Sir Arthur William Hill and the British Empire
In 1922, David Prain was succeeded by his Assistant Director, Sir
Arthur William Hill. Hill's activities were supported financially
by the newly founded Empire Marketing Board, which funded both the
new position of Economic Botanist and the sending of Kew staff on
botanic expeditions overseas.
The Board was also responsible for the instigation of the quarantine
service and paid for a new quarantine house at Kew. When the Board
was wound up in 1938, Hill persuaded the Treasury to make permanent
most of the temporary posts funded by the Empire Marketing Board.
The entire period 1885-1939 is predominantly known for Kew's expanding
Imperial links. Throughout the Hooker period (1841-1885) the Gardens
expanded their colonial links and collecting activities. From 1885
to 1939 the Gardens reinforced their position at the heart of a
network of botanic gardens across the British Empire.
The Gardens advised the Colonial Office extensively on the introduction
and translocation of plants. This role had developed from earlier
successes, such as the transfer of rubber. In 1876, Kew received
70,000 seeds collected from the rubber tree's native Amazonian Brazil.
Only 2,800 germinated, but from them, the seedlings sent to Sri
Lanka and Malaysia flourished and started their rubber industries.
In many respects, during the early part of this period, economic
botany became Kew's dominant activity.
Hill continued this tradition, both in his work in conjunction
with the Empire Marketing Board and in his encouragement of his
staff to forge links with colonial institutions. He further expanded
the Herbarium in 1932, which ensured the continued publication of
On-site changes continued under Hill, though he was sometimes frustrated
by post-war austerity, such as with his aborted plans to replace
the Temple of the Sun, destroyed in a storm in 1916. He was more
successful in building, renovating, adapting and extending glasshouses.
He responsible for a new Rhododendron House in 1925-1926; a larger
Economic House in 1930 and a South African Succulent House for small
desert plants in 1936.
Hill also looked to his home responsibilities and recognising the
problem of pollution, he secured a second site for Kew's pines.
In 1924 he entered into a joint venture with the Forestry Commission
at Bedgebury, near Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent. However, it was
not an ideal site, as it suffered from frost pockets. In 1943, within
weeks of becoming Director, Professor Edward Salisbury recommended
the closure of the Bedgebury pinetum . Kew remained on the management
board at Bedgebury until 1965, when it acquired the lease from the
National Trust of Wakehurst Place in the High Weald of Sussex.
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