Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NS 56804 67593
256804, 667593

Containing an outstanding range of plants, including an internationally recognised orchid collection, Glasgow Botanic Gardens also host the Kibble Palace and make an important contribution to the otherwise urban landscape. Sir Joseph Hooker was Regius Chair of Botany here from 1821 to 1841 before becoming Director of Royal Botanic Garden Kew.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Glasgow Botanic Gardens have some value as a Work of Art based on the layout of the gardens in their present form.


Level of interest

The Gardens have outstanding Historical value on account of the good documentary evidence of their development and associations with prominent Botanical personalities.


Level of interest

Glasgow Botanic Gardens have outstanding Horticultural value based on the outstanding scientific collection of plants which is in good condition, well documented and available to other institutions.


Level of interest

The Gardens provide the setting for a group of architectural features including the Kibble Palace which give them outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The Botanic Gardens have outstanding Scenic value due to the location of the Gardens and the impact which they have on the surrounding landscape.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The Gardens have some Nature Conservation value due to the woodland and riverside habitats provided within the surrounding urban area.

Location and Setting

The Botanic Gardens are situated in the west end of Glasgow some 2 miles (3km) from the city centre. The site is bounded to the north by the River Kelvin, to the south by the A82, Great Western Road, to the east by Queen Margaret Drive and to the west by the houses on Kirklee Terrace and Kirklee Circus. The surrounding landscape is urban, characterised by elegant 19th century terraces which overlook the Gardens. Lime trees line Great Western Road and, together with those on Kew and Grosvenor Terraces, form an avenue along this important route out of the City. The Kelvin Walkway has recently been established on the banks of the river. The Gardens stand at a height of 131' (40m); the average annual rainfall is 39.81", and the temperature ranges from 17º - 81.5ºF.

The surrounding terraced buildings are visible from within the Gardens. The River Kelvin is significant only from the riverside walks due to the steep wooded banks which separate it from the main body of the Gardens. The Gardens and Kibble Palace are highly significant from the surrounding roads and houses.

The physical boundaries of the main Gardens have been defined. The 2nd edition OS map of c.1898 shows the site to extend east to Queen Margaret Road prior to the realignment of roads in the 1920s when the present Queen Margaret Bridge was constructed. In recent years, the site has been extended across Ford Road at the north- west corner along the banks of the River Kelvin where the Arboretum has been established. The Gardens today extend over some 37 acres (15ha) and include several acres of special gardens.

Site History

The Botanic Gardens have developed on their present site since 1841 and plant material largely postdates this time although the original collection was transferred from the previous Garden at Sandyford.

A physic garden had been established within the precincts of the University of Glasgow in 1704 but had become defunct in the early 1800s due to severe pollution. The University wished to establish a new garden for teaching purposes and supported a group of businessmen, headed by Thomas Hopkirk, in the formation of a botanic institution which was to run the new botanic garden. The University's single financial involvement stipulated that the provision of teaching facilities and plant material be in perpetuity.

The new Botanic Gardens were established in 1817 on an eight acre site at Sandyford. (The present Henry Wood Hall is on this site, which is commemorated on the wall of a nearby building). In 1818 a Royal Charter was granted incorporating the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow, and the first Regius Professor of Botany, Dr Robert Graham, was appointed. Three years later, in 1821, Sir William Hooker was appointed to the Regius Chair of Botany and for the next twenty years he was largely responsible for the rapid growth of the collection and the esteem in which it was held. He left in 1841 to become Director of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew. As the collection expanded, growing conditions deteriorated and, in 1839, the present site, part of the Kelvinside Estate, was purchased and the collection was moved there over the next two years. The original glasshouses were transferred. A lecture room was provided for the new Professor of Botany, J.H.Balfour.

In 1871, the 'Kibble Palace' opened on this site, following a 21 year agreement between the Royal Botanic Institution and John Kibble, as a concert hall and meeting place. Rectorial addresses were given there by Gladstone and Disraeli. In 1881, the building was converted to a Winter Garden following a loan from Glasgow Corporation to the Royal Botanic Institution which enabled them to buy out John Kibble's interest in the building for #10,000. Due to deterioration in the financial circumstances of the Royal Botanic Institution, Glasgow Corporation took over the Gardens as creditors in 1887. At that time, they were not within the City boundary but the City of Glasgow Act of 1891 overcame this problem and full control was then transferred to the Corporation, who were bound to maintain them as a public park and botanic garden, as well as continuing the interests of the University.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Kibble Palace is listed B. A large part of the present building was originally (1860s) a conservatory in the grounds of Coulport House, Loch Long, home of John Kibble. It is a circular structure, 150' in diameter, connected by a corridor to a small entrance dome flanked by two corridor wings and was built by James Boyd & Sons of Paisley. The architects were James Boucher and James Cousland. It covers an area of 23,000 sq ft and is one of the largest conservatory buildings in Britain. Between 1873-81, concerts were held in the building; the stage was mounted over the pond beneath the main dome. After 1881, the Palace was run totally as a Winter Garden; the pond where a 25 piece orchestra once performed was planted up and, beneath the smaller dome at the entrance, a goldfish pond was made. The north wing is an exhibition area (The Plant Kingdom) and the south wing a visitor centre. Nine statues stand within collection in the Palace.

The Main Range of Glasshouses, listed B as a group, was opened in 1884; their necessary reconstruction contributed greatly to the debts accumulated by the Royal Botanic Institution. They stand to the west of the Kibble Palace and are composed of a series of eleven symmetrical compartments covering some 18,000 sq ft in total, each housing different kinds of plants.

The Curator's House, listed B, was built in 1841 to the design of Charles Wilson. The gate lodges stand at the south-east entrance to the Gardens on Great Western Road. Botanic Gardens Station stood west of the lodges on Great Western Road. It was run as a cafe for some years after the closure of the railway but this ceased after it was destroyed by a major fire in the 1960s. A sundial made for the Gardens in the early 19th century stands in the Herb Garden.

The Gardens

Some 12,000 taxa are maintained in the Gardens. The most important components of the plant collection are housed under glass. Within the Kibble Palace, plants are grouped according to their native geographic habitat. The corridor linking the two domes is devoted to plants from Southern Africa while, around the main dome, plants from Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, China and Japan are represented, as well as from the Mediterranean area. Of particular note is the collection of tree ferns under the central dome, some of which were planted in 1881.

In the Glasshouses the most outstanding collections are of begonias and orchids. The collection of begonias is one of the most extensive in the world. It is largely species begonia, many of which are displayed, ranging from those introduced in the 1880s and earlier, eg Begonia socotrana which became the parent to many winter-flowering varieties, to more recent discoveries such as Begonia Chlorosticta from Borneo. In the Orchid House an exhibition explains their development from seed to flower. A special collection of Dendrobium nobile hybrids and Paphiopedilum species is being amassed which is of international value.

Each of the nine remaining sections in the Glasshouses has its own speciality: Temperate & Tropical Economic Plants, Succulent Plants, Tropical Ferns, Tropical Flowers, and Aquatic Plants. The central section of the Glasshouse is the Palm House in which many tropical plants grow, including Palms. At the east end of the Glasshouse is the Conservatory which provides a display of plants for more horticultural than botanical interest. In addition to these, in another Glasshouse, a collection of filmy ferns is maintained which is also internationally renowned.

The Arboretum lies in the north-west corner of the gardens beyond the Ford Road boundary of the site on the banks of the River Kelvin. It was created in 1977 on the site of the gardens' former rubbish tip. It formed a part the Kelvin Walkway development and is largely based on two collections. The Douglas Collection includes plants introduced by David Douglas who trained at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens (1820-23). The other collection is of Tertiary Relics, ie. those plants known to have been grown during the Tertiary Period but which became almost extinct during the Ice Age, eg. Ginkgo biloba and Cercidiphyllum japonicum. The collections are catalogued and most plants are labeled.

Within the main Gardens, a number of special gardens have been created. The Systematic Garden is situated in the south-west corner. Here plants are arranged according to family for the purposes of botanical study. The Chronological Border lies nearby, where plants are grown according to their date of introduction, each bed being devoted to one century. The Herb Garden, laid out in 1957, lies to the south- east of the Kibble Palace. Medicinal herbs are grown in the central beds and surrounded by beds of culinary herbs. The Demonstration Area next to the Systematic Garden, displays items of horticultural and botanical interest, eg unusual vegetables.




Printed Sources

GC, July-Dec 1967; GC, Sept 11th 1875;GC, 1835


G.W. Curtis, Garden History Society, Autumn, 1967

GC, Feb 28th 1903; GC, Aug 24th 1889; GC, Aug 27th 1887; GC, March 1st 1884

Guide to the Botanic Gardens, 2nd Edition, 1979

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, 'List of Seeds for Exchange' 1985

I. Walls, GC, Vol 178, 1975

City of Glasgow, Parks & Recreation Dept, 'Glasgow Botanic Gardens', Annual Report 1983

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Guide Leaflet, Kibble Palace


NMRS, Photographs

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Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Printed: 28/09/2023 22:59