Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)


Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB


020-8332 5655



Opening times:

Daily from 9:30; closing time varies according to season (approx. 16:00 in winter, 18:00 in summer)

How to get there:

Tube: Kew Gardens

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Cafés and shop

Looking out across the Kew Gardens lake towards Decimus Burton’s graceful Palm House is another, more austere, Neoclassical building also designed by Burton, known as Museum No. 1. Opened in 1857, it was the second home for the Museum of Economic Botany, founded in 1841 by Sir William Hooker when he became Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. He held that post until 1865, and the display of his core teaching collection of specimen textiles, gums, dyes and timber was intended to complement the living plants in the gardens. A protégé of Sir Joseph Banks, who sent Captain Bligh on his ill-fated expedition to transport breadfruit aboard HMS Bounty Hooker had a particular interest in the economic usefulness of plants. The museum was the first of its kind in the world, and the collections grew rapidly, with contributions encouraged from all corners of the Empire. Many, such as an intricate Hindu temple carved out of vegetable ivory, were also received from the Great Exhibition of 1851. The famous expeditions undertaken by explorers like Richard Spruce in South America and Dr Livingstone in Africa also donated a variety of exotic artefacts. Burton’s new building was purpose-built, with as many windows as possible on each elevation to illuminate the showcases with natural light. By 1987, when the museum was closed for extensive refurbishment, the collections contained over 70 thousand different plants and plant products, making them not only the oldest but also the most comprehensive of their type in the world. Curated by the Centre for Economic Botany, they now concentrate on wild and little cultivated plants, especially from Europe and the dry tropics. Museum No. 1 re-opened in 1998 and visitors can now see two rooms on the ground floor, one small part of a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens themselves.

The first room is given over to a contemporary exhibition entitled ‘Plants and People’ in themed showcases illustrating changing selections from the museum’s collections. The central cabinet contains items chosen by staff at Kew Gardens, such as the cannibal fork and dish collected from the island of Fiji and made from dark merbau, a timber native to southeast Asia and the Pacific. This is the place to discover how the potato was originally developed for domestic consumption by the Incas of Peru, to see a superior brick of Chinese tea, or a very delicate lace-like collar spun from the hair of the milkweed fruit in Jamaica.

The second, smaller, room provides an introduction to the history of Kew’s economic botany collections, briefly exploring the study of plants useful to people, explaining how the collections have grown over the past century and a half, and how they have been exhibited.

  • 0 Comment(s)

Your comment

Notify me when someone adds another comment to this post



Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

Please do share your comments and updates with us via the form below the entry for each museum.


National Maritime Museum
Wimbledon Windmill Museum
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
2 Willow Road (National Trust)
William Morris Gallery
Whitechapel Gallery
Westminster Abbey Museum
Wesley's Chapel
Wellington Arch (English Heritage)
Wallace Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tower Bridge Exhibition
Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces)
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
Sutton House (National Trust)
Spencer House
Southside House
South London Art Gallery
The Courtauld Institute of Art (Somerset House)
Sir John Soane's Museum
Shakespeare’s Globe
Serpentine Gallery
Science Museum
St Bride’s Crypt Museum
St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
Saatchi Gallery
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Mews
Royal London Hospital Museum
The Faraday Museum
Royal Hospital Chelsea
RCM Museum of Music
Royal Academy of Music Museum
Royal Academy of Arts
Red House (National Trust)
Ranger’s House (English Heritage)
Ragged School Museum
The Queen’s Gallery
Prince Henry’s Room
The Photographers’ Gallery
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Osterley Park (National Trust)
Orleans House Gallery
Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
Natural History Museum
National Portrait Gallery
National Gallery
National Army Museum
Musical Museum
World Rugby Museum
Museum of the Order of St John
Museum No. 1 (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Museum of London
Garden Museum
Museum in Docklands (Museum of London)
The Royal Observatory
The Queen's House
Old Royal Naval College
Marianne North Gallery (Royal Botanic Gardens)
Marble Hill House (English Heritage)
Mall Galleries
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
London Transport Museum
London Fire Brigade Museum
London Canal Museum
18 Stafford Terrace – The Sambourne Family Home
Library and Museum of Freemasonry
Leighton House
Kingston Museum
Kew Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
London Museum of Water & Steam
Kenwood House (English Heritage)
Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Keats House
Jewish Museum
Jewel Tower (English Heritage)
Jerwood Space
Imperial War Museum
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts
Hunterian Museum
Horniman Museum
HMS Belfast (Imperial War Museum)
Hayward Gallery
Handel House Museum
Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
Ham House (National Trust)
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guards Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy
Geffrye Museum of the Home
Fulham Palace
Freud Museum
Foundling Museum
Forty Hall & Estate
Florence Nightingale Museum
Firepower: The Royal Artillery Museum
Fenton House (National Trust)
Fashion and Textile Museum
Fan Museum
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
Eltham Palace (English Heritage)
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dr Johnson’s House
Dennis Severs' House
Danson House
Cutty Sark
Contemporary Applied Arts
Chiswick House (English Heritage)
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chartered Insurance Institute Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Carlyle’s House (National Trust)
Camden Arts Centre
Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (Imperial War Museum)
Burgh House - The Hampstead Museum
Buckingham Palace
Brunel Engine House
Brunei Gallery SOAS
British Optical Association Museum
The British Museum
The British Library
Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee
Black Cultural Archives
Museum of Childhood (Victoria & Albert Museum)
Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Benjamin Franklin House
Ben Uri Gallery - The London Jewish Museum of Art
Barbican Art Gallery
Banqueting House (Historic Royal Palaces)
Bankside Gallery
Bank of England Museum
All Hallows Undercroft Museum
Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum




Most visited

Hampton Court Palace (Historic Royal Palaces)
17750 times viewed
Museum of London
12145 times viewed
Geffrye Museum of the Home
8830 times viewed
Southside House
8039 times viewed
Lord’s Tour and MCC Museum
7967 times viewed
The British Museum
7359 times viewed
The Royal Observatory
7048 times viewed
Sir John Soane's Museum
7042 times viewed
National Gallery
6739 times viewed
Victoria & Albert Museum
6629 times viewed
follow us in feedly