Pix & notes: The Dutch House at Kew

I visited the Dutch House at Kew Gardens in 2013, toward the end of my two-week research trip. By dutch-house-kewthis time my knees are aching, my feet are sore, and my head is tired of the gray streets and bustle of central London. In short, I’m in dire need of a trip to a huge, beautiful park filled with interesting plants and curious structures.

I’ll show off the gardens another time. Today we’ll look at pictures of the Dutch House, an unexpected treat.

A brief history

The Dutch House is the sole remaining structure of the Kew Palace complex. The palace was built over many years, starting in 1631, but there was a structure on the same site in the Elizabethan period. In fact, the land was owned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Queen’s favorite. He may have entertained her here at some time. Even without the gorgeous modern landscaping, it’s a lovely site, tucked into a bend of the Thames well west of the metropolis.

This house was built by a merchant named Samuel Fortrey, whose ancestors were actually French, not Dutch, but back in the early seventeenth century, it was hard to tell those Continental types apart. French, Dutch — as long as they’re not Spanish, who cares?

The most interesting thing about this house is that mad King George III lived in it, or rather in the service building next door (now gone) “during his first bout of ‘madness’ from November 1788 to March 1789, with his wife Charlotte and their daughters living on the upper floors and the Grooms of the Bedchamber in the Dutch House.” (Wikipedia. This page is far more interesting than the official Kew Gardens page, btw.)

A fine place to be mad, if you ask me. Peaceful, with sweet breezes and lots of natural light.

Now let us enter

You can see two persons in period (18th century) costumes standing at the door. These young folks welcome visitors into the house; otherwise, you are left to ramble unimpeded. Flash-free pix are OK. You won’t need a flash on a gorgeous summer day.

First room on the left. I was thinking a lot about picture-hanging methods on this trip, for my own house, not my characters.
I enjoy this kind of stage-setting in historic houses.
Quail, anyone?
The music room (harpsichord at the back.)
Harpsichord ready to play. A little Mozart, perhaps? He’s very popular at this time.
Love that eighteenth century decor! Full of light and reflective surfaces.
A card table with a sofa for the kibitzer
Carpet samples



This garden would have been more beautiful, within the bounds of symmetry, when it had a staff of gardeners to tend it. Picture ladies in wide satin dresses strolling arm-in-arm.
Princess Elizabeth’s bed. She grew up to marry the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, thus becoming a Landgravine. Oh, to be a Landgravine, at springtime in the Homburg!
Queen Charlotte’s bedroom
Portrait of a novelist having fun in an historic house.
Servants quarters on the top floor. They’re still renovating these rooms. They would have been much pleasanter in their day.
Even the roofs of service buildings were handsomely built.
The royal bath, with a scrap of royal flooring beneath it. This would have been much, much nicer, with thick, warm, linen towels and draperies and braziers for heat.
The steward’s office. I could work here, happily.
Last, but never least, the kitchen.

Details are divine: Stratford-upon-Avon

I love the decorative details on old buildings and can’t resist taking pictures of them. These curious, delightful, often non-functional elements speak eloquently of times and tastes and the skills of craftspeople. Nowadays we get sheets of glass and stone with a sculpture by a named artist in front, if we’re lucky. I guess new buildings work better in terms of energy efficiency and traffic flow, but I love the anonymous artwork carved and wrought by artisans long ago.

I take pictures of these sorts of things everywhere I go. Today I’m sharing some of my favorites from Stratford-upon-Avon, a wonderful place to take pictures, if you get up before the traffic starts!

Shakespeare’s church

That’s the Church of the Holy Trinity, still an active place of worship, welcoming to tourists of all creeds. They don’t even mind if you take pictures, provided you keep that flash turned off. Shakespeare was baptized here and buried here. He saw these evocative details every Sunday when he was growing up.

Carvings under the misericords, the little flip-down seats monks could rest on at intervals during the daily divine offices.
Detail from another misericord
stone carving
A carving beside the arch of a doorway
stone carving
Another exterior carving. What artistry!
One of the first things you notice after the Reformation: no more gargoyles. Who’s keeping the demons at bay, anymore? This guy looks almost early 20th century to me – Art Deco.


Anne Hathaway’s House

I’ve blogged about this house before and how much I enjoy visiting. I’ve been twice and would gladly go again, especially in the depths of winter, a season I don’t know much about, being a Texan and all. The secret is to arrive at 9:00 when they open. The tour buses don’t show up until 10:00, so you can have the house all to yourself for a whole hour. They let you take flash-free pictures too. The light is soft and delicious. I only have a few exterior details, so I’ll give you some close-ups of furniture too.

thatched roof

carvings on chest
Carving on the side of a chest – what Elizabethans used instead of closets.
narrow door
That carpenter did the best he could with the materials at hand


John Hall’s House

John Hall was a physician and Shakespeare’s son-in-law. He held a B.A. and an M.A. from Cambridge, quite a step up for the Shakespeares. He was the only doctor in town when he married Susanna in 1607. By that time, Shakespeare had made his name as a playwright and quite a bit of money producing plays. John and Susanna’s house is the one I would live in if I could. It’s perfect. I have lots of photos of the interior and the gardens which I’ll share with y’all sometime. Today it’s just a few exterior details.

hall house
Can’t get enough of that plaster & beam construction!
hall house
Tulips galore this trip. Must have been June.
drain spout
An unhappy drain spout



Walking around town

tudor house




decorative trim


TRI, with frills
carved dog
We love our dogs. Note the fancy collar!

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