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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

We are always pleased to receive feedback. You can contact us by clicking here.

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Thursday Talk: The History of Kew

Thursday Talk: The History of Kew

Laura Ponsonby

The History of Kew by Laura Ponsonby. Thursday 26 November 2009.

Laura gave a most interesting and informative talk and, to our amazement, managed to condense the 250 years’ history of Kew gardens into 75 minutes!

Kew Gardens is the largest Botanical Garden in the world and only Chelsea Physic Garden and Oxford and Edinburgh Botanical Gardens are older.

Originally the gardens were split into the Richmond estate leading down to the river and the Kew Estate. The following summarises the main people and events.

In 1727 George II came to the throne, lived in Ormonde Lodge and made improvements including avenues of Walnut, Elm and Sweet Chestnut trees and several new buildings. Despite an income of 100,000 per annum and government money from Walpole he was in debt when he died!

Love Lane divided the Kew estate from Richmond and Henry Capel lived in the White House (Kew House) during the latter half of the 17th. Century. On his death, his great niece lived there with her husband followed by Prince Frederick and his 16 year old German bride Augusta.

Frederick loved gardening and encouraged his visitors to help in the garden but he died in 1751 and it was Augusta who made significant changes. William Aiton came to Kew and in 1759 nine acres were made into a Physic Garden. An arboretum was also laid out including a Ginkgo tree which is still in the gardens today. Lord Bute lived and studied in Kew Green and gave Augusta good advice, also importing trees from North America.

Sir William Chambers, an architect employed by Augusta and was responsible for 24 new buildings of which only 6 survive including the Orangery, once a Wood museum.

The Temple of the Winds has been rebuilt, the famous Pagoda survives (minus 80 dragons in the roof corners!) but the Mosque and the Alhambra were demolished.

George III (farmer George) moved into the White House in the 1770s after Augusta’s death. Queen Charlotte was very interested in plants and took lessons from Capability Brown and with Joseph Banks as an advisor; many plants were brought back from Captain Cook’s voyages. It was Joseph Banks who was responsible for the foundation of Kew as a scientific institution.

There were few developments during the reigns of George III and IV, but William IV had one of the Nash conservatories moved from Buckingham Palace to Kew. (William also lived at Bushy House with Mrs. Jordan and their 10 children)

During the reign of Queen Victoria, William Hooker was appointed as the first Director and started the Museum of Botany. The collections are now housed in the Joseph Banks building.

The Great Palm House was started in 1844 and the public admitted for the first time.

In 1845 the two gardens were joined comprising 200 acres in total.

The Herbarium which was started in the 1850s had a new wing built every 30 years and houses 8 million specimens including new species. The Temperate House began in the 1860s but was not completed until the end of the century when it was opened by the Queen.

Joseph Hooker succeeded his father in 1865. He was a friend of Darwin and collected many rhododendrons and orchids.

The original Jodrell Laboratory, now extended, was built in 1876 and the Rock Garden laid out in 1882.

In 1882 the Marianne North Gallery was opened to the public and to date 300 of the original 833 oil paintings have been restored.

1885 saw William Thiselton-Dyer take over as the third director and in 1887 the Alpine House was created.

The 1890s saw the first ‘lady’ gardeners who were made to wear plus fours, waistcoats and caps!

The Queen gave Queen Charlotte’s cottage and grounds to the public in 1898 which includes the area of bluebells.

Kew took over the management of Wakehurst Place in 1965 including some national collections and more tender plants which do less well at Kew.

The seed bank, started at Kew, was moved to Wakehurst and the current target is to store seeds from 10% of the world’s flora by 2010.

In 1969, Queen Elizabeth opened a 17th. Century garden behind Kew Palace which includes medicinal plants.

The Princess of Wales conservatory, opened in 1987 by Princess Diana, is named after Princess Augusta.

After a major repair The Palm House reopened in 1990. One plant, the Madagascan Periwinkle, is used in the treatment of Hodgkin’s disease and childhood leukaemia.

In 2003 under the directorship of Professor Crane, Kew was given World heritage Status and work continues with a new Alpine House, the Tree walk, a new gallery, students’ fruit and vegetable plots and the largest compost heap in Europe!

Many thanks to Laura Ponsonby.

Report by Jane Cliff, Photo by Pieter Morpurgo, posted 17 December 2009

Why we need more Friends

With more members our voice is stronger when we campaign to protect the Parks, and with more subscription income we can do more to provide information and education about the Parks, their wildlife and their history.

Join us today!

Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Latest report

On Saturday 8 June 2019 from 11am to 3pm members of the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks will be at the SHAEF memorial (near SHAEF Gate) and at Teddington Gate to help you envisage the scene 75 years ago when General Dwight D Eisenhower and his staff in Bushy Park were planning the campaign to liberate occupied Europe.

Full report...

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre next to the Pheasantry café is where our volunteers help visitors find out more about the parks and where visitors can purchase souvenirs of your visit to support our work.

Click this panel to visit our Visitor Centre section and also to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer.