Mansion, Gallery and Stables
Did you know?
- Before the purpose-built Wellcome Trust Millennium Building opened, Kew’s Seed Conservation Department was housed in the Mansion. The first seed bank resided in the Chapel.
- Built in the 1700s at a time when horse racing and gambling were highly fashionable, the estate’s stables and tack room were once used as a machinery store and gardeners’ mess room, but have since been converted into a café to cater for the increasing number of visitors coming to Wakehurst. The design of the original building has been attributed to Sir Christopher Wren.
Edward Culpepper, who married one of the last two girls in the Wakehurst line, completed the present building in 1590. It was originally created around a square courtyard. However, one wing had been destroyed by 1697 and two more were demolished around 1845, though the end walls were rebuilt. Today, only one complete wing remains.
A succession of owners left their own marks on the building and grounds. Dennis Lydell extended the estate to 3,100 acres (1,255 hectares); Lady Downshire built the chapel, installed central heating and changed the approach of the house to its present layout; and the Boords further restored and improved the house. However, only after Gerald Loder (later Lord Wakehurst) purchased the property in 1903 were its gardens set on the path to horticultural eminence.
Sir Henry and Lady Eve Price bought the property after Lord Wakehurst’s death in 1936. They restored the stonework and roof as well as continuing to develop the gardens until the Second World War intervened. The mansion was used as the Advanced HQ of the Canadian Corps from January 1942 to October 1943. In 1963, the Prices bequeathed Wakehurst and a large endowment to the National Trust. Two years later, it was leased for the use of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Things to look out for
Today, visitors can explore several of the downstairs rooms within the mansion. These include the Entrance Hall, Gallery, Blue Room and Chapel. Currently on display in the Gallery is a selection 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. Elsewhere there are panels giving information on the history of the estate and on the need for conservation work.
Activities for children
Organised activities for schools and family groups are held frequently at Wakehurst.