This 1761 building is the earliest at Kew designed by
Sir William Chambers and also the largest classical style building in the Gardens,
measuring 28 m (92 ft) long by 10 m (33 ft) deep. At one time, it was the largest
glasshouse in England.
It was designed as a hothouse for orange trees but
the light levels were too low for it to be successful. Large glazed doors were
added to the end gable walls in 1842 and the building was then used to house large
plants, but not citrus.
Princess Augusta's coat of arms was placed over
the central bay of the facade in the 1840s, along with the Royal Arms and escutcheons.
the same time, Nesfield levelled and landscaped the ground in front of the Orangery,
but his plans for parterres were not implemented. In 1863, the plants from the
Orangery were transferred to the new Temperate House and the building was used
as a museum of timber, receiving more than 1000 specimens from India in 1878.
In 1883, two light cast iron galleries were added, reached by spiral stairs.
It stayed this way until 1959 when the galleries and stairs were removed and the
building restored to its original form. The exterior was again restored and redecorated
in the late 1990s.
The Orangery has a great deal of architectural significance,
as a major classical building designed by William Chambers, despite its shortcomings
as an Orangery. Those shortcomings have been neatly overcome in its most recent
incarnation as a deservedly popular, elegant café-restaurant.
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