A Brief History of Kew Gardens in London
What is Kew Gardens?
300-acre diverse botanical gardens with more than 50,000 living plants and over seven million preserved specimens.
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Kew Gardens History
In the early 18th century the area now covered by this monumental botanical collection was used by the royal family as both a leisurely retreat and a permanent residence. It is generally accepted that the foundations of the gardens were laid in the 1750s when Augusta, mother of King George III, was living on the estate. She developed a nine-acre garden around the Palladian villa that once stood opposite the stunning 17th-century red-brick building now known as Kew Palace. The gardens, developed to house and display growing plants, contained more than 3,400 plant species. As the collection continued to grow, Kew Gardens became a private centre for scientific research.
By 1840, the ownership of the land had transferred from the crown to the government. This was mainly due to the efforts of the Royal Horticultural Society, who aimed to secure access to the gardens for the public. Following its opening, many buildings were erected throughout the gardens for the cultivation of plants requiring specific climatic conditions. These include the renowned Palm House (a major feature of Kew Gardens) which was completed in 1848, with the intention of displaying palms brought to Europe from warmer climates.
If you look at the Palm House closely you’ll notice that the building looks like the upturned hull of a ship. At the time, nobody had built a glass structure of this size, so inspiration was taken from design expertise in the shipbuilding industry. This Grade I listed building is now considered one of the world’s most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structures.
Housing more than 50,000 living plants and over seven million preserved specimens, Kew Gardens was declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2003, in recognition of its ‘unique cultural landscape’.
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