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History Gallery

Available as Framed Prints, Photos, Wall Art and Gift Items

Choose from 212 images in our History collection.


Featured History Image

Robert Fortune

Robert Fortune (1812-1880) born in Berwickshire, Scotland, was a botanist and plant-hunter best known for smuggling tea plants out of China at the behest of the East India Company. Following the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, Fortune was awarded the position of the Society's Collector in China, visiting the region on four occasions, remaining there for two or three years each time. In 1846, he published his journals as 'Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China'. In 1848, he was tasked by the East India Company with collecting tea plants to establish plantations in India, breaking the Chinese monopoly. Disguising himself as a Chinese merchant, he travelled to the remote Fujian, Guangdong, and Jiangsu provinces, regions rarely explored by Westerners, beyond the permissible day's journey from the agreed European treaty ports. The ruling Chinese government had outlawed the purchase of tea plants, but Fortune was able to coordinate the shipment of more than 20, 000 plants and seedlings, in Wardian cases, to the Himalayas, effectively initiating the tea industry in India

© RBG KEW

Featured History Image

The Kew Gardens Question

The Kew Gardens Question. This political cartoon was published in 1878 as part of the ongoing debate as to whether the public should be allowed into the gardens in the mornings, before 1pm. Officially, only botanist and botanical artists were allowed morning access, with the Director's permission. The Kew Gardens Public Rights Defence Association was set up and successfully campaigned against this. The author of the article accompanying this cartoon smuggled himself into a morning session at the Gardens and claimed that those eminent botanists inside were mostly fast asleep in garden chairs and other gentlemen were "engaged in testing the effects of cigar smoke on open-air evergreens."

© RBG KEW

Featured History Image

'A View of the Palace from the North Side of the Lake...'

Engraving on paper, 'A View of the Palace from the North Side of the Lake, the Green House & the Temple of Arethusa, in the Royal Gardens at Kew'. The print features the Palace, also known as 'The White House', home of King George III; also visible in the distance is the Orangery. The Swan Boat was made on the occasion of the Prince of Wales's 17th birthday in 1755. Designed by John Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, its neck and head reached 18 feet, and the boat could hold 10 people

© RBG KEW