Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden set for £4m restoration project

Image credit: Mingkwan Doilom, Shutterstock

THE two A-listed Victorian palm houses and modernist range of 1960s glasshouses at Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh (RBGE) are to be restored in a £4 million project.

It comes following the award of a £4 million grant from the National Lottery Herritage Fund, which will fund the re-display of RGBE’s rare and endangered historic plant collections.

The two palm houses form the historic centre of the garden and are described as ‘outstanding’ examples of Victorian engineering. The octagonal Tropical Palm House, constructed in 1834, was soon considered too small, with palms sending their leaves through the roof. In 1855, a new Temperate Palm House was built to a grand design by Robert Matheson, with cast iron columns and vertical glazing that achieved ‘exceptional’ height and transparency.

The grant will also cover the creation of a new visitor experience and an enhanced programme of activities specifically designed to give a wider range of people reasons to care about their natural environment and inspire actions to address climate change, biodiversity, recovery and food security.

Caroline Clark, director for Scotland, the national lottery heritage fund, said, “We are delighted to be supporting this important project, which will see the historic heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh restored and revitalised for the benefit of generations to come. Thanks to National Lottery players, this significant grant will rescue these iconic buildings from catastrophic failure and enable a step-change in activity, engaging wider and more diverse audiences both locally and internationally.”

Simon Milne, MBE, regius keeper at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said, “The significance of this award of £4m cannot be underestimated and we are hugely grateful to National Lottery players for making it possible. In committing this sum to the Edinburgh Biomes project, the Heritage Fund is providing unprecedented resources for public action in protecting our fragile world.

“In an era where 40 per cent of all known plants are under threat, we can inspire and empower people across the country and around the globe to join us in fighting back against the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency. This funding not only goes a considerable way to securing the care of a unique Living Collection of plants, but also supplies the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with previously unattainable opportunities for public engagement.

“Now, we can reimagine our visitor experience. Visionary interpretation and activities will communicate the vulnerability of life on Earth, providing intellectual and physical access to plants, their applications in all our lives and the need for habitat conservation. By inspiring everyone to care about the environment and play their part, there is real opportunity to make tangible change.”