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Natural History Museum Gardens and Wildlife Garden Kensington & Chelsea

Summary

Following the success of the 1851 Great Exhibition Prince Albert wished to promote the application of science and art to industry with profits from the Exhibition. Government matched the surplus and the land for the site was purchased. The Natural History Museum was built in 1872-80, set back from Cromwell Road behind fine railings and piers with areas of landscaping either side of the central semicircular forecourt. There are fine plane trees and shrubbery, a large area of lawn to the west and a number of sculptural features. In 1995 a Wildlife Garden was created in the south-west corner as the Museum's first living exhibition to show the potential for wildlife conservation in the inner city, an educational resource and research facility. It contains a range of habitats such as fen, reedbed, ponds, hedgerow, heathland, woodland, meadow and chalk downland grazed by a number of sheep.

Basic Details

Site location:
Cromwell Road/Exhibition Road/Queen's Gate, South Kensington

Postcode:
SW7 5BD ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Public Gardens; Institutional Grounds

Date(s):
1872-80; 1995

Designer(s):

Listed structures:
LBI: Museum, forecourt with single-storey lodge, steps, gate piers and railings. LBII: Lodge at Cromwell Road/Queen's Gate

Borough:
Kensington & Chelsea

Site ownership:
Natural History Museum

Site management:
Natural History Museum

Open to public?
Yes

Opening times:
Mon-Sat 10am-5.50pm; Sun 11am - 5.50pm. Wildlife Garden: daily May - end September, 12 - 5pm
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 15 times, most recently in 2018.

Special conditions:

Facilities:
Museum; catering facilities; shop; toilets

Events:
Educational activities. Guided tours of Wildlife Garden daily during May - Sept, usually at 12 and 3pm. Has opened for OGSW

Public transport:
Tube: Gloucester Road, South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly). Bus: 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430, C1

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.nhm.ac.uk/museum/garden

Further Information

Grid ref:
TQ267790

Size in hectares:
1.0167

Green Flag:
No

On EH National Register :
No

EH grade:
None

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
No

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
No

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
No

In Conservation Area:
Yes

Conservation Area name:
Queen's Gate

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance (Wildlife Garden)

Green Belt:
No

Metropolitan Open Land:
No

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Metropolitan Importance

Other LA designation:
Proposed Central Area

Natural History Museum Gardens and Wildlife Garden

Photo: Justina Burnett

Click photo to enlarge.

Fuller information

Following the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851 Prince Albert wished to promote the application of science and art to industry with profits from the Exhibition. Government matched the surplus and the land for the site was purchased. Richard Owen, later Sir Richard, a professor of anatomy, was a key figure in the Natural History Museum's foundation. As superintendent of the natural history department at the British Museum, he advocated a purpose-built museum, which was supported by the Prime Minister, Gladstone. A competition for the new building was initially won by Captain Francis Fowke, who was architect to the South Kensington Museum now the Victoria & Albert Museum (q.v.). Fowke died in 1865 and in 1866 Albert Waterhouse was commissioned to realise his design. Due to a delay with funding, Waterhouse was then re-commissioned and made new plans, finally approved in c.1872. The building was completed by 1880, the largest building of the time that was entirely clad in terracotta. It was finally separated from the British Museum by Act of Parliament in 1963.

The frontage onto Cromwell Road is set back behind fine railings and piers with areas of landscaping either side of the central semicircular forecourt. There are fine plane trees and shrubbery to the railings, with a large area of lawn to the west and a number of sculptural features. In 1995 a new Wildlife Garden of 0.4 hectares was created in the south-west corner of the formal gardens, as the Museum's first living exhibition to show the potential for wildlife conservation in the inner city and an important educational resource and research facility. It contains a range of habitats such as fen, reedbed, ponds, hedgerow, heathland, woodland, meadow and chalk downland grazed by a number of sheep. It was designed by Mark Loxton with Dennis Vickers, ecologist. 2008 and 2009: Green Flag Award.

Sources consulted:

Queen's Gate CA Policy Statement; Charlotte Hare, 'Landscape London, a guide to recent gardens, parks and urban spaces', ellipsis, 2001.

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