Kibble Palace Restoration - Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Kibble Palace Restoration - header

The Restoration of the Kibble Palace

Glasgow City Council's most spectacular glasshouse has undergone a multimillion-pound restoration. It re-opened to the public in November 2006.

The Restoration of the Kibble Palace

The Kibble Palace glasshouse, situated within the Botanic Gardens, is one of the most prestigious iron and glass structures remaining from the Victorian era.

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The Kibble Palace closed on the 29th September 2003 for a major restoration. Over the winter of 2003/04 all the plants were removed with many of them being stored off site for the duration of the restoration. Shepley Engineers Limited, the main contractor, took over the site on 11th October 2004 and since then the entire glasshouse has been dismantled for restoration off site (in Shafton, Yorkshire).
In early April 2005 the reconstruction of the front part of the Kibble Palace commenced and this progressed over the next year. The fully restored Kibble Palace re-opened to the public in November 2006.

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Previous Repairs

Routine maintenance of the Kibble Palace over the last 120 years has included painting and occasional replacement of broken glass. There has been little damage to the structure due to storms and this is attributed to the aerodynamic shape of the building which allows the wind to flow over and around.
In 1973, on the centenary of the building's arrival in Glasgow, some corroded areas of iron were replaced with steel. This was unfortunate as the steel corroded severely and is now being replaced with iron as part of the restoration process. In recent years little maintenance work was carried out on the building due to the very high costs involved and the development of plans for major restoration.


  • In the late 1990s Glasgow City Council formed a design team encompassing a range of specialisms to prepare and lead the restoration project
  • Led by the City Council's Land Services Department detailed restoration proposals and funding bids were prepared
  • Stage I Heritage Lottery Fund approval was obtained in the summer of 2003 and Stage II following in early 2004
  • Following the completion of the tendering process Shepley Engineers Limited (SEL) were appointed as the main contractor for the restoration
  • Shepley's took possession of the site on 11th October 2004 with the anticipated completion date being in the autumn of 2006.

Restoration Works

The restoration has involved the complete dismantling of the Palace and its removal to Shepley's premises at Shafton in South Yorkshire for repair and conservation.
A new building management system has been introduced and the floor arrangement modified to allow better access and use of the glasshouse. To allow this the building was completely emptied of its plant collections for the first time since the 1880s.
With an overall project cost of £6.9m it has been essential for Glasgow City Council to seek additional partner funding for this project. Discussions with Historic Scotland have been successful to this end.

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The Future

  • Following restoration the Kibble Palace will return to being a major tourist attraction within the City
  • It is anticipated that visitor numbers at the Botanic Gardens will rise significantly from the current level of approximately 400,000 to 600,000 per year
  • Entry will remain free of charge
  • A programme of events and activities will be developed for the building including evening concerts on a small scale.

The Kibble Palace with its rich history, elegant architecture and high quality plant collection is seen as the key to the further development of the Botanic Gardens within the City where it is regarded with great affection by its citizens.


The national collection of Australasian tree ferns form the most important plant group within the building. Many of these date back to the mid 19th century and have grown in the Kibble Palace for the last 120 years.
Other temperate plants from around the world are displayed educationally on the perimeter of the large dome and link corridor including:

  • Australian Bottlebrush
  • Japanese Banana
  • Camellia cultivars
  • Vireya Rhododendrons.

History of The Kibble Palace

The building has a fascinating history, part of it having originally formed a conservatory at John Kibble's home at Coulport, Loch Long from the 1860s to the early 1870s. Kibble began dismantling his glasshouse in 1872 and it was taken up the Clyde by barge and by cart to the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow's West End where it was re-assembled and enlarged.
For a few years it became a popular venue for musical concerts, public meetings, flower shows and a variety of other events including the installation of both Benjamin Disraeli and William Ewart Gladstone as rectors of the University of Glasgow in 1873 and 1879 respectively.
By the early 1880s further modifications were carried out to allow it to be utilised as a glasshouse for the cultivation of plants. It then became an integral part of the Botanic Gardens which were in private ownership at that time but were soon (1891) integrated within the parks and gardens of the City of Glasgow.
An important and unique glasshouse of its type, the Kibble Palace is one of the last major iron and glass structures in Britain to be restored. The building structure is of curvilinear wrought (malleable) iron and glass supported by cast iron beams resting on ornate columns, surmounted on masonry foundations. With a floor area of 2189 metres the Palace takes the form of a large dome and rotunda connected to a smaller dome by a link corridor. The small dome forms the main entrance area and attached to the north and south are extended transepts.

Contact Details

Botanic Gardens
Phone: 0141 276 1614
Fax: 0141 276 1615

Useful link:

> Botanic Gardens