Palace of Palms
'A glorious green adventure story.' Ann Treneman, The Times 'Books of the Year'
'The most enthralling historical book I’ve read this year.' Claire Tomalin, New Statesman 'Books of the year'
Daringly innovative when it opened in 1848, the Palm House in Kew Gardens remains one of the most beautiful glass buildings in the world today.
Seemingly weightless, vast and yet light, the Palm House floats free from architectural convention, at once monumental and ethereal. From a distance, the crowns of the palms within are silhouetted in the central dome; close to, banana leaves thrust themselves against the glass. To enter it is to enter a tropical fantasy. The body is assaulted by heat, light and the smell of damp vegetation.
In Palace of Palms, Kate Teltscher tells the extraordinary story of its creation and of the Victorians’ obsession with the palms that filled it. It is a story of breathtaking ambition, of scientific discovery and, crucially, of the remarkable men whose vision it was. The Palm House was commissioned by the charismatic first Director of Kew, Sir William Hooker, designed by the audacious Irish engineer, Richard Turner, and managed by Kew’s forthright curator, John Smith, who battled with boilers and floods to ensure the survival of the rare and wondrous plants it housed.
The most enthralling historical book I’ve read this year.
Claire Tomalin, New Statesman 'Books of the year'
Teltscher skilfully brings to life the human story behind the growth of Kew and the creation of its extraordinary centrepiece. What's more remarkable, however, is her command of the details of the new technology that went into the construction of the Palm House . . . she makes such matters unexpectedly fascinating.
A fascinating and rip-roaring account of the building of one of the great – and experimental – glass buildings of the Victorian age.