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Kew Palace Flats

A Grade I Listed Building in Kew, Richmond upon Thames

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Latitude: 51.4832 / 51°28'59"N

Longitude: -0.2954 / 0°17'43"W

OS Eastings: 518460

OS Northings: 177405

OS Grid: TQ184774

Mapcode National: GBR 7Z.871

Mapcode Global: VHGQW.TZPC

Plus Code: 9C3XFPM3+7R

Entry Name: Kew Palace Flats

Listing Date: 25 May 1983

Last Amended: 24 May 2011

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1263074

English Heritage Legacy ID: 433278

Location: Kew, Richmond upon Thames, London, TW9

County: Richmond upon Thames

Electoral Ward/Division: Kew

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Kew St Anne

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

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Former kitchen block, mid-1730s by William Kent and most probably built by his comptroller Thomas Ripley. It was built as a detached kitchen block to serve the White House, the royal palace at Kew, which was designed for Frederick, Prince of Wales by William Kent, and was ready for occupation in 1731, as part of a wider remodelling of a number of houses on Kew Green for the royal household.


MATERIALS: an early use of stock brick, with finely jointed stock brick and stone dressings, hipped slate roof, timber eaves cornice. The principal, east façade, which faced the White House, is of Flemish bond and finished to a higher standard than the other elevations which are in English bond.

PLAN: a detached building, roughly square on plan, laid out on three storeys with a raised principal floor, attic storey and basement. The building follows a formal plan typical of the early to mid-C18. At each level the building is laid out symmetrically on either side of a wide central passage leading from the entrance in the south elevation, which gave access to the kitchens in the basement and to offices and accommodation on the principal floor and upper floor. The stair rises from basement to attic storey with a single-flight ladder stair giving access to the roof space. The Great Kitchen, rising through two storeys, occupied the northern third of the building and also had a separate entrance on the north elevation. At basement level the kitchen and services were symmetrically arranged round a central passage which originally opened into the Great Kitchen and was later blocked on the kitchen side. To the west were the scullery and bakery and to the east, the silver scullery and larder.

EXTERIOR: the east and west elevations are in five bays, arranged 1:3:1, the pedimented centrepiece breaking forward. The north elevation is also in five bays. Two tall brick stacks are set either side of the centrepiece. The main entrance is centrally placed in the south elevation under a small canopy on moulded brackets, beneath a stair window. The front door has been modified but is of a design that suggests its use in a high status building, with six moulded, raised and fielded panels on the inner face; it is likely to be re-used from the White House. The kitchen entrance at the west end of the north elevation was later blocked and replaced by the current entrance at the eastern end of this elevation. Windows on the principal floor are six-over-six pane sashes, mostly of early C19 date, with slender glazing bars, some of later C19 or early C20 date; the Great Kitchen windows were replaced in the early C19. However, one sash window on the east façade and one at basement level on the west elevation (scullery) retain heavy, ovolo-moulded, C18 sashes and casements. Upper floor casement windows were replaced in the early C20. Many windows retain catches and stays. A pyramidal glazed lantern encloses the formerly open central well of the roof.

INTERIOR: Principal and attic floor. The entrance opens into a broad stair vestibule. The lower flights of the stairs, to the basement and first floor landing, have stone treads and a panelled dado corresponds with the moulded rail. Elsewhere it is a dog-leg, closed string stair and throughout has Tuscan newels and turned balusters except on the first flight which has wrought iron stick balusters. On the principal floor, early C18 entrances to the southern rooms from the stair vestibule have been blocked and later entrances cut through from the hall. At the northern end of the central lobby or hall on the principal floor is a rare example of a spice or store cupboard, with a wave-moulded slatted screen above a plain panelled partition and door. The south-east room appears to have been subdivided and fitted with cupboards from an early date. There is evidence from lead drains that it was supplied with water. Chimneypieces in the two western rooms on the principal floor have original, moulded Portland stone surrounds. Although elsewhere chimneypieces and fireplaces are later C19 or early C20, most rooms have evidence of an earlier chimneypiece, seen as a silhouette on the wall, and of surviving hearths and skirtings. On the upper floor the central passage was subsequently divided to create two symmetrical flats, each with a narrow internal corridor. Original internal partitions remain and at the northern end of the corridors determine the arrangement at this end of the building. Again, evidence of original hearths and the profiles of original chimneypieces and possibly later cupboards remain. Throughout the building doors are of six plain panels in plain architraves, many with C18 and C19 door furniture, including L hinges and rim locks.

Kitchens: the Great Kitchen was laid out in a highly symmetrical manner. It is dominated by a pair of large chimneybreasts against the south wall, either side of the entrance to the passage which was later blocked. The western chimney houses an C18 range and an octagonal oven, c1800, built into the side of the chimneybreast. Three charcoal stoves are built against the west wall. The walls in the Great Kitchen retain undisturbed early finishes and colour which reveal evidence of the position of fittings, and therefore how the room was used. West and north walls, stripped bare because of later damp and rot, show equally important blocked openings and other alterations which reveal how the kitchens evolved. On the north wall is evidence of a pair of dressers, probably flanking a central entrance. On the east wall is evidence of charcoal stoves which mirrored the existing stoves on the west wall. Early C19 sash windows have their original glass and paint. Wear on stone flag floors also reveals the position of former fittings and the pattern of use in the kitchen.

The kitchen fittings include a rare Georgian range, typical of 1730-90; a smoke jack, gear box and fan; a spit rack under the adjacent window; three charcoal stoves; an octagonal oven, c1800, inserted into the side of the chimney breast; a large, and probably the original, C18 kitchen table (3.66 x 1.17m) with an elm top, and early shelving on the internal south wall. The plan and fittings compare with contemporary accounts and illustrations of kitchens.

The kitchen initially connected to the internal passage by a doorway which was subsequently blocked. On the passage side, in a panelled frame, split level doors with a serving shelf, one door section re-hung upside down, remain in situ with early fittings and paint. Doors are moulded on the kitchen side and plain panelled on the passage side. To each side of the doorway is housing for lead water pipes which survive on the principal floor. These may connect with underfloor drains which run the length of the passage and branch off into the side rooms. Rooms and the passage have vaulted ceilings; walls and ceilings were lime washed. Floors throughout are stone flags.

The four ancillary rooms retain rare examples of C18 fittings. In the scullery (north-west) is a pine dresser or preparation table with Tuscan legs, which, based on its quality, probably dates from the 1730s; above it is a contemporary shelf. There is also a range in the chimney breast and an C18 copper. The bakery (south-west) retains two built-in pastry or baking ovens, one of which is a rare, intact example of c1730; a c1820 range and remains of a copper, and a large table with vase baluster legs and probably dating from the C18 or early C19. At a later period the room was used as a laundry. The eastern two rooms also have chimneybreasts but fittings have been altered to the extent that their original use cannot be determined; the larder (south-east) has a series of hooks fixed to the ceiling joists suggesting its use as a meat larder, the north-east room was probably a silver scullery. The larder door is of six flush-moulded panels with slats in an upper panel for ventilation.

Under the stair is a small closet with an internal lock on the door.


The former royal kitchens, now known as Kew Palace Flats, were built as a detached kitchen block to serve the White House, the royal palace at Kew, which was designed for Frederick, Prince of Wales by William Kent as part of a wider remodelling of a number of houses on Kew Green for the royal household. The White House was ready for occupation by 1731 and the kitchens followed in the mid-1730s, also under the aegis of William Kent, and most probably built by his comptroller Thomas Ripley.

While the earliest detailed map of the area (Rocque, 1734) does not show the kitchens, household accounts for 1735 and onwards show an expansion of kitchen staff and equipment commensurate with the new building. By 1742 it appears to have been fully equipped, but following Prince Frederick's death in 1751, relatively little new equipment was bought. Although the kitchens are not marked on later C18 maps, which are based on an earlier template, William Chambers' plan of the White House of 1763 shows the kitchen court in detail, while insurance taken out in 1759 refers to kitchens and silver scullery with a separate landing and servant's room above it.

From 1806 the king's illness confined him to Windsor Castle, and after Queen Charlotte's death in 1818, Kew Palace was no longer needed and was probably shut up. The White House was demolished in 1802. In 1845, Joseph Hooker, the director of the Botanic Gardens, commented on the inconvenience of the old kitchen, where repair work had proved necessary because of dry rot. For the latter half of the C19 the offices and upper floor rooms provided grace and favour accommodation for the royal household while the kitchen itself was disused, contributing to its remarkable survival. From the early C20 until 2004 the block was used by the Office of Works and staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

C18 kitchens are distinct from earlier and later service wings in their measured, formal layout. A few kitchen blocks of this period survive, for example in Vanbrugh's similar, pedimented, early C18 kitchen at Hampton Court. Great kitchens at St James Palace, Westminster and at Windsor Castle remain only as a shell. Contemporary kitchens at country houses include the mid-C18 kitchen block at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, designed as a pavilion attached to the house, and early C18 kitchens at Petworth, W Sussex, housed in a separate, servants' wing. The early C19 kitchen at Brighton Pavilion is contemporary with the final phase of use at Kew Palace.

Reasons for Listing

Former royal kitchens, now known as Kew Palace Flats, built as a detached kitchen block to serve the White House, the royal palace at Kew, in the mid-1730s by William Kent, is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a very rare example of an early C18 kitchen of this calibre, designed by William Kent, for the royal household, and where the formal, symmetrical plan of both the building and the kitchen layout is clearly legible
* Materials: rare survival of C18 and early C19 fabric, including wall surfaces and paint finishes which also reveal evidence of former fittings
* Fixtures and fittings: rare survival of kitchen and ancillary fittings, some of high architectural quality;
* Historic interest: the only surviving building from the 1730s royal palace at Kew, and of this important phase in the history of Kew Gardens
* Setting: within Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, World Heritage Site

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