The Temperate House
Sir William Hooker, as Director of Kew, had to campaign for money
and support for his projects from the Board of Woods and Forests.
With much persistence between 1853 and 1859 he finally persuaded
the Board and the Government that the need for a large temperate
glasshouse had become overwhelming, as the collection of tender
woody plants had become so large.
The new building was to be sited in the Pleasure Grounds opposite
the expected new entrance that would have served the proposed new
railway station. However, the station was built further north, at
its current site, and Victoria Gate was opened to serve it.
In 1859, the Government allocated £10,000 to build the Temperate
House and directed Decimus Burton to prepare designs for this 'long-desiderated'
conservatory. However, the building firm employed to construct the
building, William Cubitt & Company, altered his design.
Work began in 1860. The octagons were completed in 1861, the centre
section in 1862 and foundations for the wings were part laid when,
in 1863, the Treasury called a halt to proceedings. This was because
the account from Cubitt for the construction of the main block and
octagons had come to £29,000. However, the unfinished building
was opened to the public that year.
Work was not resumed until more than 30 years later, in August
1895. The south wing was finished in 1897, then the contractor became
bankrupt, so the north wing was completed by another in 1898 and
the House as a whole was fully opened in May 1899.
In its time, the Temperate House was the largest plant house in
the world. It is now the world's largest surviving Victorian glass
structure and at 4,880 square metres, it is still the largest public
glasshouse at Kew, twice the size of the Palm House.
Back to: 1841-1885:
The flowering of Kew