About Decimus Burton
Decimus Burton [1800-1881] His first name, from the Latin for 'tenth', denoted his position as the tenth child in his family.
He was a successful and significant 19th century architect, designing buildings in and around Regents Park, as well as the Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Screen and the Palm and Temperate Houses at Kew. He was responsible for the layout of London Zoo, Hyde Park and Kew Gardens and built country villas in both classical and gothic style. He also carried out town planning schemes at Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells and Fleetwood in Lancashire. In 1850 Decimus began a second phase of building at St. Leonards on Sea.
On the strength of Decimus’ experience at Regents Park he became involved in the refurbishment of Hyde Park to set off the King’s new home at Buckingham Palace. Decimus designed the paths, drives, lodges and gates including the Arch and Screen at Hyde Park Corner. Also associated with his work in the Park was the building of the parliamentary mews in Storeys Gate opposite Westminster Abbey, since demolished.
In 1824 Decimus Burton was commissioned to produce designs for the newly formed Athenaeum Club in Waterloo Place.
When he set up practice in 1823 Decimus worked from offices built by his father in Lower Regent Street. In 1827 he moved to Spring Gardens next to Trafalgar Square and this was his base for the rest of his working life. A view of the lobby at Spring Gardens shows Decimus’ taste for Greek vases, antique statuary and gas lighting.
In 1830 he became architect to the new Charing Cross Hospital opposite what is now Charing Cross railway station. In nearby St. Martins Place he built premises for the Royal Society of Literature. Fine architectural perspectives of both these buildings are in the Hastings Museum. Decimus’ last great project in London was at Kew Gardens which were transferred from Crown to State in 1841. Here he was involved in the layout, in collaboration with the landscape architect William Andrews Nesfield, and in the design of the spectacular Palm and Temperate Houses.
Burton’s involvement with Kew started in 1840 and lasted until 1870. He was first commissioned to design layouts in the shape of paths, a terrace and a mound formed from material from the lake. He also designed some specialised gardens in particular arrangements such as the medieval and rose gardens. However, Burton’s most notable feature is the Palm House designed and built over four years, between 1844 and 1848, being at the time the largest glass house in the world. His other works at Kew include the Temperate House or Winter Garden to house the plants from Australia, Central and South America and the Himalayas. The House was started in 1862 but was not completed until 1897-98 due to lack of funds, although a section did open to the public in 1863. Other smaller works included the Water Lily House, completed in 1852 and the new entrance known as Victoria Gate (1848) built on land donated to Kew by Queen Victoria, for which Burton designed the huge wrought iron gates.