Syon Vista and Lake
The Gardens are sited on what was essentially flat Thames flood
plain. Yet in 1892 the French artist Camille Pissarro was "…
in this wonderful garden of Kew … what trees! what lawns!
what undulations of the ground!"
Some of the 'undulations of the ground' that so delighted Pissarro
started off as quite prosaic gravel pits. Some years earlier, Nesfield
and Hooker had undertaken some extensive topographical sculpting.
The gravel pits were expanded to create the Lake and the excavated
spoil used to form the mound on which the Temperate House was to
stand. Underground culverts from the Thames filled the 4.5 acre
(1.82ha) Lake for the first time in 1861.
A plan for the construction of the Lake survives in Kew's Archive.
It reinforces the conservative principle behind these changes in
the Pleasure Grounds, as the shape of the southern shore is clearly
worked around a cluster of mature trees. These trees are probably
the elderly sweet chestnuts that survive here still. Although intended
as an aesthetic feature, the Lake also had a functional purpose,
acting as a reservoir for the Gardens.
Syon Vista was begun in 1851 and completed in 1852. It was a walk
3,937ft (1,200m) long. entirely surfaced with an 18ins. (45cm) depth
of sand and gravel. Excavated soil from its construction was used
to create Mount Pleasant at its river end. It was lined by a double
avenue of trees, as along the Pagoda Vista.
Back to: 1841-1885:
The flowering of Kew