observatory