George III and Joseph Banks
II & Queen Charlotte
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Queen Charlotte's Cottage
The first building in the location of Queen Charlotte's Cottage
was built in a corn field between 1754 and 1771, as part of the
development of the New Menagerie. The origins of this cottage may
well have been the single storey building provided for the Menagerie
Queen Charlotte was given the building in 1761 when she married
George III and she extended the property upwards by a floor and
also in length. A map dated to around 1794 shows the Cottage in
an H-shaped plan, and it had certainly been altered to its current
shape by the late 1830s.
The 'St James' Chronicle' announced in 1805 that "Kew Cottage
in Kew Gardens has undergone considerable alteration and improvement
under the direction of the Princess Elizabeth .. The Cottage likewise
has been furnished. The outside of the building stands in great
need of being made to correspond with the inside. It was completed
during the late stay of the Royal Family there". It seems likely,
therefore, that the major works occurred between 1790 and 1805.
Princess Elizabeth was the third daughter of Queen Charlotte.
The grounds of the cottage contain the oldest piece of continuous
woodland at Kew, the over 300 year old Wood, and areas of woodland
planted by both Brown and Bridgeman. The picturesque house in its
'country vernacular' style of carefully designed woodland setting,
was used by the family as a shelter, and for snacks and occasional
meals. The large ground floor room had Hogarth prints on the walls,
removed in the 1890s but replaced in 1978. A curved staircase leads
to the picnic room, with painted flowers climbing the walls and
bamboo motif pelmets and door frames.
The cottage remained private until 1898, when Queen Victoria ceded
it and its 37 acres (15 ha) to Kew. The grounds had rarely been
visited; trees were lying where they had fallen, and one condition
the Queen made was that the grounds should be kept in their naturalistic
state. This condition was supported by the Linnaean Society on behalf
of all ornithologists to maintain the area as a suburban haven for
birds. That is how today's Conservation Area first came into being
and how one of London's finest bluebell woods is kept intact.
Nevertheless, after the donation of the grounds to the Gardens
in 1898, and despite Queen Victoria's stipulation, the area continued
to undergo change. Before the 3rd edition of the Ordnance Survey
was produced in 1910, several broad, straight rides were driven
through the area surrounding the building, to the east of the path
leading to the King's Steps Gate. Following this, in 1914, 150 trees,
largely oak, poplar, birch and douglas fir, were planted in the
grounds of the Cottage.
Between 1922 and 1941, Sir Arthur William Hill, then Director of
Kew, created many new paths in the grounds attached to the Cottage,
opening up new views of the building, although most of these paths
are no longer in evidence. The grounds were then planted with lilies,
snowdrops, primroses and narcissi in 1958, and in 1984, 35 English
oaks were planted to launch the 'Beautiful Britain' campaign.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage is maintained and administered separately
from Kew by Historic Royal Palaces and opening times are limited.
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