Kew Gardens History

Kew Gardens History

Kew Gardens, also known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, is a vast botanical garden located in southwest London, England. It was founded in 1759 and has a long and illustrious history as a hub of botanical research and conservation.

Originally established as a private garden by Princess Augusta, the mother of King George III, Kew Gardens quickly became a center for botanical research and exploration. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the garden played a crucial role in the exploration and classification of plant species from around the world, with specimens being brought back from expeditions to places such as Australia, South Africa, and the Americas.

During the 19th century, Kew Gardens also became a center for plant breeding and experimentation, with new species and cultivars being developed and introduced to the wider world. The garden's famous Palm House, a large conservatory built in the mid-19th century, became a symbol of the Victorian era's fascination with exotic plants.

In the 20th century, Kew Gardens continued to play an important role in plant research and conservation, with many of the world's leading botanists and horticulturalists working there. Today, the garden is home to a vast collection of plant species from around the world, including many rare and endangered ones, and it continues to play a crucial role in preserving and understanding the natural world.

In addition to its scientific work, Kew Gardens is also a popular visitor attraction, with its beautiful gardens, historic buildings, and many exhibitions and events drawing in millions of visitors each year. Whether you are a keen botanist, a lover of history and architecture, or simply looking for a peaceful and beautiful place to spend a day, Kew Gardens is a must-see destination.

Surprising Historical Facts About Kew Gardens

Garden to Gardens

Kew Gardens has a rich history of plant exploration and collection. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Kew played a pivotal role in the transfer of exotic plants between the British Empire and its colonies. Plant hunters would collect new species from their travels and bring them back to Kew, where they were cultivated and studied. Kew Gardens became a hub of botanical activity, and its collections and expertise were sought after by other gardens around the world. Kew's contribution to the field of botany continues to this day, with ongoing research into plant conservation and the study of plant genetics.

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Mutiny On The Bounty

Kew Gardens played a small but significant role in the famous mutiny on the HMS Bounty. In 1787, the Bounty set sail from England on a mission to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti and transport them to the West Indies. Some of the breadfruit plants were brought back to Kew Gardens, where they were successfully cultivated. The successful cultivation of the breadfruit at Kew was a significant achievement, as it was hoped that the plant would provide a cheap source of food for enslaved people in the West Indies.

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Going Underground

In the 19th century, Kew Gardens began constructing a network of underground tunnels and cellars. These tunnels were used to transport coal and other supplies around the garden without disturbing the visitors. The tunnels also provided convenient storage space for the garden's extensive collections of seeds and plant specimens.

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Green Glasshouse

The Temperate House at Kew Gardens is one of the largest surviving Victorian glasshouses in the world. Completed in 1899, the building was designed by architect Decimus Burton and features a unique curved iron frame. The Temperate House was built to house a collection of temperate plants from around the world, and its restoration in 2018 after a five-year renovation project has ensured that it continues to be a vital part of Kew's botanical collections.

Kangaroos At Kew

In the early 1800s, Kew Gardens became home to a small menagerie of exotic animals, including kangaroos, emus, and a cassowary. The animals were a popular attraction for visitors to the gardens and were housed in specially designed enclosures. Although the animal collection was eventually disbanded, Kew Gardens continues to play an important role in the conservation of endangered species.

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A Royal request

In 1762, King George III requested that a pineapple be grown at Kew Gardens. At the time, pineapples were a rare and exotic fruit, and it was believed that they could only be grown in tropical climates. However, the garden's horticulturalists rose to the challenge, and after several attempts, they successfully grew a pineapple in a heated greenhouse. The pineapple became a symbol of Kew's reputation for horticultural excellence, and the garden continued to push the boundaries of plant cultivation and experimentation.

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The Old Rules

Until the 19th century, Kew Gardens had strict rules about who could enter. Only men were allowed to visit the gardens, and they had to be dressed in formal attire. The garden's managers believed that the gardens should be a place of learning and intellectual pursuit, and they sought to maintain a sense of decorum and respectability. However, as attitudes towards public spaces began to change, Kew Gardens eventually opened its doors to a wider range of visitors.

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In The Name Of Women's Suffrage

In 1913, a group of suffragettes smashed several of the glasshouses at Kew Gardens in protest of the government's refusal to grant women the right to vote. The attack caused extensive damage to the gardens and was a shocking reminder of the lengths to which the suffragette movement was willing to go to achieve its goals. Although the damage to Kew Gardens was significant, the attack ultimately did little to further the cause of women's suffrage.

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Aircraft In The Arboretum

During World War II, Kew Gardens was used as a base for the Royal Air Force. The gardens' vast arboretum was used to test and store aircraft, and many of the garden's buildings were converted into military installations. The presence of the RAF had a significant impact on the gardens, and many of the changes made during this period can still be seen today.

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Our Police Force

In 1847, Kew Gardens became the first public park in the world to employ a dedicated police force. The force was established to maintain order and ensure the safety of visitors, and it quickly became a model for other parks and public spaces around the world. Today, Kew's police force continues to play a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of visitors to the gardens.

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Horses To Motors

In the early days of Kew Gardens, horses played a vital role in the maintenance of the gardens. Horse-drawn carts were used to transport supplies and equipment, and horses were also used to mow the lawns and tend to the gardens. However, with the advent of the automobile, horses were gradually replaced by motorized vehicles. Today, the gardens are maintained using a combination of traditional and modern techniques.

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Palm House Plans

The iconic Palm House at Kew Gardens was designed by architect Richard Turner and opened in 1848. The building was a revolutionary piece of engineering, featuring a unique double-layered roof and advanced heating systems. The Palm House quickly became one of the most popular attractions at Kew Gardens, and it continues to be a must-visit destination for visitors to the gardens today.

Attenborough’s Time Capsule

In 2018, a time capsule was buried at Kew Gardens to mark the restoration of the Temperate House. The capsule was buried by Sir David Attenborough and contains a variety of items related to Kew's botanical collections and the restoration project. The time capsule is set to be opened in 2078, and its contents will provide a fascinating glimpse into the gardens' history and the state of the natural world at the time.

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Celebrity Students

Kew Gardens has a long tradition of educating and training horticulturists and botanists. Many famous gardeners and scientists have studied at Kew, including Charles Darwin, who conducted research on orchids at the gardens. Other notable alumni include William Hooker, who served as the director of Kew Gardens from 1841 to 1865, and Joseph Hooker, his son, who went on to become one of the most famous botanists of his time.

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Explosive History

During World War II, Kew Gardens was the site of a major munitions factory. The factory was built to manufacture explosives and other materials for the war effort, and it played a vital role in the British war effort. The presence of the factory had a significant impact on the gardens, and many of the changes made during this period can still be seen today. After the war, the factory was dismantled, and the gardens were restored to their former glory.

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What is the history behind Kew Gardens?

Kew Gardens is a botanical garden in southwest London, England. It was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the mother of King George III. The gardens were originally created to be a private royal retreat, but were later opened to the public in the 19th century. Kew Gardens is now home to one of the world's largest and most diverse collections of living plants, with over 50,000 different species. The gardens also feature several historic buildings and glasshouses, including the famous Palm House, which was completed in 1848 and is a prime example of Victorian engineering.

Is it necessary to book Kew Gardens tickets in advance?

Yes, it is recommended to book Kew Gardens tickets in advance. While it may be possible to purchase tickets on the day of your visit, booking in advance ensures that you secure your desired date and time slot, especially during peak periods. 

Why is Kew Gardens so important?

Kew Garden is important as it is a center of botanical research and conservation, housing extensive collections of living plants, dried plant specimens, and botanical literature. The gardens also provide education and outreach programs to the public, promoting awareness and understanding of plant diversity and ecology. Additionally, Kew Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its historical and architectural significance as well as its contributions to science and horticulture.

What is the full name of Kew Gardens?

The full name of Kew Gardens is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is a botanical garden and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in southwest London, England. The gardens were founded in 1759 and are home to an extensive collection of living plants, as well as historic buildings and glasshouses.

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What is the theme of Kew Gardens?

The theme of Kew Gardens is the celebration and study of plant diversity and ecology. The gardens aim to promote scientific research and conservation efforts, as well as education and outreach to the public. Kew Gardens features a vast array of plant collections from around the world, including rare and endangered species. The gardens also highlight the importance of plants in human culture and history, showcasing the interdependence of humans and the natural world.

Who designed Kew Gardens?

The original design of Kew Gardens was created by Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown in the 18th century. Over time, many other architects and designers have contributed to the gardens, including Sir Joseph Paxton, who designed the famous Palm House in the 19th century.

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