Inventory Site Record

Royal Botanic Gardens *

Royal Botanic Gardens * (Richmond)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew were established as a botanic garden in the C18th, but the royal connection dates from the time of the new Palace of Sheen created in the C15th under Henry V and VI, renamed Richmond Palace. The Richmond Lodge estate was later given by George II to Queen Caroline, who improved the gardens. It became a favourite royal residence, and in c.1802 Kew Palace became the main royal residence and at the same time the gardens of Richmond Lodge and Kew Palace were combined. The botanical collection developed particularly as a result of Sir Joseph Banks' advice to George III and in 1841 it was taken over by the estate, by which time visitors were already admitted. From then the gardens were enlarged under Sir William Hooker, and re-landscaped by William Nesfield, and have continued to develop. On 3 July 2003 the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was officially inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Kew Gardens
Site location:
Kew Road/Kew Green, Kew
Type of site:
Botanical Institution
Open to public?
Opening times:
9.30am - dusk (4.30pm mid-winter; 7.30pm mid-summer). Closed 24/25 December
Special conditions:
Admission charge (check website for current charges)
Visitors Centre/Shops, cafés and restaurants, gallery, toilets.
Educational events, tours, exhibitions, concerts and other events
Public transport:
Rail/London Overground/Tube (District): Kew Gardens. Bus: 65, 237, 267, 391. Riverboat Service: Kew or Richmond

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

The botanic gardens at Kew were founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, and originally covered a small area c.4 hectares to the south of the Orangery. Around this botanic garden were two C18th gardens, to the south were royal pleasure gardens and kitchen gardens dating from 1729 designed by Charles Bridgeman for Queen Caroline and later redesigned by Capability Brown for George III in 1764. At the northern end the grounds were landscaped by Sir William Chambers (1723-96) for Princess Augusta. When Princess Augusta died in 1772, the two estates were merged and the Botanic Garden was enlarged. Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society and botanical adviser to George III and Queen Charlotte, introduced many new and exotic plants.

In 1841 the gardens became a public research institute with Sir William Hooker as first Director, and the grounds were increased in size to c.100 hectares and re-landscaped by William Nesfield, overlaying much of the work of Bridgeman, Brown and Chambers. In 1845 a lake in the south-west was created and mounds and embankments were created from the spoil excavated, and in 1847 a smaller artificial lake was created in front of the Palm House. Nesfield also created the walks and vistas that remain today. Decimus Burton designed the main entrance gates from Kew Green (q.v.) and two glasshouses, the Palm House (1844-48), which was restored in 1985, and the Temperate House (1859-62), which was later extended in 1898/99. The Temperate House was designed to house African plants in the south wing, with temperate plants from Australasia in the north wing, and sub-tropical trees in the main hall. The Temperate House underwent restoration in 1978-82 and in July 2013 it closed for major restoration, expected to take c.5 years to complete, during which time the glass panels will be replaced, beams repainted and the roof raised. Richard Turner worked with Burton on the Palm House and also designed the Water Lily House north of this in 1852. The North Gallery was built in the late 1880s to house the botanical collection of 832 paintings by Marianne North, a remarkable Victorian artist and traveller.

To mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the Queen's Cottage Grounds were added to the Royal Botanic Garden in 1898, an area of c.15 hectares that had rarely been visited by the royal family and had become a wilderness, a wildlife sanctuary and a haven for birds, praised as such by W H Hudson, the naturalist, and by the Linnaean Society. The gift was made on the condition that it would remain in its natural state. It remains a conservation area and is only open to the public on special occasions.

The Botanic Gardens were initially administered by the Office of Works and then from 1903-1984 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In 1983 a Board of Trustees was appointed to manage the gardens following the National Heritage Act of the same year.

There are fine views across the river to Syon House (q.v.), and Kew Gardens abuts the Old Deer Park (q.v.) to the south. The gardens contain many historically important buildings including Kew Palace, built in 1634 on the site of an earlier building and recently restored, and Queen Charlotte's Cottage built in the south-west corner in c.1722. A number of garden buildings designed by Sir William Chambers for Princess Augusta survive such as the 1757 Orangery; the Temples of Aeolus of c.1760, rebuilt in 1845 by Decimus Burton; Arethusa (1758) and Bellona (1760) along the east side; the Ruined Arch (1759/60) and the Chinese Pagoda (1761). King William's Temple of 1837 by Sir Jeffry Wyatville is situated between the Palm House and Temperate House. In the C20th a number of new glasshouses have been built including the Alpine House, the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Sir Joseph Banks Building, a centre for Economic Botany. The Gardens contain c. 50,000 plants from all over the world and the Herbarium has c.6 million specimens. During the storms of October 1987 many trees were lost. The Queen's Garden is a formal garden laid out behind Kew Palace. Near the Pagoda is a Japanese Garden with the Chokushi Mon, a replica of the 'Gateway to the Imperial Messenger' in Kyoto, which had been made as the main gateway for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition held at White City in London. After the exhibition the gateway was eventually moved to Kew; it was restored in 1995 and the new Japanese Gardens were built to complement it in 1996.

Sources consulted:

EH Register Listing: Apollo, August 1963 p103-108; Country Life 29/1/1959 p192-4, 28/5/1959 p1182-84, 4/6/1959 p1260-62, 9/9/1965 p600-602, 16/9/1965 p682-683, 30/7/1981 p401-405, 19/5/1983 p1342-44; M Bingham 'The Making of Kew', 1975; F N Hepper ed. 'Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew', 1982; R King 'Royal Kew' 1985; The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, guide book 1986. John Archer, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Richmond upon Thames, Ecology Handbook 21', (London Ecology Unit) 1993 p63; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; A Herries, 'Japanese Gardens in Britain', Shire, 2001; Hazel Conway, article in 'The London Gardener', 2002.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ186768 (Victoria Gate Visitor Centre)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Royal Botanic Gardens
Site management:
Royal Botanic Gardens. Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
C18th onwards
William Chambers, Charles Bridgeman, Capability Brown, William Nesfield
Listed structures:
LBI: Orangery, Palm House, Temperate House, Pagoda, Kew Palace. LBII*: Queen's Cottage, Arch designed by Chamber, Main entrance gates by D Burton. LBII: Marianne North Gallery, C19th gates around site (+ other LBs)
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade I
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Boro Importance I (with Old Deer Pk)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area
Other LA designation:

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