View of the Temperate House under restoration
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The Temperate House – one year to go

The Temperate House has been closed for a five-year restoration, and now, one year away from reopening to visitors, the north wing of the building has had its covers removed, giving us a first glimpse of the renovated glasshouse.
Date: 
24 May 2017
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Temperate House modernisation

The Grade I listed Temperate House is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world. It houses an internationally important collection of temperate zone plants, including some of the rarest and most threatened. Due to its age and the internal conditions required to support the plants, much of the building needed modernising.

Since the doors closed in 2013 for this five-year restoration project, we have:

  • repaired the entire framework and ventilation system
  • replaced thousands of panes of glass 
  • returned ironwork to its glossy best 
  • restored decorative urns and statuary
  • repaved wide paths
  • transformed the central area into a far grander space

By restoring this historic building we are ensuring its conservation, highlighting our botanic heritage and delivering new cutting-edge displays.


Restoration facts

  • Removed, tagged, cleaned and repaired 69,151 individual elements 
  • Used approximately 180km of scaffolding, about the length of the M25 motorway
  • Protected the Temperate House with a tent structure measuring 190m, about the same length as three Boeing 747s
  • Used 5,280 litres of paint, about the capacity of a large cement mixer lorry 
  • Painted a total area of 14,080m2, about the size of four standard football pitches

Temperate House restoration

A unique collection of plants

Now, in the final phases of restoration, the horticulture teams are preparing the job of replanting the precious collection, which they have been caring for in special nurseries at Kew. The glasshouse will house 1,500 different species of temperate plants, including some of the worlds rarest. These include the South African cycad Encephalartos woodii. Only one specimen of this cycad has been found growing in the wild, and has long since disappeared. Today, this cycad (of which there are only males) is found exclusively in botanic gardens and private collections around the world.

With the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and food security, these important plant collections will highlight Kew’s role in safeguarding rare and threatened plants from extinction.


Encephalartos woodii

Temperate House facts

  • Designed by Decimus Burton, who also designed the Palm House at Kew
  • Built in 1860 and opened in 1863, the entire construction took nearly 40 years to complete
  • Covers 4,880 square metres, twice the size of the Palm House
  • The glasshouse sits on a 1.8 metre high mound of gravel and sand, the spoil from Kew's Lake
  • Home to temperate plants from the Mediterranean, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, Asia and the Pacific Islands

Become part of the Temperate House

The Temperate House is central to expanding our knowledge of a huge range of species, and helping Kew lead the world in global plant science and conservation.

By supporting the Temperate House, we can leave a legacy for future generations of visitors, horticulturists and scientists alike.

Donate today

Generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs, and private donors has made the Temperate House project possible.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife www.hlf.org.uk.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.




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