Restoring Chelsea Physic Garden’s historic glasshouses

After a century of constant use, the Glasshouses at Chelsea Physic Garden need restoration. Ahead of our 350th anniversary in 2023, the Garden has embarked on a major capital project to repair them, as well as to improve life under glass for our plant collections and enhance the visitor experience.

The project

In 2019, with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund we brought together a team of heritage conservation experts to develop the plans to restore our heritage, cultivate and share new stories, and protect our plants.

After securing initial funding, we launched a £1m public capital appeal called the Hothouse Challenge, with the support of the John Browne Charitable Trust. We were also awarded further funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as receiving donations and grants from generous individuals, trusts and foundations totaling £3.2m.

The project commenced in April 2021, with the development of new interpretation, activities, and volunteering opportunities. Construction work began in Spring 2022, after the detailed plans were finalised and  temporary housing for our plant collections was arranged. The Glasshouses reopened in September 2023.

A thank you from Nell Jones, Head of Plant Collections

As London’s oldest botanic garden, our collection of 4,000 plants reflects the important role plants play in the survival and wellbeing of humankind with their many uses – from edible to medicinal.

Whilst I am Head of Plant Collections now, I started at Chelsea Physic Garden nearly ten years ago as a volunteer who was getting into horticulture. I trained here and know and love the glasshouses. I have probably raised 50,000 plants in them and helped conserve the many rare and precious species they house.

Like me, they have been working hard and are showing the effects! It makes me sad to see them in such a state of disrepair, despite our best efforts to care for them. They were built to be admired, rather than hidden away, but now need a lot more work than us Gardeners can do alone. Thank you to everyone who has donated to aid their restoration.

The Hothouse Challenge

The Hothouse Challenge was launched in October 2020 and ran until 31st March 2021 to raise the remaining £1m needed to commence the Glasshouse Restoration project. Thanks to the support of the John Browne Charitable Trust, who matched all donations of £100 or above, and over 600 generous donors we exceeded our target and raised in excess of £1,028,000.

The John Browne Charitable Trust was established 20 years ago by Chelsea resident Lord John Browne of Madingley to support causes associated with his life as an engineer, businessman, patron of the arts, and son of a holocaust survivor. Chelsea Physic Garden is extremely grateful to the John Browne Charitable Trust for their support.

With thanks to

Chelsea Physic Garden would like to thank all of its supporters, including the trusts and foundations who awarded us major grants:

The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and all the National Lottery players
John Browne Charitable Trust
Band Trust
Garfield Weston Foundation
Olwen McPherson Trust
John Armitage Charitable Trust
J Paul Getty Jnr Trust
John Swire 1989 Charitable Trust
Peter Stormonth Darling Charitable Trust
Headley Trust
Hobson Charity
Calleva Foundation
Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

And the many individuals who donated as part of the Hothouse Challenge.