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Closed since 2013 for extensive restorations, the Grade I listed building and largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world is set to reopen its doors on 5 May, as the 5 year long and £41m restoration project nears completion.
Originally built in the 1860’s, Temperate House at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in south-west London, is still laid out according to the original design of its architect, Decimus Burton. Covering 4,880 square metres it houses an impressive collection of international, rare and almost extinct plants from places such as the the Mediterranean, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Pacific Islands.
When it first opened its doors to the public in 1863 crowds flocked for the chance to see plants and exotic environments, that previously could only have been read about. Although a huge success with the public the ambitious project unfortunately ran well over its original budget and wasn’t actually completed for another 40 years.
In a desperate attempt to control the spiralling budget cost cutting measures were implemented, some of which involved cheaper building materials and questionable construction methods. Unfortunately this meant that over a century later the condition of the structure had become a major issue.
To ensure its conservation, the major overhaul of Temperate House began back in 2013. For the restoration work to be carried out over 500 plants were potted up and moved to other nurseries within the gardens. Plants deemed too large and fragile to be moved were left in situ, with provisions made to box them in for protection.
Once all the plants were either moved or protected, restoration work could begin. Over the past 5 years every single glass panel has been replaced, decorative ironwork restored and rotten timber repaired. In addition to the restoration and repair work the entire heating system was also replaced with a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient system.
The restoration project has been a massive undertaking and with the grand reopening looming ever closer, teams of gardeners are now busy with the delicate task of replanting the vast number of plants in to their new beds. In fact, it is estimated that a staggering 10,000 plants (new and old) will eventually have been planted in time for the reopening.
We will certainly be paying the new Temperate House a visit once it reopens in May and if you would like to do so yourself, further information regarding the reopening can be found at kew.org.