The National Arboretum and the Pleasure Grounds
Kew's gardeners and managers had for a long time wished to expand
the area of Banks' arboretum. W T Aiton had tried and failed to
gain some extra ground from the Pleasure Grounds in 1831 when the
Botanic Garden was still tightly confined to the north-east corner.
Sir William Hooker succeeded in this aim in 1843, when an additional
grant of land was made, extending the Gardens' boundary south of
the Pond. Ordering many trees and shrubs from British and Continental
nurseries, Hooker began a scheme whereby specific spaces were allocated
to genera, and Nesfield was employed to devise a design for the
newly expanded arboretum.
Whilst Nesfield did submit a design for this small, contained arboretum
within the grounds of the Botanic Garden the scheme gained more
impetus, and a grander scale, when Aiton retired.
Hooker had heard rumours of Aiton's imminent retirement, so he
asked Nesfield "to make a report to the effect that the
present Botanic Garden cannot be what it ought to be unless the
Pleasure Grounds are considered one with it". This joint
campaign reflected the apparent warming of the relationship between
Hooker and Nesfield.
Two weeks after Aiton retired Nesfield had submitted to Hooker a
‘Report on the formation of a National Arboretum at Kew’.
A short while after that, the Pleasure Grounds were given to Hooker
to manage along with the Botanic Garden. However, the physical separation
between the Botanic Garden and the Pleasure Grounds was maintained
Nesfield began his arboreal plantings in the Pleasure Grounds,
flanking the Pagoda Vista (then still unmarked on the ground) with
clumps of members of the Rosaceae and Leguminosae families. The
outline plan for this design can be seen in Nesfield's 1845 ‘Sketch
Plan of the Arboretum’.
Whether under Hooker's orders, or by his own design, Nesfield's
plan states that he was concerned not to "materially alter
the general features" of the surviving 18th century landscapes
of the Pleasure Grounds. When Hooker was granted the Pleasure Grounds
to manage he wrote a letter in July 1845 stating that "In
future not a tree is to be cut down for profit, only when necessary
for improving the beauty of the place".
By 1849 the Gardens as a whole contained more than 2,000 species,
and over 1,000 varieties and hybrids had been planted. With this
in mind Hooker named it a National Arboretum.
Back to: 1841-1885:
The flowering of Kew