Showcasing Kew's collections - an illustration of protest by Mr. J. Chapman
Before 1883, Kew Gardens would open to the public from 1pm. The quiet morning hours were always given to the scientists and horticultural staff so they could work with fewer distractions. But in 1877, local frustration led to the Kew Gardens Public Rights Defence Association being launched with two objectives. Firstly they wanted the Gardens to open at 10am daily and secondly they wanted the wall along Kew Road to be removed. Find out more about this story and come and see Mr. J. Chapman's illustration of the protest on show at Kew Gardens.
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, the Director of Kew Gardens at the time, was unmoved by the protestors’ argument and insisted that the presence of visitors in the mornings would interfere with the maintenance of the grounds and make outdoor study difficult. After much debate, Hooker eventually relented a little and opened the Gardens at 10am on Bank Holidays. At the time, he was genuinely worried about Kew’s future as a botanical garden and that it would eventually become a municipal park rather than remain a scientific institution. In 1883, after further public protest, Sir Joseph Hooker advanced the daily opening time to midday. But there were rules – the public were refused admittance if they did not fulfil the regulation that “visitors must be decently dressed”.
Sir Joseph Hooker’s father, Sir William Jackson Hooker, had a vision for Kew and during his time as Director he started to transform the Gardens. In the five years of his career, the Gardens grew from 11 to 250 acres in size and he opened the Gardens to the public. Sir Joseph continued his father’s vision transforming Kew Gardens into the attraction it is today, but he regrettably came into conflict with local residents. The Richmond Vestry sought to have the Gardens’ high boundary wall lowered as early as 1844. They described it as “a great evil and an unsightly object”. When three feet was added to it between the Cumberland and Unicorn gates in 1877, one can imagine the intensity of local resentment. Although Joseph Hooker stressed how the wall protected the Gardens from east winds, excluded litter from the roads and screened passing traffic, local residents were still unmoved by this reasoning and continued to demand for its demolition. In the end, Hooker must have won the argument as the boundary wall still stands today, with its extra three feet.
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