“Cannot some arrangement be made whereby a Kewite and a Swanley Miss can join their forces and thus be a source of strength to each other? We might then have gardeners offering their services for the outdoor department, wife to take charge of the orchids and fruit, or a woman gardener might undertake to manage a large garden, her husband to act as foreman. Kew and Swanley should certainly have a special attraction for each other. Double barrelled gardeners would be an advantage, and their offspring would be born gardeners; but alas! gardeners as a rule are forbidden to have offspring.” Kew Journal, May 1894.

What was to become Swanley Horticultural College had begun in 1889 as a private venture in experimental horticulture, and possibly the first horticultural college in the world. (The present day Hadlow College, Mottingham Lane, can trace its origins to Hextable and Sittingbourne.)

In 1896, Alice Hutchings and Annie Gulvin were the two first women gardeners employed by Kew. Both were recruited after obtaining a Diploma from Swanley Horticultural College for Women, in Kent. Swanley College persuaded the Director of Kew, William Thiselton-Dyer (indicated as Dyer when citing a botanical name), to experiment with the employment of Swanley students.

After 1902, there no more female gardeners at Kew – they generally moved on to roles as head gardeners elsewhere – until the outbreak of World War I.

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