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The Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens

3 mins

This 18th century Grade II listed landmark needed a full restoration, so Richardson Roofing were contracted to strip off and renew the Welsh slates and the sheet copper weathering. Copper to the cupola and the flat roofs were retained, with intricate repairs made at the request of the architect.

kew gardens the great pagoda

Located in Kew Gardens, the Great Pagoda is a Grade I listed 18th century folly that required full restoration, including to the 80 gilded dragons adorning the roofs. The pagoda is crowned with a Cupola roof entirely covered with sheet copper, below which, nine octagonal canopy roofs are covered with natural Welsh slate and sheet copper capping to each of the hips. Directly above these slated roofs is a flat copper roof which can be accessed through glazed doors on each floor. These roofs originally acted as viewing balconies and were surrounded by wooden balustrades.


As a significant heritage landmark, Richardson Roofing worked closely with the client, architect and Historic England to ensure the works met the conservation requirements. This meant having to carry out small localised repairs to cracks in the original copper to the flat roofs and cupola, rather than completely renewing the copper as advised by the team.

Richardson Roofing also had to source rare ‘red lead’ used as putty to seal an old copper sheet patch, from a boatbuilder who imported it from Canada. The team also worked with the architect to design a full-size mock-up of a typical hip section upon which the dragons would be located, to test different copper and slate details and decide the configuration of copper seams and flashing details.

kew gardens the great pagoda roof workmanship


The restoration works included the fixing of new gilded dragons to each of the hips, which meant it was necessary to remove and renew the copper sheet hip cappings to allow the introduction of new bracketry. For the dragons to appear to be standing on the roof coverings, these brackets needed a low profile, and so each one was sunk inside the dragon with copper sheet sleeves soldered to each hip capping. The hip cappings were in turn welded into sheet copper soakers, located between each course of slates. Welsh slates from the Cwt Y Bugail quarry were copper nailed directly to the original close boarding. Slates to the hip abutments were hand cut.


Welsh Cwt Y Bugail slates; copper; Clevis-type stainless steel brackets

At a glance

  • Project: The Great Pagoda
  • Roofing Awards 2019: Winner of Heritage Roofing category
  • Location: Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Client: Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Roof Contractor: Richardson Roofing
  • Main Contractor: Blue Sky Building
  • Architect: Austin Smith Lord
  • Award Sponsor: Klober

About Richardson Roofing

Richardson Roofing is a multi-disciplined building envelope commercial industrial roofing contractor, able to take projects from an outline design concept through to a finished installation constructed to the highest standards.

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