RHS Gardens

Decline of the gardens


View of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in 1876

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View of the RHS Gardens, from the top floor of the Science Schools, c.1876

Copyright: V&A Images. Museum number: 4971-1910

View of the former Royal Horticultural Society Gardens site in 1950

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View from the top floor loggia of the Huxley Building, c.1950

Copyright: Reproduced by permission of English Heritage. NMR



Both of these photographs were taken from almost identical view points on the top floor loggia of the building that later became known as the Henry Cole Wing of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the time of the Victorian photograph the building was simply known as the Science Schools, and in the 1950s it was the Huxley Building of the V&A.

The view of c.1876 shows a long building running from the centre to the right of the photograph, this is the Eastern Gallery of the South Kensington Museum. In the background towards the left you can see the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, with the 1851 Memorial, the conservatory, and behind that the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial.

Closure of the gardens

The gardens started to go in to decline from 1866 when the society became unable to pay their rent to the 1851 Commissioners. The gardens were subsequently closed in 1882, and the commissioners started to build upon the land.

Imperial Institute Road and Prince Consort Road were laid out in c.1888-92 across the site of the gardens. The arcades of the gardens were used for various purposes during the years that followed, including galleries, store rooms and class rooms, firstly by the South Kensington Museum, and then later by the Science Museum and Imperial Institute. Some arcades survived until the extension of the Science Museum and Imperial College in the 1950s.

The Science Museum, by Sir Richard Allison, dominates the view in the c.1950 photograph. In the distance behind Thomas Collcutt's Imperial Institute can be seen. Demolition of this Victorian building began in 1957, and all that survives today is the central Queen's Tower seen here towering above its surroundings.