This historic landscape garden features elements that illustrate significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gardens house botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) that have been considerably enriched through the centuries. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant and uninterrupted contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany.
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Outstanding Universal Value
Set amongst a series of parks and estates along the River Thames' south-western reaches, this historic landscape garden includes work by internationally renowned landscape architects Bridgeman, Kent, Chambers, Capability Brown and Nesfield illustrating significant periods in garden design from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gardens house extensive botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) that have been considerably enriched through the centuries. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant and uninterrupted contribution to the study of plant diversity, plant systematics and economic botany.
The landscape design of Kew Botanic Gardens, their buildings and plant collections combine to form a unique testimony to developments in garden art and botanical science that were subsequently diffused around the world. The 18th century English landscape garden concept was adopted in Europe and Kew's influence in horticulture, plant classification and economic botany spread internationally from the time of Joseph Banks' directorship in the 1770s. As the focus of a growing level of botanic activity, the mid 19th century garden, which overlays earlier royal landscape gardens is centred on two large iron framed glasshouses - the Palm House and the Temperate House that became models for conservatories around the world. Elements of the 18th and 19th century layers including the Orangery, Queen Charlotte's Cottage; the folly temples; Rhododendron Dell, boundary ha-ha; garden vistas to William Chambers' pagoda and Syon Park House; iron framed glasshouses; ornamental lakes and ponds; herbarium and plant collections convey the history of the Gardens' development from royal retreat and pleasure garden to national botanical and horticultural garden before becoming a modern institution of conservation ecology in the 20th century.
Criterion (ii): Since the 18th century, the Botanic Gardens of Kew have been closely associated with scientific and economic exchanges established throughout the world in the field of botany, and this is reflected in the richness of its collections. The landscape and architectural features of the Gardens reflect considerable artistic influences both with regard to the European continent and to more distant regions;
Criterion (iii): Kew Gardens have largely contributed to advances in many scientific disciplines, particularly botany and ecology;
Criterion (iv): The landscape gardens and the edifices created by celebrated artists such as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and William Chambers reflect the beginning of movements which were to have international influence;
The boundary of the property contains the elements that bear witness to the history of the development of the landscape gardens and Kew Gardens' uninterrupted role as national botanic garden and centre of plant research. These elements, which express the Outstanding Universal Value, remain intact. The Buffer Zone contains the focus of one of the garden vistas on the opposite bank of the Thames River - Syon Park House - together with other parts of the adjacent cultural landscape (Old Deer Park - a royal estate south of Kew Gardens, Syon Park on the opposite bank of the Thames, the river from Isleworth Ferry Gate to Kew Bridge, the historic centre of Kew Green with the adjacent buildings and the church, and then to the east, the built-up sectors of 19th and 20th century houses). Development outside this Buffer Zone may threaten the setting of the property.
Since their creation in the 18th century Kew Gardens have remained faithful to their initial purpose with botanists continuing to collect specimens and exchange expertise internationally. The collections of living and stored material are used by scholars all over the world.
The 44 listed buildings are monuments of the past, and reflect the stylistic expressions of various periods. They retain their authenticity in terms of design, materials and functions. Only a few buildings are being used for a purpose different from that originally intended (the Orangery now houses a restaurant). Unlike the works of architecture, in each of the landscaped garden areas, the past, present and future are so closely interwoven (except in the case of vestigial gardens created by significant artists, such as the vistas), that it is sometimes difficult to separate the artistic achievements of the past in terms of the landscape design of the different periods. Recent projects such as recutting Nessfield's beds behind the Palm House have started to interpret and draw attention to the earlier landscapes created by Capability Brown and Nessfield. Other projects are proposed in the overall landscape management plan subject to resourcing.
Protection and management requirements (2009)
The property includes the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte's Cottage, which are the hereditary property of Queen Elizabeth II and are managed for conservation purposes by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and Historic Royal Palaces.
The property is included in a conservation area designated by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Part of the Buffer Zone is protected by a conservation area in the London Borough of Hounslow. Forty four buildings and structures situated on the site have been listed under the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990 as buildings of special architectural and historical interest. The whole site is Grade I on the English Heritage Register of Park and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England Permission to carry out works or change functions is subject to the approval of the local authorities, who consult English Heritage in the case of listed buildings and conservation areas.
Protection of the property and the Buffer Zone is provided by development plans in the planning systems of the London Boroughs of Richmond upon Thames and Hounslow and by the London Plan (the Regional Spatial Strategy) and by designation.
Kew Gardens' conservation work has continued at an international level, notably for the cataloguing of species, supporting conservation projects around the world, the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES, 1975) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992).
The property has a World Heritage Site Management Plan, a Property Conservation Plan, and a Master Plan. Implementation of the Management Plan is coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The World Heritage Site Management Plan is currently being revised alongside a specific landscape master plan.
At the time of inscription the World Heritage Committee encouraged the State Party to include on the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens a landscape architect or other specialist qualified in the history of art and history in general, so that architectural conservation activities can be coordinated on-site. Landscape architects with experience of working in historic landscapes have been appointed to provide this advice.
Since the 18th century, the Botanic Gardens of Kew have been closely associated with scientific and economic exchanges established throughout the world in the field of botany, and this is reflected in the richness of its collections. The landscape features and architectural features of the gardens reflect considerable artistic influences with regard to both the European continent and more distant regions. Kew Gardens have largely contributed to advances in many scientific disciplines, particularly botany and ecology. The landscape gardens and the edifices created by celebrated artists such as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and William Chambers reflect the beginning of movements that were to have international influence. The architectural ensemble at Kew includes a number of unrivalled buildings. The historic landscape within which these buildings are situated is a remarkable palimpsest of features from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew are situated along the cultural landscape of the Thames. Since the 17th century, the site has been a place of retreat for the royal family. In the 18th century, internationally renowned architects such as William Chambers and 'Capability' Brown not only created many edifices, but also remodelled the earlier Baroque gardens to make a pastoral landscape in the English style, establishing a fashion that then spread throughout the continent. The first botanic garden at Kew, originally for medicinal plants, was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta and Lord Bute.
Kew Palace is the oldest building on the site (1631). Classical in inspiration, this house (in red brick laid in Flemish bond style) was built on the banks of the Thames. The orangery (now used as a restaurant), the largest Georgian edifice on the site, was built by William Chambers in 1761, and stopped being used for its original purpose and housed a museum until 1959. Queen Charlotte's Cottage was probably originally the residence of the head of the menagerie and was given to Queen Charlotte. In 1802, the wall between the two estates of Richmond and Kew was demolished. The palace built by Henry VII at Richmond in the 16th century, which could be reached by boat from the capital, proved an attractive venue for the Court during the summer months. The Kew estate became the property of the Capel family, who sold the lease to Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1731.
The essential elements of the landscape garden designed by William Nesfield are one of the outstanding features of Kew. This garden is centred on an iron and glass structure, the Palm House (1844-48), designed by the architects Richard Turner and Decimus Burton. From the Palm House there are three vistas: the Pagoda vista, the Sion vista towards the Thames, and a minor vista.
The Herbarium, originally an 18th century hunting lodge, houses collections of plants and a library: the former museum of botanic economics (1847) has been converted into a school of horticulture (1990) and a new Jodrell Laboratory (1965) caters for the needs of researchers in plant anatomy, physiology, cytogenetics and biochemistry.
As the number of visitors increased, the scientific collections were enriched and glasshouses and spaces were altered to house living plant collections. The Second World War inflicted some material damage on Kew Gardens. The bicentenary of the creation of the gardens gave a new impetus. The main activities of Kew Gardens today are the conservation of the heritage of the site itself, and the conservation of ecosystems worldwide. Most of the buildings and structures are in a good state of conservation.
Joseph Banks and William Hooker, gardeners of great renown, whose revolutionary methodology modernized botany in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, were both directors of Kew Gardens. Kew's exceptional and diverse living collections exemplify the active European cultural tradition of collecting and cultivating exotic plants for aesthetic, scientific and economic purposes. This tradition has also led to recording and monitoring of the very rich local biodiversity for over 120 years, including an exceptional range of birds, insects, lichens and fungi; some of the latter have proved to be new to science. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The history of Kew Gardens is very complex. In 1772 two contiguous royal estates were combined: Richmond (the western half of today's gardens) and Kew (the eastern half). Three other estates (private residences and gardens) were also included. The palace built by Henry VII at Richmond in the 16th century, which could be reached by boat from the capital, proved an attractive venue for the court during the summer months. The Kew estate became the property of the Capel family, who made its gardens into a much admired attraction by the mid 16th century. The Capels sold the lease to Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1731.
The gardens of Richmond and Kew were substantially remodelled at the end of the 18th century. Queen Caroline entrusted the alterations at Richmond to the king's gardener, Charles Bridgeman (who died in 1738), and the architect and landscape gardener William Kent (1685- 1748) - two well-known figures in the early years of landscape gardening, which at the time was a novel approach to the art of gardens. Following the death of the Prince of Wales (1751), Princess Augusta was assisted by Lord Bute and William Chambers (1723-1796), who gave botanical, architectural and gardening advice, and set in motion a highly active period for the estate. William Chambers revived the fashion for ‘Chinoiseries' which gained popularity throughout England and then spread to the continent in the form of Anglo-Chinese gardens. It is generally accepted that Princess Augusta and Lord Bute established the first botanic garden at Kew in 1759. This modest 4-hectare garden, originally for medicinal plants, was developed thanks to the efforts of the gardener William Aiton.
It was not until the arrival of Sir Joseph Banks as head of the botanic garden of Kew in 1773 that the institution won an international reputation. Banks shared with George III a determination to use exotic and native plants for economic purposes, thereby determining the future line of development of the gardens. In the following decades, plant researchers travelled all over the world to bring back new species (from India, Abyssinia, China and Australia) and Kew became the centre of botanic economics for Great Britain and its colonies.
In 1764, Lancelot ‘Capability' Brown began to leave his imprint on the Richmond gardens, opening up large vistas and carrying out informal plantations. William Chambers was working in the neighbouring gardens of Kew. The botanic gardens were developed, an arboretum was founded and the small glasshouses increased in number. In 1802, the wall separating the two estates of Richmond and Kew was demolished.
The deaths of Sir Joseph Banks and of George III in 1820 plunged the gardens into a period of decline that was destined to last for around twenty years. Following a parliamentary enquiry and a strong campaign of support, the gardens were saved from irremediable closure. The appointment of Sir William Hooker as the first official director ushered in a period of revitalisation (1841-1885).
William Nesfield, assisted by Decimus Burton, remodelled the gardens at Richmond and Kew, which now formed a single landscaped ensemble. From this period date the construction of the two remarkable glasshouses (Palm House and Temperate House), the foundation of the herbarium and the creation of the national arboretum. Kew helped provide a new impetus for scientific research in the interest of the British Empire, which sent seeds, plants and horticultural advice to its colonies (such as Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka).
With the change of fashions and the development of the gardens, certain elements of the complex landscape devised by William Nesfield were gradually adjusted to facilitate upkeep, and new projects were undertaken, such as the restructuring of the arboretum, the creation of the Alpine garden, and the Japanese gateway.
As the number of visitors increased, the scientific collections were enriched (the herbarium was extended in 1903 and then again in 1932) and glasshouses and spaces were altered to house living plant collections (such as the first Alpine House in 1887 and the Rhododendron House in 1925).
While the Second World War inflicted some material damage on Kew Gardens, the slowdown in its activities, already in evidence with the decline of the British Empire, was confirmed. The bicentenary of the creation of the gardens gave a new impetus which resulted in the restoration and reopening of the Palm House, and the improvement of the Rock Garden, the Azalea Garden and the Order Beds. As these interventions were not sufficient to accommodate the growing collections, some specimens were moved to a 200-hectare garden at Wakehurst (1965). New glasshouses with more advanced technology were built such as the Alpine House (1981), and in particular the Princess of Wales Conservatory (1986). In 1963, the Jodrell Laboratory was rebuilt to a larger design to accommodate the constantly growing number of researchers. The main activities of Kew Gardens today are the conservation of the heritage of the site itself, and the conservation of ecosystems worldwide. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation