The Mansion

The Wakehurst Mansion and Stables

Our stunning and iconic mansion with its imposing Tudor façade must have many a story to tell – not all of them we know!

But we do have documentation to show that the land on which it is built was purchased in 1205 by William de Wakehurst, who bought 40 acres of the surrounding countryside.

The land stayed in his family down the generations and it was Edward Culpeper who commissioned the design of the mansion in 1590.  Edward was the husband of one of the last two girls in the Wakehurst line and was a distant relative of Nicholas Culpeper the famous herbalist. The design of the mansion is thought to be by Sir Christopher Wren.

Originally, the mansion was created around a square courtyard, but one wing was destroyed in 1697 and two more were demolished in 1845 – although the end walls were later rebuilt. Today, only one complete wing remains. The house was sold by the Culpepers to pay off gambling debts in 1694 and bought by Dennis Lydell.

Lydell increased the estate to 3,100 acres (1,255 hectares) by 1748.

The Peytons, another significant family, were residents from 1776 to 1869 when it was sold to the Dowanger Marchioness of Downshire who we think started the planting of the large exotic trees, such as the giant redwoods.

Lady Downshire also made her mark by adding the chapel to the side of the house. She changed the approach to the mansion to its present layout and installed central heating.

Sir William Boord and his family were the next residents. They made further cosmetic changes during their time in the house, before it was purchased by Gerald Loder in 1903.

It was Gerald, who later became Lord Wakehurst that set Wakehurst on the path of horticultural importance. He was a passionate plantsman and helped sponsor many collecting expeditions at the turn of the century, particularly to eastern Asia, still acknowledged to be the world’s richest source of temperate flora. He was particularly interested in Southern Hemisphere plants and built up an outstanding collection from South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Sir Henry and Lady Eve Price bought the property after Lord Wakehurst’s death in 1936. They restored the stonework and roof and continued to develop the gardens until World War II intervened. The mansion was used as the Advanced HQ of the Canadian Corps from January 1942 to October 1943. Sir Henry was equally as passionate about plants as its former occupier and it was under his care that the estate richly matured and became widely admired throughout the UK and beyond.

Over the years, the size of the Wakehurst estate has varied as various plots of land have been bought and sold. It now stands over 500 acres with several private house being built on its land throughout the years.

In 1963 the Price family bequeathed Wakehurst and a large endowment to the National Trust.

The house and the land were leased to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1965.

Under the long term agreement, Kew pays for the maintenance of the mansion and grounds. Unlike many other estates throughout the UK, Wakehurst does not receive any money from the National Trust for entry by its members.

Inside the mansion today

There are several downstairs rooms inside the mansion that visitors can explore. These include the entrance hall, gallery, blue room and chapel. Currently on display in the gallery is a section of botanical paintings by four renowned artists: John Day, brothers Franz and Ferdinand Bauer and Sarah Drake. Items of furniture used by Sir Henry and Lady Price are arranged beside the marble fireplace in the Blue Room, including Hepplewhite elbow and easy chairs, a 17th century side table and Chinese screen.

The upstairs floors are used for educational purposes and regularly house organised activities for both school and family groups.

The Stables

The stables were built in the 1700’s at a time when horse racing and gambling were highly fashionable. Again, the design of the building has been attributed to Sir Christopher Wren.

The garage block behind the stables was built in the 1930’s by Henry Price to house his collection of cars. It was built to match the design of the stables.

History of the Mansion and Stables under Wakehurst ownership

For many years the upstairs rooms of the mansion housed the scientists who now work in the Millennium Seed Bank. Previous to this the chapel was the first seed bank on the site when it was transferred from Kew in 1973.

The Stables was used for many years as storage for gardening machinery and for the Wakehurst gardeners mess room. This area was developed into a restaurant in xxx to enhance our visitors’ experience. 

About title: 
About Wakehurst Mansion

Meet the experts guided tours

Event details

Tuesdays at 11.30am. Tours last a maximum of 1½ hours.
Kew Gardens
Included with entry to the Gardens

Event overview

Discover a new plant or fungi each month on a guided tour with our knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff.  Go behind the scenes to areas of the Gardens not normally seen by the public.  Gain an insight into the different aspects of work that Kew undertakes in areas of science, horticulture and conservation.

During the guided tour you will meet the expert staff who care for the plants and fungi growing in the collections and those who undertake research and conservation work behind the scenes.
You'll come away with a much greater understanding of Kew's important work around the world and how we help with conservation.

Depending on the featured plant or fungi the tour could include a visit to the Jodrell Laboratory, the Herbarium or one our Nurseries. You'll see how Kew's research can be used to help people across the globe with re-forestation and finding alternative crops for farming in remote areas.

  • Tours will be mainly outside, but some behind the scenes areas may also be visited
  • All locations are wheelchair accessible
  • There is a limit of 15 people per tour and places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Please be at the information desk by 11.15am at the latest as the tour will start directly at 11.30am.

April 2017 — Prunus (cherry)

Introduction to Prunus

The cherry is probably the fruit most commonly associated with Prunus, a member of the Rosaceae (the rose family – which also includes the apple, pear, roses, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry). The genus also includes other edible fruits such as almond, peach, plum and apricot amongst the 200 species. The genus is distributed mainly across the Northern temperate zones but there are some tropical species. The focus in April will be on the cherries famed for things other than their fruit.

Prunus sargentii

Prunus sargentii is the species considered by many to be the loveliest of all cherries. It was first cultivated in the West in 1890 and originates from Japan, Russia’s largest island (Sakhalin) and Korea. In addition to the spring flowers, its leaves provide glorious autumnal colours of orange and crimson from late September.

Prunus africana trade

The bark of Prunus africana is harvested for its medicinal properties, in particular for use in treating benign prostate hyperplasia. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) placed this species on its Appendix II list in 1995, meaning that its trade must be closely regulated. Wood experts at Kew help the authorities to identify illegally-traded wood, wood products and bark, and curate the world’s largest reference microscope slide collection of wood and bark.

Prunus at Kew

The Living Collections Database of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew lists over 400 Prunus accessions. More than half are growing at Kew Gardens, with the remainder at Wakehurst. Over 50 different species are represented, along with substantial numbers of ornamental cultivars.

Blackthorn, or sloe (Prunus spinosa), grows in the Natural Area at Kew. Along with P. avium (gean, mazzard, wild cherry) and P. padus (bird cherry), it is native to the British Isles, Europe and Asia.

Blackthorn wood is especially hard, takes a high polish and has traditionally been used to produce the shillelagh in Ireland. The shillelagh was used in self-defence, is now used in a form of martial art and a blackthorn walking stick is still carried by commissioned officers of the Royal Irish Regiment.

The Meet the experts guided walk is included with entry to the Gardens. 

Save on the price of your ticket when you book online


May's tour

The tour for May 2017 will feature Rhododendron.


Themed daily walking tours

Event details

Daily at either 12 noon or 2pm depending on the tour – each tour lasts approx one hour
Kew Gardens

Included with entry to the Gardens

Event overview

Programme of themed tours for 2017

Spring into Life

1 March to 30 April 2017, daily at 12 noon

A seasonal walk through the layers of colour as the flowering bulbs and blossoms of spring spread across the Gardens.

Hooker at Kew

2 April to 27 August 2017, Thursdays and Sundays only at 2pm

To celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, Kew’s most illustrious Director, there will be an additional tour. Walk in his footsteps and find out how instrumental he was in shaping botany and Kew.

Fascinating Flowers

1 May to 31 August 2017, daily at 12 noon

Discover the ingenious ways in which flowers attract bees, birds and other animals to help them produce seeds for future generations.

Around the World; a treasury of Trees

1 September to 31 October 2017, daily at 12 noon and 2pm

As we journey into the autumn enjoy the brilliant colours of Kew's rare and beautiful trees.

Kew in Wartime

1 to 30 November 2017, daily at 12 noon

Find out how the two World Wars affected Kew Gardens and some of the surprising contributions the gardens and staff made to the war effort.

Details of the tours

  • Tours start at 12 noon or 2pm, depending on the tour and leave from the Guides' desk at Victoria Gate Plaza

  • Each tour lasts approximately one hour

  • There is a limit of 15 people per tour and places are allocated on a first come, first served basis

  • Please be at the Guides' desk 15 minutes before the tour is due to start.

For more information please contact

Save on entry to the Gardens when you buy online

Wakehurst for families

Pick up a passport from the Visitor Centre and fill it in as you journey round the eight play spaces.

  • find the hidden bronze seed capsule

  • read the plant hunter story

  • try the challenge

Talking Totems

Tap the totem poles and acoustic chair to hear the different sounds they make. Tap out a message to someone in your group. They were designed and made by local chainsaw carvers.


Venture up one of the climbing poles to see if you can spot any hidden creatures.

Tunnels and Tents

Run around and sit in our living, woven willow structures. They were designed by a local basket weaver and willow artist.  

Tree Trunk Trek

An adventurous and exciting log trail

Unexpected Endings

An amazing labyrinth of 600m based on the Fibonacci series, which is a special sequence of numbers found in nature that creates natural spirals.

Trunk Hopping

Jump from log to log and match the words and countries.

Time Travel

The finger labyrinth is a mini version of Unexpected Endings and takes you back in time to when this oak tree was a seedling.

Circles and Cycles

The display represents the flow of rainwater – bursting from the clouds and then flowing away in rivulets.

About title: 
Adventurous Journeys – eight outdoor play spaces

Beautiful British bees

Event details

Tuesday 18 July 2017, 10.30am to 4pm
Kew Gardens
Course fee: £70 (£60 concessions, Friends of Kew) 15 places available

Event overview

About the course

This new watercolour painting day, suitable for all levels, offers participants the chance to study different types of British bees in both an artistic and scientific way. Each student will have the use of a microscope to study the enjoyable and absorbing anatomical beauty of bees. Using her vast range of bee specimens, entomological artist Cath Hodsman, will discuss how bees pollinate, how they fly, how they produce food for their young and generally, pay homage to these fascinating and iconic insects.

Participants will then use either a microscope and specimen or macro photographic material to produce a detailed and unique piece of art to take home.

The tutor

Cath Hodsman is one of the country’s foremost entomological artists. Through her scientific approach to her work she has been made a member of the Royal Society of Biology and Royal Entomological Society. In the past, Cath has taught courses for the Royal Horticultural Society and the Royal West of England Academy and has contributed work to publications such as Countryfile magazine, the British Beekeeper’s Association and Leisure Painter.

How to book

Please email with a contact telephone number or call 020 8332 5641

Download the Spring/Summer adult short course brochure



A midsummer's evening in Kew Gardens

Event details

Saturday 21 June 2017, 5.30pm to 9pm
Kew Gardens
Course Fee: £100 (£80 concessions, Friends of Kew) 10 places available

Event overview

About the course

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to accompany award-winning nature photographer, Robert Canis, on an evening of plant and flower photography at Kew.  Let the low, soft, midsummer light stimulate your creativity.

Robert is keen to impart his knowledge on photographing the natural world and will advise on things such as composition, lighting, exposure and on how to achieve creative, eye-catching images. Throughout the workshop Robert will be reviewing your images and giving feedback. He is a passionate and enthusiastic communicator and at the end of this workshop you should leave full of inspiration keen to put into practice the many ideas, hints and tips that he has given you.

The tutor

Robert Canis is a professional nature photographer who is represented by three international agencies. For over 20 years Robert has been leading photography workshops and tours both in the UK and overseas, and regularly gives illustrated talks to a wide range of groups. He is the recipient of numerous awards including Botanical Britain category winner in the British Wildlife Photography Awards, twice highly commended in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and twice highly commended in the International Garden Photographer of the Year competitions.

How to book

Please email with a contact telephone number or call 020 8332 5641

Download the Spring/Summer adult short course brochure