The Great Pagoda was designed by Sir William Chambers and completed in 1762 as a gift for Princess Augusta, the founder of the botanic gardens at Kew. It is a ten-storey octagon tower, standing at almost 50m and each level is 30cm narrower than the one below.
It offered one of the earliest and finest bird’s eye views of London.
At the time of its construction it was considered so unusual that people were unconvinced it would remain standing.
A restoration project is underway to restore the Great Pagoda to its original 18th century splendour.
This includes the original 80 dragons which originally adorned the roofs, each carved from wood and gilded with real gold
The dragons were removed in 1784 and were rumoured to have been sold to settle George IV’s gambling debts. However, experts believe that since they were made of wood, they had simply rotted over time.
Chambers studied oriental architecture in China, but when he designed Kew’s pagoda he ignored the rules.
Pagodas should have an odd number of floors, traditionally seven (rather than ten), believed to represent seven steps to heaven.
The Great Pagoda was the most accurate reconstruction of a Chinese building in Europe at the time.
It was originally flanked by a Moorish Alhambra and a Turkish Mosque, follies that were all the rage in the great gardens of the time.
During the Second World War, British bomb designers wanted to study their latest inventions in flight. They made holes in each floor of the pagoda and dropped bombs down in secret to test their inventions.
The repairs to the holes are still visible today.