The World’s Largest Victorian Glasshouse Reopens in London’s Kew Gardens

Temperate House is the largest upgrade ever at Kew
Temperate House is the largest upgrade ever at Kew | © Gareth Gardner

Architecture & Design Editor

Temperate House was deemed an ‘architectural wonder’ of the 19th-century and it’s just as impressive now thanks to a £41 million, five-year renovation.

The Grade-I listed Victorian greenhouse, the largest in the world, has been restored to its former glory and was finally reopened to the public in May 2018 by naturalist David Attenborough who called it ‘breathtakingly beautiful’.

Temperate House is the largest ever upgrade project to happen at Kew

Temperate House is the big brother of the arguably more famous Palm House, the jewel in the crown of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, designed by the same architect Decimus Burton. The 191 metre-long building is a glittering triumph of glass and steel, which has seen 69,000 individual components and 15,000 panes of glazing painstakingly removed, repaired and replaced as the building has been stripped back to the bare bones and totally modernised.

The glass house first opened in 1863
Temperate House is home to some of the world’s most rare and exotic plants

Given Temperate House’s radical transformation and intense pruning, it’s undoubtedly the impressive iron ribs of the building that visitors will now be gazing up at rather than a lush tree canopy. ‘The time it will take for the newly propagated plants to reach maturity will offer visitors a full and unobstructed view of the incredible metal skeleton in all its glory: a cutting-edge sanctuary for plants,’ says Aimée Felton of Donald Insall Associates.

New glass has been installed to help let daylight stream into the building

The building was an incredible feat of engineering for its time, with Burton being one of the first architects to use cement render, which sped up the building process. However, with an ambitious 5,700 square-metre volume to construct, costs spiralled out of control and it took 40 years before the building was finally completed in 1863.

Scaffolding used for the project was equivalent to length of M25 and 15,000 panes of glass were replaced

While it was intended to be Kew’s shining beacon that would greet visitors as they entered the gardens, it is now considered less successful than its more modest predecessor, Palm House. The latter’s distinctive curved profile, created using a cutting-edge technique borrowed from ship building, is a technological marvel, while Temperate House is bulkier by comparison with its industrial-style blockish form.

Palm House

However, this Victorian gem is still ‘breathtakingly beautiful’, as naturalist David Attenborough put it, and what’s more, its restoration has secured the future of thousands of extremely rare and endangered plants that will undoubtedly inspire many more generations to come.

Visitors can climb the spiral staircase up to the balcony
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article