How we brought dragons back to Kew

Updated 12 June. As a result of the Coronavirus global pandemic, we have taken the difficult decision to close Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda until March 2021. We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause. Please read our statement

In 2015 Historic Royal Palaces embarked on an exciting conservation project to return the Great Pagoda at Kew to its former splendour. A major part of this was the reinstatement of 80 brightly coloured wooden dragons that once adorned the Pagoda's exterior.

The eye-catching dragons dazzled onlookers for 20 years before disappearing in the 1780s. At the time the dragons were rumoured to have been payment for the Prince Regent's gambling debts, however, Historic Royal Palaces curators believe that they were probably badly degraded after the mini ice age and the end of the 18th century.

Finally in 2018, 80 new dragons now adorn the Pagoda once more. Find out more about how we brought dragons back to Kew in the video series below.

Great Pagoda at Kew surrounded by blue sky and green trees

How to make a dragon - part 1

Here we look at how we used contemporary sources to find the shape for the new Pagoda dragons and bring the building back to its original 1762 design.

How to make a dragon - part 2

In this short clip, we take an in-depth look at the design of the dragons and how we've ensured that they will last for future generations to enjoy.

Carving the dragons

Eight of the dragons were hand carved in African cedarwood before being painted and installed on the Pagoda.

Here, Robert and Ashley from Sands & Randall explain this painstaking process.

3D printing the dragons

How do you 3D print a dragon? Find out in this interview with Nick Lewis, head of the team that printed and decorated 72 of our glorious Kew dragons.

The dragons unveiled

The Great Pagoda and its 80 dragons were unveiled to the public in summer 2018 and the Pagoda opened on 13 July. 253 steps lead to the top of the Pagoda, offering enviable views over London.

The building has been returned to its original 1760s appearance, complete with green and white paint scheme, gilded finial and terminal pole and, of course, its 80 iridescent dragons.

Green and gold dragons on the side of the Great Pagoda at Kew, surrounded by blue sky
The Great Pagoda at Kew surrounded by blue sky and green trees
Things to see

See The Great Pagoda at Kew Palace, now returned to its 18th-century splendour.

Closed

Kew Palace

11:00 - 15:00

Separate ticket

Queen Charlotte's Cottage surrounded by trees and garden under a blue sky
Things to see

Discover a queen's rustic country retreat in the grounds of Kew Palace with a visit to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage.

Closed

Kew Palace

11:00-16:00

Included in Kew Gardens admission

A guide shows a group of visitors the Throne Room in the State Rooms at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. Two red and gold thrones sit at one end of the room and the walls are lined with green silk damask and the walls are lined with historical artwork.
Things to see

Discover elegant State Rooms still used by the royal family inside Hillsborough Castle.

Open

Hillsborough Castle

Included in combined castle tour and gardens tickets (members go free)

Courtiers: The Secret History of Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley

Courtiers: The Secret History of Kensington Palace

Told through the eyes of a courtier, this fascinating book explores the ambitious and talented people who flocked to the Georgian court in search of power and prestige.

£11.99

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

Jane Austen at Home (signed copy)

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

£25.00

A selection of products from Royal Palace collection
Royal Palace fine bone china dessert plate 30142978.  Royal Palace luxury ceramic bauble 30169631. Royal Palace fine bone china tea for two gift set 30162646 comprising of two cups and saucers and tea strainer, Royal Palace china tea po

Shop afternoon tea gifts and accessories

Exclusive English fine bone chine tea sets inspired by our historic royal palaces. Collect our traditional Palace china afternoon tea sets, with designs including elements from all our royal palaces.

From £10.00