Kew at Castle Howard
Castle Howard Arboretum Trust
Home to the Howard family for over 300 years, Castle Howard, situated near York in North Yorkshire, is a magnificent 18th-century residence set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking landscape. Castle Howard is also a thriving rural estate with many traditional enterprises such as farming and forestry.
Jim Russell, from the famous family of nurserymen, formerly based at Sunningdale (Surrey), became head gardener to the late Lord Howard in the early 1970s. He soon set about building up a fine collection of rare trees and shrubs in Ray Wood – an atmospheric place of exceptional beauty – and latterly in the ‘Arboretum’ at the Castle Howard Estate.
Russell was a close friend of John Simmons, Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until 1995, and both were accomplished field collectors who introduced many interesting plants of documented wild provenance to their respective collections. They also exchanged many plants from their expeditions and those of other associates, so that the two collections grew to have many accessions in common.
A key difference, however, was that Russell had much more space available in the new Arboretum at Castle Howard (CH) and adopted the habit of planting numerous genetically distinct, seed-raised individuals, whereas Kew’s collection was more often of single or only few specimens from a given source. After the death of Lord Howard, Jim Russell moved away from the CH estate and the curation of its collections largely ceased.
Castle Howard Arboretum (all images on this page reproduced courtesy of Harry Kingman)
Establishment of CHAT and current trustee representation
The Castle Howard Arboretum Trust was formed in 1996 following discussions involving the Hon. Simon Howard (owner), the then Chair of the RBG Kew Board of Trustees (Robin Herbert), Kew Director (Sir Ghillean Prance) and Head of Kew Foundation (Giles Coode-Adams). Kew Curator (Nigel Taylor) and the Deputy Curator at Wakehurst Place (Mark Flanagan) were also involved at the invitation of the above-named (Flanagan was subsequently replaced by Tony Kirkham).
The original agreement, as applies today, was that the trustees would comprise equal numbers representing Castle Howard’s and Kew’s interests, headed by an independent chair. John Simmons was appointed as Hon. Curator of the collections and served until 2008 (he is still involved in an advisory capacity). CHAT has recently recruited a full-time curator. Twice yearly meetings of the CHAT trustees have been held at CH since 1996 and a Management Committee comprising Tony Kirkham (Kew), CHAT Curator and CHAT/CH employees meets 3-4 times/year, at CH or Kew.
The CH representatives on the CHAT board are members of the Howard Family or influential land owners from Yorkshire and the north of England, whereas the Kew reps are either Kew staff (Taylor), present or former Kew Trustees (Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd) or former Kew Foundation Trustees (Sir Richard Storey). Timothy Hornsby is the current Kew trustee representative on the CHAT board and replaced Lord Selborne 2 years ago.
The Friends of CHAT are an established and growing supporter base. CHAT is actively fund-raising.
‘Kew at Castle Howard'
Kew benefits from its involvement with CHAT in the following ways:
- CHAT’s collections represent an ‘insurance back-up’ for Kew’s collections in our southern England estates against extremes of weather and climate change (N Yorkshire is cooler/moister).
- CHAT’s collections are genetically more diverse and thus more valuable for conservation.
- Heritage links via Richard Spruce’s birthplace and Joseph Hooker rhododendrons at CHAT.
- CHAT acts as a base of Kew influence in the north of England; including free entry for Kew Friends.
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