Heritage Lottery Fund gives initial support for £4.8 million grant to RHS Garden Wisley

Thursday 11 August 2016

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with the award of a First Round Pass for a grant of £4.8 million towards its proposals to further enhance its flagship garden, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.

The project aims to further develop the historic garden as the home of horticulture, including restoring its Grade II listed Laboratory to open it to the public for the first time and the creation of a new Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, which will disseminate horticultural research and learning nationwide.

£212,000 has been awarded immediately to help the gardening charity develop its plans and apply for the full grant. The RHS will now work towards submitting a round-two application within two years, which if successful could lead to the award of the remaining £4.6 million. The total project will cost £65 million, and the RHS is working to raise £12.8 million through fundraising initiatives.

The RHS proposals focus on building on RHS Garden Wisley’s initial purpose as a learning garden. The garden’s Laboratory building, which dates from 1907 and includes old botanical labs, the original lecture theatre and a Herbarium, will be converted and restored, with the ground floor opened to the public for the first time as an art gallery and museum space.

The grant would also support the fit-out of the ground floor of a new Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, built on the garden’s Hilltop area, which will include a large scale atrium and events space for activities and exhibitions for the public, as well as new facilities for the nationally important Herbarium, science and library collections. Three new ‘Future Gardens’, exploring themes of Gardens as Nature Reserves, Health and Wellbeing and a World Kitchen Garden, will be created next to the Centre.

The third strand of the proposals involve the garden’s Herbarium, where over 80,000 specimens of plants of national and historical importance are kept, including a specimen collected by Charles Darwin on the Beagle, and the earliest item, a specimen of lavender collected in 1731. The grant would allow these specimens, as well as 23,000 insect specimens, to be restored, conserved and digitised as well as displayed to the public through events and exhibitions.

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a strong endorsement of our plans to celebrate Wisley’s historical and horticultural significance, as well as making it a garden that is vibrant and relevant for the future. Our ambitious programme of fundraising still continues apace but this is a significant and joyous step forward in seeing our plans come to fruition.’

Visits to RHS Garden Wisley have increased over the past decade from 750,000 to over a million each year. The RHS has committed to creating better facilities in the Garden and in spring the world-class landscape architect Christopher Bradley-Hole unveiled his plans for developing the horticulture of this much-loved garden. The developments form part of a 10 year, £160m investment in the RHS’s vision to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “Wisley is such an important site in the history of plants and gardens – a superb setting for some rare and fascinating plant specimens along with thousands of books, artefacts and photographs. This project will help build on the traditions of the place to reach out and attract new visitors and ensure people come here to learn about and enjoy horticulture for many years to come.”

For more details, interviews or images, please contact Hannah Dolby, 020 7821 3042 or hannahdolby@rhs.org.uk.


Notes to editors

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener, healthier, happier and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. At our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes we inspire a passion for gardening and growing plants, promote the value of gardens, demonstrate how gardening is good for us and explain the vital roles that plants undertake.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing more than 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.
RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 020 3176 5820, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Heritage Grants* applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk
RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262.


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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262