Chilstone in History
Monday, June 08, 2009
In 1982 Kew Gardens asked Chilstone to replicate 138 urns which had once graced the top of the Temperate House. The original urns had been taken down during WW11 and removed to a storehouse where, in 1958, they were found to be missing. Chilstone's task was to replace them in time for the opening of the restored Temperate House by HRH The Queen on 13th May 1982. Chilstone was faced with the problem that nobody knew what the urns looked like. After some detective work at Kew in the records and archives, Chilstone's founder the late Michael Dibben came up with three designs. Drawings from the late Victorian period were very small scale by today's standards, but he was able to design two of the urns using these tiny drawings. The third finial he notices one day when exiting the park – it was on top of Victoria Gate! This large finial, designed by the famous Decimus Burton, was carefully removed from the gate, cleaned and a mould taken directly from it. This urn is decorated with floral emblems of the British Isles – Shamrocks, Daffodils, Thistles and Roses and these culminate in two stylised Lion masks. Chilstone also supplied the National trust property at Wakefield Place at the same time with six urns of this type and these stand resplendent in the lavender borders. The corner finials have acanthus leaf decoration to their underside and each individual leaf was modelled by Mr Dibben in the style of the period. Later on Chilstone used the lower bowl of this finial to produce a fountain known as the Kew Fountain which has proved to be one of the company's biggest sellers. The largest finial is 4 feet in diameter and the Victoria Urn is 4ft 6 inches high – nevertheless these splendid urns are dwarfed by the grandeur of the Temperate House and appear like pinnacles of icing on a wedding cake.