Horniman horticulture benchmark

Horniman horticulture benchmark

Horniman horticulture benchmark

The Horniman is a horticultural showhouse in the W2 district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, United Kingdom. It is open to the public, having been founded as the Museum of Practical Geology and established as a public park in 1873. Today it is owned and managed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is open daily.

The exhibition space and collections of the Horniman are the result of the gift of the Henry G. Bronfman estate to the Royal Borough. It is one of a number of private and charitable organisations that operate under public governance. The Horniman was constructed between 1924 and 1927 and was expanded in 1939 to accommodate the importance of the museum collections. It is a Grade II* listed building and the British Monuments Record designates it as an architecturally significant building. The architect was Sir Basil Spence and it has also been referred to as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Aladdin's palace.

Horniman House is located on Great George Street in west Kensington. The museum is open daily, with extended opening hours for special events. Visitors can access the house and collections using an audio-guided self-guided tour, printed for free on entry.

The museum's garden, with the World War I Garden Museum and collections of geological specimens, hosts the Chelsea Flower Show. It has won many awards including "Best display in a large venue" and "Best historic garden of the year" in the Garden Media Guild Awards.



In 1869, George Lawson, principal of the Cooper Institute, was awarded a major award for "Exhibitions of Practical Geology" by the Geological Society. After a further exhibition of his exhibits to the public and educational institutions Lawson was granted permission in 1871 to build and operate a geological museum in Kensington Gardens. This was granted for ten years, at a cost of 1,200 guineas, a small sum compared to the income from his other business.

In 1873, the Museum of Practical Geology opened in a stable block in Kensington Gardens, containing fossilised ammonites and other geological specimens, together with some pottery and mineralogy. The Museum of Practical Geology was funded by the sale of Lawson's practice and included a staff of nine, with eight working as book-keepers, a clerk, a secretary, a draughtsman, a storekeeper, a gardener, a housekeeper, a labourer and a hall-porter.

In 1875, Lawson was denied permission to open the museum to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. According to his biographer Ruth E. Glanville, the visitor-gathering for a free public park or museum was a big leap for the city's population, which had grown from 180,000 in 1851 to a peak of some 180,000 people in 1880, to around 300,000 in 1891. In the early 1880s, the museum added the mineralogical and botanical sections.

Move to Chelsea

In 1882, Lawson sold his Museum of Practical Geology to the London Borough of Kensington for £2,250,000. The transfer of the property to public ownership was challenged in court by the previous owner, Joshua Rookes. However, in 1888, a judge declared the transfer of the museum from private to public ownership to be valid.

The 1882 sale of the Museum of Practical Geology included the concession to keep the stable block and its property in Kensington Gardens and all of the museum's fossilised and other geological specimens. When the new museum was built it included the stable block and all of the remaining property and collections that had previously been owned by the museum.


In 1923, the former Royal College of Surgeons and its building was acquired by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as the headquarters of the municipal authorities. The site, situated off Chelsea Creek, was vacant with the college's land unused since the move to Chelsea Hospital. The borough borrowed £25,000 and spent £80,000 constructing the museum and the World War I Garden Museum.

With the Museum of Practical Geology the borough raised an estimated £1.5 million. There were large loans from a number of well-known museums including the British Museum, which lent the prehistoric collection and animal skeletons, and the Crystal Palace Museum, which loaned thousands of geological specimens.

In 1927, the Museum of Practical Geology closed. Work on Horniman House and the World War I Garden Museum began in January 1923. In November 1924, ground was broken for the construction of Horniman House. The architect for Horniman House was Basil Spence. Construction took place between 1924 and 1927. The borough spent £60,000 on the construction of Horniman House.


The Royal Charter for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was granted on 12 September 1928. It allowed the borough to borrow £2.7 million to create the World War I Garden Museum and the Museum of Practical Geology, the latter being called the "Museum of Practical Geology and other curiosities" (or the M.P.G. for short).

On 15 May 1928, the museum opened to the public and was officially inaugurated on 16 July. The mayor of the borough was Alderman Oliver J. Atmore. Lord Lindsay of Birker Hall was present at the inauguration, as it was the first open house for the Royal Borough.

Horniman House was intended to reflect contemporary and period styles. Lord Lindsay of Birker Hall said it was the "first modest and inexpensive museum built in a thoroughly modern style, and where the contents of the treasury of the British Museum have been set in a splendid setting on the western outskirts of London, as a memorial to the London family of the 19th Century and of those who were called in vain to seek a haven in this country after the Great War."

The bronze sculpture by Humphry Turton, is named Summer and Winter. The bronze stands high, was installed in a reflecting pool and designed by Spence. Its

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