1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kew

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KEW, a township in the Kingston parliamentary division of Surrey, England, situated on the south bank of the Thames, 6 m. W.S.W. of Hyde Park Corner, London. Pop. (1901), 2699. A stone bridge of seven arches, erected in 1789, connecting Kew with Brentford on the other side of the river, was replaced by a bridge of three arches opened by Edward VII. in 1903 and named after him. Kew has increased greatly as a residential suburb of London; the old village consisted chiefly of a row of houses with gardens attached, situated on the north side of a green, to the south of which is the church and churchyard and at the west the principal entrance to Kew Gardens. From remains found in the bed of the river near Kew bridge it has been conjectured that the village marks the site of an old British settlement. The name first occurs in a document of the reign of Henry VII., where it is spelt Kayhough. The church of St Anne (1714) has a mausoleum containing the tomb of the duke of Cambridge (d. 1850) son of George III., and is also the burial-place of Thomas Gainsborough the artist, Jeremiah Meyer the painter of miniatures (d. 1789), John Zoffany the artist (d. 1810), Joshua Kirby the architect (d. 1774), and William Aiton the botanist and director of Kew Gardens (d. 1793).

The free school originally endowed by Lady Capel in 1721 received special benefactions from George IV., and the title of “the king’s free school.”

The estate of Kew House about the end of the 17th century came into the possession of Lord Capel of Tewkesbury, and in 1721 of Samuel Molyneux, secretary to the prince of Wales, afterwards George II. After his death it was leased by Frederick prince of Wales, son of George II., and was purchased about 1789 by George III., who devoted his leisure to its improvement. The old house was pulled down in 1802, and a new mansion was begun from the designs of James Wyatt, but the king’s death prevented its completion, and in 1827 the portion built was removed. Dutch House, close to Kew House, was sold by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, to Sir Hugh Portman, a Dutch merchant, late in the 16th century, and in 1781 was purchased by George III. as a nursery for the royal children. It is a plain brick structure, now known as Kew Palace.

The Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew originated in the exotic garden formed by Lord Capel and greatly extended by the princess dowager, widow of Frederick, prince of Wales, and by George III., aided by the skill of William Aiton and of Sir Joseph Banks. In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national establishment, and transferred to the department of woods and forests. The gardens proper, which originally contained only about 11 acres, were subsequently increased to 75 acres, and the pleasure grounds or arboretum adjoining extend to 270 acres. There are extensive conservatories, botanical museums, including the magnificent herbarium and a library. A lofty Chinese pagoda was erected in 1761. A flagstaff 159 ft. high is made out of the fine single trunk of a Douglas pine. In the neighbouring Richmond Old Park is the important Kew Observatory.