About Kew Palace
Kew Palace is a 17th-century palace in Kew Gardens famous as the home of many of Britain’s Georgian monarchs. As the smallest of all the royal palaces, Kew offers an intimate look into the lives of royals such as George II and George III, and the wider world of the Georgian aristocracy.
Kew Palace history
Kew Palace was built around 1631 by merchant Samuel Fortrey, and served as the home of various members of the royal family between 1728 and 1898.
Queen Caroline, wife of George II, took a liking to the Palace at Kew and in 1728 leased it to house her three eldest daughters, Anne, Amelia, and Caroline. Her son Frederick, Prince of Wales and his wife Augusta soon also moved to Kew Palace, perhaps to reconnect with his family after many years in Hanover. It was first Frederick, and then Augusta, who effectively established the botanic gardens at Kew.
George III bought Kew Palace in 1781 to accommodate his growing family of 15 children, where it was quickly established as a much-loved summer retreat. It was here however that George III would be incarcerated during the worst bouts of his mental illness, where he suffered archaic treatment from a band of doctors desperate to ‘cure’ him.
Queen Charlotte too would suffer while at her beloved Kew, when in 1818 she suddenly came down with an illness on a journey from London to Windsor and stopped there to recover. Her condition only worsened however, and she died there at the age of 74.
Kew Palace was then closed until it was acquired by Kew Gardens in 1896. Queen Victoria, who had agreed to the sale, stipulated the room in which Queen Charlotte died should remain untouched, and the Palace was opened to the public in 1898.
Kew Palace today
Today Kew Palace is open for visitors and is the oldest surviving building in the Kew Gardens. It striking 17th-century architecture is noted for its distinctive decorative brickwork and gables, and transports guests back through hundreds of years of history.
Inside, Queen Charlotte’s bedroom may be viewed in the exact condition as when she died, as per Queen Victoria’s request, while the bedrooms of her daughters are also on display.
The Royal Kitchens are a particular highlight and have been preserved 200 years since they were last in use, with the pleasant Kitchen Garden also giving an insight into the culinary world of Georgian Britain.
In Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, a cottage orné designed as a rustic rural retreat, the leisurely lifestyle of the Georgian royals may be explored, where George III and Queen Charlotte would often stop for refreshments on long walks through the gardens.
What to see and do at Kew Palace
Visit Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
Explore Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, which was built as a retreat for members of the royal family in the late 18th century. They’d drop into the cottage for refreshments whilst out on walks in the gardens.
Stroll through the Queen’s Garden
The plants grown in this garden behind the palace, are solely those grown in Britain during the 17th century and before. This garden is also home to several sculptures, including a marble satyr, a Venetian well-head and five sculptures commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1734.
Examine the frames of some rooms
While most of the rooms at Kew Palace are preserved in period style, some have been stripped bare so you can see the timber structures, as well as evidence of historical changes and renovations. This makes for an interesting and intimate experience which takes you further into the fabric of this small, homely building.
Interesting Facts about Kew Palace
- Kew Palace is the smallest royal palace in the country and its diminutive size offers a more intimate picture of the Georgian royals. Writer Horace Walpole (1717-1797) joked that Kew was so small that George’s three daughters had to hang their dresses on the backs of their bedroom doors.
- Queen Charlotte’s Cottage is set in a paddock which became home to England’s first-ever kangaroos in 1791! The kangaroos bred successfully and by the early 19th century there were 18 living in the gardens.
- The sink in the Royal Kitchens was lead-lined! Scullery boys would scrub the pots and pans with a mixture of sand and soap in this sink and some historians believe that lead could have contributed to King George III’s illness.
- The chair in Queen Charlotte’s bedroom is the one she died in on November 17 1818. Charlotte had been suffering from dropsy, then pneumonia and found it difficult to lie down so she would sleep in her favourite chair.
- Kew Palace was built in 1631 as the home for the merchant Samuel Fortrey. Over the house entrance, you can see a lover’s knot with the initials S and C, for Samuel and Catherine, his wife.
Facilities and accessibility
There’s a lift on the west wing for disabled access to the higher floors. There are also two wheelchairs available for the palace, although be aware that the corridors are narrow. There are also wheelchairs available at the entrances to the gardens.
The Kew Botanic Gardens offer free entry to accompanying carers and to registered blind and partially-sighted visitors. Guide and assistance dogs with their leads and documentation are welcome in the palace and kitchens.
Audio description tours and sign language interpreters are available as long as you book 14 days in advance by calling 03333206000.
You can find accessible toilets at the Palace Welcome Centre and at several places nearby, including Brentford Gate and The Food Village.
Getting to Kew Palace
Kew Palace is located in Kew Gardens in London, and is well-linked by public transport. The nearest Underground station is Kew Gardens, while the nearest train station is Kew Bridge, both a 15-20 minute walk away. Bus routes 65, 237, 267 and 391 also stop at the entrance gates or nearby train stations.
- Attraction Address: Kew Gardens, Richmond TW9 3AB
- Opening hours may vary so please check before visiting
- The following are currently closed: Lift to the Treetop Walkway, Badger Sett in the Natural Area and Orangery
- Kew Palace, the Pagoda and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage will be closed on 6 May 2023 for the Coronation of King Charles III
- All areas and attractions are subject to availability and short-notice closures for maintenance or visitor safety
- Evan Evans e-tickets are valid anytime during regular daytime opening hours on the date shown
- There are no lockers or baggage storage facilities available
- The Wander Project runs 27 May – 3 September 2023 and is included with general admission