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.

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First room on the left. I was thinking a lot about picture-hanging methods on this trip, for my own house, not my characters.

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I enjoy this kind of stage-setting in historic houses.

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Quail, anyone?

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The music room (harpsichord at the back.)

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Harpsichord ready to play. A little Mozart, perhaps? He’s very popular at this time.

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Love that eighteenth century decor! Full of light and reflective surfaces.

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A card table with a sofa for the kibitzer

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Carpet samples

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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.

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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!

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Queen Charlotte’s bedroom

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Portrait of a novelist having fun in an historic house.

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Servants quarters on the top floor. They’re still renovating these rooms. They would have been much pleasanter in their day.

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Even the roofs of service buildings were handsomely built.

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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.

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The steward’s office. I could work here, happily.

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Last, but never least, the kitchen.

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