RHS Gardens


Detail of the design for the Conservatory of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens

Detail of the design for the conservatory of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, 1861
Watercolour and pencil
Architect: Francis Fowke (1823-1865)
Artist: Unknown
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings & Archives Collections

This small watercolour perspective shows Fowke's design for the conservatory to be erected at the north end of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens. The building was erected in 1861 in what is now Prince Consort Road, and was later demolished to make way for developments around the Royal Albert Hall. The Memorial to the 1851 Exhibition now sits on part of the ground it used to occupy.

The conservatory as built measured 265 by 96 feet (80 by 29 metres) and was 75 feet high (23 metres). Painted a very pale green, with brown and red striped awnings, it acted as a visual focus for the gardens. Inside was a very large staircase in brick, tile and terracotta, with details designed by Godfrey Sykes. The colourful staircase contrasted well with the glass and connected the terrace walk of the arcades which ran along the conservatory – a feature which was highly praised at the time.

Francis Fowke

Fowke was not trained as an architect, but served as a captain in the Royal Engineers. It is unlikely that this perspective was completed by him, but it illustrates his ideas, including his two alternative designs for the colonnades, depicted either side of the central section.

Fowke also designed two bandstands for the gardens. These structures of iron and zinc-covered wood were erected further down in the gardens. One of them survives today on Clapham Common, where it was re-erected in 1890.