Glasgow Botanical Gardens & Kibble Palace

Glasgow, Scotland | C.1873

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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Reaching the shores of the River Kelvin, we have encountered an unexpected creature. Constructed of curved glass and wrought iron, this frosted palace hosts a forest of flora and fauna within its inner recesses. A Victorian marvel, this light-filled conservatory owes its birth to a 19th Century eccentric. 

John Kibble dabbled in many subjects, with the occasional friendly quibble. An inventor, an astronomer, and imaginative photographer, Kibble was a Renaissance man born centuries later than that fabled age. He reportedly invented a floating bicycle, successfully sifting through Loch Long. He was a grandiose experimenter, creating a camera in 1858 so large it required a horse and wagon in order to transport it (making a modern reader think again in complaining to cellular companies about product size.) While the large lens (13 inches to be exact) may not have caught on, whimsical wunderkind Kibble had one final masterstroke. 

Kibble spent most of his time in Cove on Loch Long, not far from the bustling Glasgow. Inspired at this waterside abode, John reportedly constructed his vision of a noteworthy glass greenhouse using metal wires to depict the intricate iron skeleton. Tasking his architecturally-minded lads James Boucher and James Cousland to help bring the iron-framed conservatory to life, Kibble saw his dream realized upon the completion of the glass wonder in 1865.

Whether bored upon completion or needing room for the next invention, the old codger Kibble sold the structure six years later. It was quickly moved and reconstructed in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens in 1873, where it has held court ever since. 

With whirling ferns, succulents, and prickly palms, the Kibble Palace remains a tribute to its constantly  curious mastermind. Shaded amongst the many hues of green, it’s hard to say goodbye to this Victorian Garden of Eden, but the next leg in our journey is calling—and we may need to reach it by a pedal-driven floating device. 

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