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Kew’s historic Temperate House receives £14.7m Heritage Lottery Fund grant

The grant will enable vital conservation of this Grade One listed heritage building, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, and provide visitors with an inspiring new display, bringing to life why plants matter.
Exterior of Temperate House
The historic Temperate House at Kew Gardens

In addition to undertaking vital conservation of the Temperate House at Kew Gardens, the grant of £14.7m will also result in a more inspiring public display for visitors. It will help broaden awareness of the importance of plants through learning and engagement programmes with community groups, and will enhance the care of the invaluable scientific collection of plants housed within the Temperate House at Kew Gardens. 

This project represents a real step change in the way in which Kew will communicate and bring to life why plants matter, why saving them matters and ultimately why Kew’s science and horticultural expertise matters.

Richard Deverell, Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Transforming one of Kew’s most important heritage buildings 

Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says, “We are delighted to be given this opportunity to preserve and transform the Temperate House, one of Kew’s most important heritage buildings. 

“This project represents a real step change in the way in which Kew will communicate and bring to life why plants matter, why saving them matters and ultimately why Kew’s science and horticultural expertise matters.

“The Temperate House is the perfect backdrop in which to tell the extraordinary stories of the contemporary relevance of plants to us all. It is home to some of our rarest and most useful plants. What’s more, the sheer range of the locations these plants hail from – the Mediterranean, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, Asia and the Pacific Islands – offers us an opportunity to make a special connection with the diverse visitors we welcome to Kew.

“We want to use the Temperate House to open up visitors’ minds and imaginations to look at plants and Kew in a new light.” 

Inspiring and enthusing a new generation

The project, managed by Turner & Townsend on behalf of Kew, will return the Temperate House to its former glory, restructure the plant displays and rejuvenate the existing plant collection. The adjoining Evolution House will be converted into a centre for public engagement, supported by a bespoke volunteer programme. Kew’s commitment to teaching and enthusing a new generation about plants will be given a boost with a new science education strand added to the schools programme. A Historic Glasshouse Apprenticeship Scheme will train a new generation in heritage restoration and horticulture.

Artist's impression of Temperate House restoration

Artist impression of the Temperate House, after restoration

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, says, “The Temperate House is both a remarkable feat of Victorian engineering and home to one of the world’s most famous botanical collections. We’re delighted to be funding urgent conservation work to secure the building’s future as well as a number of complementary training and volunteering opportunities. This is a real milestone project for Kew and we look forward to watching it progress over the coming year.” 

The Temperate House restoration project is about more than just preserving this Victorian architectural gem. As part of Kew’s Breathing Planet fundraising campaign, the project is a catalyst for change in how Kew inspires its visitors to engage with the beauty, complexity and importance of plants. The glasshouse, designed by Decimus Burton, embodies what Kew is about: a rich history and heritage, a world-renowned collection of plants, and a science programme that focuses on the potential plants have to play in addressing challenges such as food security and climate change. 

Protecting the future of the world's plants 

Sir David Attenborough, world renowned broadcaster and naturalist, says, “Kew’s Breathing Planet Campaign will help protect the world’s plants, the basis for all life on the planet. In a time of unprecedented global change, it could not be more important.”

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley says, “The expansion of the iconic Temperate House will allow Kew to continue to educate and fascinate the hundreds of thousands who visit every year.

“This is why we’re supporting the project to make sure Kew can carry out the necessary work to bring the Temperate House up to date.”

Alongside the £14.7m HLF grant, Defra (the Government department that provides approximately half of Kew’s funding) has contributed £10.4m and Kew has raised an additional £7.7m for the project from private donors. The £34.3m restoration project will be completed in May 2018. 

Home to some of world’s most useful and rare plants

The Temperate House is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse structure in the world, originally opened in 1863. It has undergone a number of major refurbishments over the years, the last one commencing 35 years ago.

Detail of Sutherlandia frutescens, which is used to alleviate symptoms associated with cancer and aids.

It is home to some of world’s most useful plants,  a date palm (Phoenix dactylifera),  tea (Camellia sinensis), from which the nation’s favourite brew is made, a specimen of a quinine tree (Cinchona officinalis), historically used as a treatment for malaria, and the  South African balloon pea (Sutherlandia frutescens), which is used in a tonic in rural areas to alleviate symptoms associated with aids and cancer.

It also houses some of the rarest, such as a South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). Only one specimen of this cycad has ever been found growing in the wild, and that has long since disappeared. This species now exists only in botanic gardens. Other rare plants include Saint Helena ebony (Trochetiopsis ebenus) from St Helena, only two specimens are growing in the wild on the island, and Kew’s ex-situ conservation work has been invaluable to secure the future of this plant species. 

Make a donation today

Kew needs your help if we are to be able to carry out this complex and ambitious restoration. Please make a donation today and become a part of the campaign to renew and reinvigorate Kew’s Temperate House.

Whether you visit the Gardens and the Temperate House regularly, or haven’t yet had an opportunity to visit, you can play a part in saving our heritage and securing our future. Please make a donation today to the Kew Fund, or pick up a leaflet next time you are in the Gardens. 

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