History of Kew

Our gardens date back to the early 18th century, as a royal palace to today's globally renowned scientific institution for plant and fungal research.

Kew Palace
  • 1759: Princess Augusta, mother of King George III, founds a nine-acre botanic garden within the pleasure grounds at Kew.
  • 1762: William Chambers builds the Great Pagoda. 
  • 1768: Joseph Banks sends seeds to Kew whilst on Captain Cook's voyage to South Seas, and becomes Kew's first unofficial director on his return. 
  • 1772: Francis Masson, Kew's first plant collector, goes to South Africa and returns with thousands of plants. 
  • 1773: Capability Brown creates the Hollow Walk, now the Rhododendron Dell. 
  • 1788: HMS Bounty goes to Tahiti with two Kew gardeners and collects 1,000 breadfruit plants. En route to Jamaica, the crew mutinies. 
  • 1802: King George III unites the Richmond and Kew estates. 
  • 1840: Kew transferred from the Crown to the government. Sir William Hooker is appointed director. The Gardens are opened to the public. 
  • 1841: Joseph Hooker brings plants from Falklands to Kew in glazed Wardian cases, a new way to keep plants alive on voyages. 
  • 1848: The Palm House is completed.
  • 1853: The Herbarium is built. Today, after five extensions, it holds over seven million species.
  • 1863: The Temperate House opens.
  • 1865: On the death of his father, Joseph Dalton Hooker succeeds as director to Kew. 
  • 1876: Jodrell Laboratory is built. Work begins on plant pathology, and later on cells that produce latex. 
    1882: The Marianne North Gallery opens.  
  • 1889:Titan arum (corpse flower) blooms at Kew, the first time outside its native Sumatra.
  • 1896: Women are first employed as gardeners at Kew. 
  • 1899: Temperate House is completed. 
  • 1911: Japanese Gateway 'Chokushi-Mon' is presented to Kew. 
  • 1913: Suffragettes attack glasshouse and burn down Kew's tea pavilion. Two are jailed. 
  • 1930: Imperial Bureau of Mycology move to site by Herbarium 
  • 1939: Dig for Victory! Vegetables and medicinal plants are grown at Kew to support the war effort. 
  • 1952: Crick and Watson discover structure of DNA; a breakthrough that underpins Kew's current scientific research on genetic diversity of plants. 
  • 1963: Kew's Diploma in Horticulture is introduced. 
  • 1965: Seed research begins in Kew's Plant Physiology department. 
  • 1970: Biochemical systematics word takes off at Kew. 
  • 1978; Low temperate seed bank is set up at Wakehurst. 
  • 1987: Princess of Wales conservatory is opened. 
  • 1996: Restored Japanese Gateway and landscape is opened by Her Imperial Highness Princess Sayako. 
  • 1997: Wellcome Trust donation enables construction of the Millennium Seed Bank. 
  • 2003: Kew Gardens is officially inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Davies House opens. 
  • 2006: The award-winning Sackler Crossing opens to bridge the Lake. 
  • 2007: The billionth seed is banked at the Millennium Seed Bank. 
  • 2008: The Treetop Walkway and The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art opens. 
  • 2009: The Queen and Prince Phillip visit to celebrate Kew's 250th anniversary. The Herbarium and Library are extended to accommodate 30,000 items added each year. 
  • 2013: Kew and Big Lottery launch the nationwide 'Grow Wild' campaign supporting communities to grow native wildflowers. 
  • 2016: The Hive comes to Kew. The Great Broadwalk Borders are completed. Kew publishes the first State of the World's Plants report.
  • 2018: After five years of restoration, the Temperate House is re-opened. The Great Pagoda is re-opened with 80 newly-restored dragons. 

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