Richmond, London, has a long a history of favour with kings, but when Henry VII decided to build a palace at the hunting grounds at Richmond and move his court there for the summer months the beginnings of Kew, the beautiful place we now can visit and admire today, was born.
Kew Palace, as we see it today, was built by Samuel Fortrey, a Flemish merchant whose family had escaped religious persecution in France. Time passed and by the early C18 George II and his wife Queen Caroline viewed Kew favourably, lodging their elder daughters Anne, Caroline and Amelia there.
By mid C18 Frederick, Prince of Wales, built the larger White House and the foundation of the first botanical gardens was laid by architect William Kent and builder William Chambers. Unfortunately Frederick died in 1751 but his wife Augusta, Princess of Wales, carried on the work with Chambers as architect and William Aiton as gardener. Scientific and gardening experiments grew.
Features such as the Pagoda were added. London was attracting artists, writers, scientists and Kew changed from a place of power, politics and intrigue in the C17 to a place of scientific knowledge in the C18 and of advice to the colonial countries on crops and seeds in the C19. Queen Victoria’s patronage secured its future after a brief time of decline.
Beautiful autumn colours
In 2003 it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Today its sister estate Wakehurst Place, Sussex, houses the millennium seed bank. They currently have around 10% of the world’s flowering plant species represented and aim to collect 25%. Government funding has hit Kew and the valuable conservation work it does. Therefore a day visiting this glorious place helps to support the invaluable work carried out by their scientists and gardeners.
One of the many The Palm House plants
The Palm House
There is certainly much for the visitor to see whether you want to admire the water lily’s house, orchids, bluebells and rhododendrons in season or wander amongst the amazing grounds in autumn taking in the views of the Pagoda, Japanese garden or brave the 18m tree top walk admiring the wildlife from on high. Then there is the beauty of Palm House. The Temperate House is still undergoing a five year renovation and should open again in 2018.
If art attracts you then spend time in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery. This amazing woman dedicated her life to travelling the world and painting the wildlife she saw there. Housed in one room, from floor to ceiling, her vision can now be admired by all.
Their work is on-going and The Hive is a good example of how science and art come together to explain to people the importance of the fascinating world of the bee. One day would be packed if you challenged yourself to do all.
Tree top walk
Getting there by rail, road or underground is straightforward. Details are provided on Kew’s site. Access for the disabled has been carefully thought out and help is available. There are mobility scooters and a road train to help people get around. Displays are accessible except the higher galleries and the lower marine display in the palm house.