The Palm House At Kew Garden

Posted On December 1, 2009 


The Palm House at Kew Gardens is an astounding architectural wonder which is the brain child of well- renowned architects Decimus Burton and Richard Turner. It is a world-famous Grade 1 listed building. This building was constructed between the years 1844 to 1848, and it stands at an impressive 363 feet long. It is 100 feet wide & 66 feet high. The greenhouse type building is made with iron and glass. With its curvaceous exteriors and steamy interiors, Kew’s Palm House has since long, been recognized as an icon of the Gardens.

Founder Turner and architect Burton worked in unison to create this magical botanical landmark. Burton desired that the construction should closely resemble the lake of George III so that he could catch its reflection in the lake. Turner came up with the brainwave of using a wrought iron “deck beam” structure used in ship building for a greater unsupported area.

The Palm House, Kew Gardens in London is conveniently located 1 kilometer from Kew Bridge, London, 1.5 kilometer from Gunnersbury Bridge, and 2.5 kilometer from Chiswick Bridge.

Kew’s Palm House

Construction of the House

The Palm House was created mainly for the exotic palms being collected and introduced to Europe during the early Victorian times. Even though the Palm House was designed by Burton, it definitely had elements of style and design which was unique to that of Richard Turner. The design element was borrowed from shipbuilding and this is clearly visible by the upturned hull.

To nurture the tropical plants, heat was required. Initially boilers were placed in the basement, which heated the water pipes under iron gratings on which the plants stood in great teak tubs, or in clay pots on benches. The smoke from the boilers was led away through pipes in a tunnel under the Palm House Pond to the elegant Italianate Campanile smoke stack 150 m (490 ft) away. There was a small railway in the tunnel as well, which was used to transport coal the Palm House boilers.

Unfortunately, the basement got flooded in the year 1848. It took many years to lower the water levels. Then in 1853 the floor level of the boiler room was raised. This however led to the unfortunate effect of reducing the amount of draught to the flues, which hampered the efficiency of the heating system, making certain parts of the Palm House too cold.

Around the Palm House

The area surrounding the Palm House forms the heart of the 1850s Nesfield and Burton landscape. Small plots of open lawn and formal flowerbeds vie for attention along with an ornamental lake, clumps of mature trees and open vistas. Keynote buildings such as the Waterlily House dominate the area. Over the years, this accretion of design activity has resulted in an assortment of landscape characters, making the Palm House as one of the most fascinating and varied areas of Kew.

Things to Look Out For

There is a stunning glasshouse near the Victoria Gate entrance. At one end you can also see the world’s oldest pot plant, a Cyrad.

In the South Wing you can find plants from Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. The African oil palm, also known as Elaeis guineensis can also be found here. This plant is one of the most important oil-producing plantation palms in the Tropics. A rare triangle palm known as Dypsis decaryi which is from Madagascar is also found here.

The main central section showcases plants from the Americas. Here plants such as cocoa, rubber, banana and papaya grow alongside Mexican yam (Dioscorea macrostachya). The Mexican Yam was used to develop the contraceptive pill.

The North Wing contains plants from Asia, Australasia and the Pacific. Here you can come across climbing palms called rattans. These are used to make cane furniture. A variety of Asian fruit trees such as mango, breadfruit and jackfruit can be found here.

Rose Garden at Palm HouseRose Garden

The historic Rose Garden which is situated behind the Palm House was rebuild to celebrate the 250th Anniversary. When the garden is in bloom during the spring and summer months, you can witness a riot of colors which is indeed an attractive sight.

Getting There

Victoria Gate
Kew Road
TW9 3ABc

Nearest Station

Kew Gardens Tube or Kew Bridge Station


1 April to 31 August: 9.30am to 6.30pm daily (7.30pm weekends)

1 September to 24 October: 9.30am to 6pm daily

25 October 2009 to 6 February: 9.30am to 4.15pm

7 February 2009 to 27 March: 9.30am to 5.30pm

(closed 24, 25 December)

Facilities and Amenities
  • Toilet WC
  • Picnic site
  • Café/restaurant
  • Car parking
  • Disabled access
  • Baby changing area

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