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Temperate House restoration project

Opened in 1863, the Temperate House is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world. Since August 2013, Kew has been undertaking a vital five-year restoration project to restore the Temperate House and its surrounding landscape and convert the adjoining Evolution House into a world class public engagement centre.

Kew's Temperate House

Work has begun on the huge five-year project to restore the Temperate House to its former glory.

You Can Help

Help us restore the Temperate House. Kew needs your help so we can carry out this vital and complex restoration.


Now more than 150 years old, the Temperate House is in need of a full restoration if it is to survive and continue providing the historic and dedicated home for Kew’s worldwide collection of temperate zone plants.

The project aims to do far more than restore the building, it will also create new ways of seeing and understanding plants, reach out to communities, and expand Kew’s education programme.

Project News

  • July 2014  - The Propagation Glasshouse is now complete and the remaining plants from the Temperate House are being moved in - so what looked like a big open space is rapidly becoming a green oasis. There are still a few weeks left for visitors to see inside the Temperate House before the restoration works start.
  • Photo of Hort staff potting up plants from the Temperate house
    June 2014
    The quotes for restoration works are being analysed and the appointment of a chosen contractor is expected soon.
  • May 2014 - the background works to help us to move (de-cant) the plants from the Temperate House are all nearing completion, and most of the plants have now been moved into their temporary homes. Like a gigantic 3D puzzle this has involved creating a new space for schools to have their lunches – the exciting new TipiTents 
    Photo of Plants from the temperate house potted up

    Propagation and potting up of plants from the Temperate House continues

    space next to the outdoor play area - so freeing up the glasshouse space they used to use (the Munchbox, at one end of Climbers and Creepers).  A new propagation glasshouse is nearing completion, and this will be used to care for and continue the propagation and growing on of the younger plants from the Temperate House.

  • April 2014 – guided tours around and into the Temperate House have now increased to two per week, and the space available for viewing the inside has been increased. The amazing architecture of the Temperate House can be easily admired, with only ten large palms and trees left in situ, and its need for restoration is now equally clear to see.

The Temperate House project

A Grade 1 listed building, the Temperate House is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world - more than twice the size of the iconic Palm House also at Kew. Designed by the renowned architect Decimus Burton, he created an ornate design with tiers of metal and glass. It features many fine examples of Victorian metalwork, including decorative trusses, iron capped pilasters, and attractive spiral stairs. Urns top the masonry pillars outside, the entrances are adorned with statuary commissioned for the Temperate House, and several statues and other sculptures have been collected inside. Burton also employed the latest in Victorian technology to collect and distribute water, and provide reactive ventilation throughout the building.

Restoration - Something Old

This has lead to a very special building, but one that is complex to maintain, especially with the challenging environment of a cool, moist atmosphere, filled with plants climbing pillars, brushing against the glass, walls and even the high roof. This is not at all ideal for metalwork, and even glass deteriorates over time, allowing less light in.

The old iron (and later steel) work has been painted and over-painted to protect it on many occasions, enough to keep the structure relatively intact for a while, but not enough to address any real deterioration of metalwork and masonry beneath the layers of paint. In some cases details of carvings on the urns has been almost smoothed out. The roof-lights (opening windows) no longer operate as they should—in some cases not opening at all, and many of the box vents at ground level have been covered over or closed.

So this major restoration aims to get beneath the layers, to repair and restore the whole framework, and replace the thousands of panes of glass. It will reinstate a fully working ventilation system, replace the heating, and restore the urns and statuary that are part of the building.

Restoration - Something New

The central space will be opened out to create a special place to look up and out at the planting, and will provide an area for displays and events.

A new biomass boiler and radiators will provide a much more efficient and sustainable heating system, reducing CO2 emissions by 25%.

The original pathways were simply clinker, replaced by utility paving in the 1970s. In this restoration the paths will be re-paved with more attractive and stronger paving and grid panels, enabling easier maintenance of plants and the heating systems running below.

Much needed new facilities will be added – toilets, disabled access, a small kitchen, and improved office and working areas for the horticulture team. 

Exhibitions, Community and Education

The Temperate House Project aims to do more than restore a Grade 1 listed building. It includes plans to expand Kew’s involvement with communities and schools by providing, within the Temperate House landscape, new spaces for engaging with schools and education, for community and participation projects, as well as a venue for special events. The Temperate House octagons will provide changing exhibitions, focussing on science and how and why plants matter.

Apprenticeships are an important part of the project, with 10 Horticultural, and 6 Construction based apprenticeships. Two of each being recruited each year during the project, offering varied experience of glasshouses, plant propagation and conservation, general and nursery horticulture, and for the construction apprenticeships experience of a wide range of specialist metal and glasswork restoration techniques.

With thanks

Defta and Heritage Lottery logos

Kew would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund, Defra, Eddie and Sue Davies, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust and other supporters of this vital restoration project.

Thanks also to donors supporting the Horticultural and Construction Apprenticeships, including The Ingram Trust, CHK Charities Limited, The Sandra Charitable Trust, Vandervell Foundation, The Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, The Finnis Scott Foundation, Ernest Cook Trust, Radcliffe Trust, Make My Day Better, Lake House Charitable Foundation.