The Mansion: Undergoing restoration

Wakehurst's wild landscape radiates out from our stunning Grade I listed Elizabethan Mansion entrusted to us by the National Trust, which was once home to our globally significant seed bank.

Wakehurst mansion and pond

Our Mansion is undergoing a transformation 

Our Elizabethan Mansion sits in the heart of Wakehurst, and was originally built between 1571 and 1590, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Over the years it has served many purposes in its botanic surrounds, from housing the first seed bank at Wakehurst (installed in the Chapel 1976), and forming the perfect venue for intimate weddings, to becoming a place of learning for school and community groups, as well as a key part of our magical winter lantern trail, Glow Wild.  

Unfortunately, as with many historic buildings of this age, time has taken its toll on the Mansion roof making it unsafe for use. The time has come for an extensive roof restoration in order to preserve the Grade I listed building for generations to come. In order to successfully complete this work as effectively and as safely as possible, the Mansion is now closed to all visitors. 

Find the Mansion at marker 3 on our Map of Wakehurst

Roof of an old Elizabethan Mansion
Wakehurst Mansion roof, Jim Holden © RBG Kew
Large white refrigerator in The Mansion
Old seed bank in The Mansion at Wakehurst © RBG Kew

This is the biggest renovation project we’ve undertaken at Wakehurst since the 1970s. The scaffolding is due to be erected in early autumn and it will likely take 3 months to be fully installed.

Due to the design of the Mansion, scaffolding must be erected around the full perimeter for workers to access the roof. This will be covered in a flat hoarding. Given the complexity and scale of the project, we envision this phase of work to last over two years. 

Where some may see expansive hoarding, at Wakehurst we viewed this site as a unique canvas, forming an amazing opportunity to create a major new artwork. We are delighted to be working with artist Catherine Nelson on ‘Planet Wakehurst’, a huge photo montage featuring plants from across the 535-acre landscape. Look out in early 2023 for this incredible installation.

A simulation of the giant artwork that will cover The Mansion at Wakehurst
Planet Wakehurst simulation image by Catherine Nelson © RBG Kew

Discover the steps we are taking to restore the mansion, to protect resident wildlife and much more in new information panels around the site. You can also talk to our volunteer explainers and tour guides. We are working hard to ensure our gardens will remain fully accessible to all during this time.  

We are grateful this capital project is funded by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, and for our National Trust endowment, which provides ongoing support for Wakehurst’s landscapes and wider facilities. 

A little bit of history  

A location with medieval roots, the land on which the Mansion was built was purchased in 1205 by William de Wakehurst, who bought 40 acres of the surrounding countryside.  

Centuries later, Edward Culpeper commissioned the design of the Mansion in 1590. Edward was a distant relative of one of the last two women in the Wakehurst line and the famous herbalist Nicholas Culpeper. 

The Mansion was then purchased by Gerald Loder in 1903.

Gerald (who later became Lord Wakehurst) was a passionate plantsman and helped sponsor many collecting expeditions at the turn of the century, particularly to eastern Asia, 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. Sir Henry was passionate about plants and under his care the estate matured and became widely admired.  

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.

Aerial footage of Mansion and grounds
Wakehurst mansion and surrounding grounds © RBG Kew

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