Kew Gardens, Princess Augusta & William Chambers
In 1752 Princess Augusta instructed her head gardener, John Dillman,
to "compleat all that part of the Garden at Kew that is
not yet finished in the manner proposed by the Plan and to keep
all that is now finished". With the very able help of
the Earl of Bute, the development of Kew as a serious botanic garden
was well under way, driven by Bute's desire to have a garden which
would " … contain all the plants known on Earth".
Princess Augusta was, in effect, the founder of the botanic gardens
Bute recommended William Chambers to Princess Augusta. Chambers
was an ambitious young architect who had previously submitted plans
for a projected mausoleum for her dead husband, and in 1757 Chambers
was appointed tutor in architecture to the future George III, who
came to the throne in 1760.
With the arrival of Chambers, a new design phase began, similar
in intensity to Frederick's changes in the 1740s. Chambers' first
acts in 1757 were to move the House of Confucius; to build the Gallery
of Antiques; to remove the Chinese Arch; and to build the Palladian
Bridge, reputedly in one night. Most of the follies were not built
to last, being made out of flimsy materials, and the overnight building
of follies is one of the legendary attributes of Kew Gardens.
In 1758 Chambers built the Alhambra; the Temple of Arethusa and
the Temple of Pan. A number of garden alcoves designed by Chambers
were also constructed in 1758. These were probably the first seats
of this type to appear in the Gardens, and the basic design has
been copied several times since. A possible Chambers alcove can
be found near to the current Lion Gate, and later examples are located
near the Isleworth Ferry Gate and the Brentford Gate.
1759 saw the construction of Johann Heinrich Muntz's Gothic Cathedral,
along with Chambers' Temple of Victory. It is generally held that
the Physic and Exotic Garden was begun in 1759, when "cultivating
the Physic Garden" first appears in household accounts, and
this is taken as the date of formal establishment of the Botanic
The Ruined Arch, the Temples of Aeolus and Bellona, the Theatre
of Augusta and the Chinese Ting in the centre of the Menagerie were
all constructed in 1760. Chambers also designed an aviary next to
Princess Augusta's Menagerie, an oval enclosure lined with cages
for exotic pheasants and bigger birds, with a large pond for goldfish
and more delicate waterfowl.
1761 was a similarly productive year, with construction starting
on the Pagoda, and the building of the glasshouses of the Orangery
and the Great Stove, together with the Temple of the Sun and the
These decorative buildings at Kew (the survivors are all Listed
Buildings) represented all the fervent interest and excitement of
knowledge newly gained in a widening world. China and the Islamic
world were opening up, as evidenced by Chambers' delight in Chinoiserie.
There was a revival of classicism brought about by the Grand Tour
taken by 18th century gentry. This passion for the newly-discovered
influenced the influential in the design and development of the
Gardens at Kew.
to: 1700-1772: Two Royal Gardens