The Dining Room at Kew Palace served King George III’s family and guests. In February 1789, this also included the King’s doctor, Dr. Willis.
England had been thrown into turmoil the previous year as the King was declared ‘mad’ after the onset of a mysterious illness, probably porphyria. This is a hereditary blood disorder that can cause temporary mental derangement. Kew Palace had become the King’s sanitarium.
Although a special diet was prescribed for the King during his illness, the daily menu carried on much as usual, with three courses, each of six or seven dishes. Small birds such as blackbirds and larks appeared regularly on the menus, especially for the younger princesses, who also had a fondness for dumplings.
All the food for the Royal Family, staff, and visitors was prepared next door to Kew Palace in the royal kitchen. This Georgian structure remains miraculously preserved after closing following the death of Queen Charlotte nearly 200ago. The treasure chest has recently been restored and re-opened to evoke life on February 6, 1789, the day when George III was given back his knife and fork, after his first episode of ‘madness’.
Modern visitors enter through the little kitchen garden to the rear, with neat vegetable beds laid out between gravel paths, and fruit trees climbing the walls. In fact, the real kitchen gardens were enormous and stood alongside the Kew Road, but this gives a flavor of what the Georgian kitchen gardens were like.
Once inside, you’ll see the four lower level preparation rooms where the bread was baked, the fish and meat stored, vegetables washed, and the lead-lined sink where the scullery boys would spend hours scouring pots and pans with sand and soap. Look carefully and you will spot the royal bathtub kept here because of the enormous amount of hot water needed to bathe the royal family.
George III’s food was prepared on this table in the restored great kitchen.
The great kitchen is the most impressive room in the building. Opening the original 18th century split door, the double-height room space is revealed, complete with its roasting range, charcoal grill, and pastry oven.There’s even a small oven door bearing the royal crest where George III’s favorite savory, Yorkshire pudding, was baked.
Entrance to the kitchen clerk’s office. Every employee had to swear their loyalty to the king as shown in this oath posted on the wall.
Upstairs, the kitchens were ruled over by the Clerk, who had day-to-day responsibility for feeding the enormous Royal Household. His office has been furnished to the way it might have looked in February 1789, when the king was recovering from his first illness.
Teas served at Kew were from the same East India London warehouses that dispatched tea to Boston in 1773
Located at the end of the main hallway, the dry larder or spice cupboard was always kept locked.When opened with a special key, a treasure house of expensive items, including tea stored in its own cupboard, was revealed.
Tea was kept in this locked wall cupboard inside a locked spice closet.
Royal Dinner Menu
Served between 16.00 – 17.00
First course – Soup with additional dishes of meat stews and pies, poultry and sometimes fish.
Second course – A joint of meat – beef and mutton were the favorites, but a haunch of venison was also popular.
Third course – Sweet and savory dishes. Perhaps a blancmange and gateau de millefeuille served alongside stewed asparagus, spinach, potatoes and anchovy salad with roasted pheasant or truffles.
Kew Palace is operated by Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, and Kensington Palace, as well as Kew Palace. The palace – open April through September – is on the grounds of Kew Gardens. Visitors may take the District Line from London and exit at the Kew tube station. Allow 45 minutes travel time.Lunch or refreshments are available in the Orangery, located one yards from the palace door.
Or, have tea just outside the Kew Gardens wall at The Maids of Honour, one of Bruce Richardson’s favorite tea spots found in his book, The Great Tea Rooms of Britain.
Photos on this page are copyrighted by Bruce Richardson and may not be used without permission.