The Kew Guild Medal

David F. CutlerDavid F. Cutler

It is hard to believe it is 15 years since I first suggested to the Kew Guild Committee that we should consider having a medal struck to recognise people of outstanding merit in topics close to the interests of the Guild. The Committee set up a small working group to develop the idea. On the basis of their report it was agreed to go ahead because the initiative was seen to ‘raise the profile of the Guild, to recognise personal achievements and spend the money of the Guild in a wise and constructive manner.’

The initial criteria devised by the working group have been revised since they were first set out, and the most recent revision, in 2018, states them as follows:

“The Medal is awarded for outstanding merit in the furtherance of one or more fields of interest of members of the Kew Guild. For example: Scientific or amenity horticulture, Plant systematic research, Plant or habitat conservation and Horticultural Education. Other relevant fields of interest can be considered. The recipient need not be a member of the Guild.”

It was agreed that the Medal should be presented at the Annual Dinner or the Annual General Meeting unless the recipient or their representative is unable to attend, when other arrangements can be made. It was also agreed that normally the Medal should be awarded every two or three years, and exceptionally on consecutive years. However, as you can read below, there was no shortage of suitable candidates and after 2014 a medal has been awarded in each of the following years. Kewite Anthony Ross was invited to design the medal, and although somewhat taken aback by the request, consulted a medal die and engraving specialist company in Twickenham about practical matters and put his considerable skills to producing the exquisite medal. A first batch of ten was struck. The medal is silver gilt, weighs 50g, is 50mm in diameter and 2.5mm thick. The 2006 Journal cover showed the Medal, together with a short article by Anthony Ross on page 78 of same.

Initially the nominations for the medal were made by a Medal Awards Sub-Committee. This consisted of the President of the Guild with John Simmons, John Edmundson, Prof. Gren Lucas, Dr. Thomas S. Elias, David Hardman and David Cutler (Secretary). This functioned very effectively, but in due course the members of the Kew Guild Committee decided that they should take full responsibility for receiving and deciding on the nominations and the Sub-Committee members were thanked for their work and the Sub-Committee was disbanded. I continued to be responsible for seeing the process through the Guild Committee until I retired from this role in 2019.

Nominations are most welcome from all members of the Guild and should be sent to the Kew Guild President. It is very important that when making nominations you shouldn’t tell the nominees! Medalists up to the time of writing are as follows:

2007 Roy Lancaster, 2009 Raymond Desmond, 2010 Alan Barber, 2012 Noel McGough, 2014 Sir David Attenborough, 2015 Christopher Brickell, 2016 Alan Titchmarsh, 2017 Christopher Beardshaw, 2018 Martin Duncan, 2019 Laurie Olin.

I would like to add my thanks to Richard Ward for his help in gathering data for the article.

Peter Styles – We have recently received ten new medals. We used a mint through our Welshpool printers so thereby keeping things in house so to speak and making it easier for ordering.

Spec is: Design and Development – 50mm Obverse @ £940.00, 50mm Reverse @ £780.00, 10 off H M Silver, 2.5mm thick Collar Medal, gilt finish, in a standard presentation case 50mm @ £196.00 each. These were provided by Toye Kenning and Spencer Ltd, London. They are by Royal Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen and the medals were cast in their factory in the  Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.


2008 – Roy Lancaster

Guild President Rebecca Bower presented the first ever Kew Guild Medal to renowned plantsman Roy Lancaster at the Kew Guild buffet dinner at the Coach & Horses Hotel, Kew Green on 19th May. See 2008 Journal p 298.

2009 – Ray Desmond

Awarded ‘in absentia’ at the annual dinner on 23rd May. ‘Ray has been driven to work tirelessly for the benefit of Kew and the Guild. During his tenure on the staff he helped place the Kew Library on a more secure foundation. He also established the Kew archives as we know them today. All his many publications are reference works of great value, and have been central to increasing interest of how Kew has developed over its 250 year history. His latest, the second edition of the history of Kew, is an especially valuable contribution of increasing public understanding of the mission of Kew.’ Together with Nigel Hepper Ray co-authored a celebration of the Kew Guild in their book ‘A Century of Kew Plantsmen’ published in 1993.’ See 2009 Journal pp 398/9.

Photograph © RBG Kew, originally published in ‘Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens’, by Ray Desmond.

2010 – Alan Barber

Awarded at the annual dinner on 22nd May. ‘Simon said he was always proud of his achievements while he studied at Kew Gardens in the 1960s and achieving the Kew Certificate and was always mindful of his distinctive service as Secretary of the Mutual Improvement Society. Alan has devoted his working life to the improvement of Parks and Open Spaces and campaigning for their improvement and development. Alan’s career spans over 50 years and served in many positions and is well known as a commissioner for architecture and the built environment. He is the author of numerous publications and articles and is much sought after for advice on management of urban parks and green spaces and has been consulted on management of green spaces of cities in the United Kingdom and overseas and is a worthy recipient of The Kew Guild Medal.’ See 2010 Journal p 500.

2012 – Noel McGough

Noel joined Kew in 1988. Apart from the line management of the Conventions and Policy Section and of the UK Overseas Territories and Conservation Training teams, Noel’s role at Kew involves advising the UK government on the application of international biodiversity related conventions to plants. This role also includes conservation governance and negotiation, packaging scientific advice for government policy makers, inter-governmental decision-makers and for international negotiations. Noel is often found leading for the United Kingdom and European Union Presidency in international negotiations.

His day to day job involves managing Kew’s role as UK Scientific Authority for Plants under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and supporting the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity at Kew and in partner countries, the investigation of trade in wild plants and the assessment of possible detrimental trade and the effective application of the CITES Non-Detriment Finding process.

Noel is often working with partner countries to identify methods to correct detrimental trade, in particular through the CITES Significant Trade process and the CITES Plants Committee. This can include developing tools and building capacity to help countries fulfil their obligations under international conventions and building global partnerships through the mechanisms of international biodiversity related conventions.

Noel is a member of the CITES Plants Committee, Chair of CITES Plants Committee Significant Trade Working Group, and Co-Chair of the CITES Advisory Panel for the Evaluation of the Review of Significant Trade. In addition, he is a member of the European Union CITES Scientific Review Group, a member of the CITES Standing Committee Working Group on the use of Taxonomic Serial Numbers, a member of the Defra Advisory Panel for the Methodology for Assessment of Priorities for International Species Conservation and a member of the UK CITES Officers Group. A further significant role is as a UK Government delegate for CITES meetings of the Conference of the Parties, CITES technical committees, European Union meetings and in negotiations.

Projects Noel is involved with include CITES checklists, listed timbers, trade research, Climate Change Science Policy, Plant Diversity Challenge: The Official UK Response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and Significant Trade in CITES Plants.

Noel has not only been instrumental in building capacity and expertise in the Conventions and Policy section but is recognised by Defra and other international bodies as a key player in the arenas of CITES and latterly of the CBD. He has made a significant contribution to help Kew maintain and enhance its collections legally, to train numerous staff and relevant external people in most aspects of CITES implementation and has been an effective ambassador for Kew.

Biography originally contributed by D. Hepper. Also see 2012 Journal p 168.

2014 – Sir David Attenborough

‘The President then introduced Sir David Attenborough to whom he then presented the Kew Guild Medal. In accepting the Medal, Sir David expressed how much Kew meant to him and how his attachment to Kew, cemented as a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens for 10 years, began at a much earlier time when he was married in St Anne’s church on Kew Green where the Hookers are buried. His wife’s family are from the area and as a resident he became a frequent visitor to the Gardens in the days when they charged just 1d.’

As published in 2014 Journal pp 420/21.

2015 – Chris Brickell

At the 2015 Annual Dinner the Kew Guild recognised Christopher Brickell for his outstanding contribution to international horticulture and botanical science, awarding him the Kew Guild Medal. Through his initiatives and involvement in garden management, plant conservation, taxonomy and publications he has provided knowledge, interest and encouragement to a large audience, both professional and amateur to fully appreciate all types of plants and their care.

See further details in 2015 Journal pp 581/582.

2016 – Alan Titchmarsh

35 Kewites assembled on 15th June for a lunch at the Coach and Horses Hotel, Kew Green. The event was arranged by the Kew Guild to mark its award of a Kew Guild Medal to Alan Titchmarsh for distinguished work as a horticulturalist. In welcoming Alison and Alan, Guild President Tony Overland mentioned Alan’s career and particularly his work as President of Plant Heritage, Perennial, and a Trustee of Gardens for Schools, and President or patron of approximately 35 charities and organisations.

Alan, in turn, thanked the Guild for the honour and expressed his pleasure in returning to Kew and meeting up with old friends. He recalled his digs on the Mortlake Road in Kew, and five happy years beside Kew Green; how he had met his wife through Barnes Operatic Society, how he valued the Kew Diploma and the fact that he is in touch with plants every day – he will always be a gardener.

See 2016 Journal p 79.

2017 – Chris Beardshaw

President Jean Griffin presented the Award at the annual dinner on 25th May. Multi Chelsea Gold Medal winner and TV personality Chris provided an entertaining review of his work and gardening experiences.

‘As a landscape designer Chris has been responsible for many attractive planting schemes including the RNLI commemorative feature at the National War Memorial at Alrewas (Staffs) along with many imaginative award winning plantings that have supported important charities at RHS Chelsea. Along with many contributions to radio and television he perhaps is best known as ‘the Helicopter Gardener’ as he ‘dropped in’ to view many top ranking UK garden landscapes. All of the UK’s major horticultural events have benefitted from his expertise, often adding an appealing and captivating touch of humour along the way. Chris uses his natural skills to encourage any age group seeking to pursue an interest in growing plants whether it be for colourful amenity planting, productive cropping or the natural landscape.’

See 2017 Journal pp 142 & 202.

2018 – Martin Duncan

Jean Griffin presented the medal to Martin at the annual dinner on 23rd May.

‘Martin Duncan, Head Gardener at Arundel Castle owned by the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, who attended the dinner in support of Martin. From horticultural training in Ireland, National Parks work, farming, coffee plantation and advisory work in Africa to Jordan working for King Hussein, titled people in Bermuda and landscape designing in the UK; Martin now manages the ornamental and organic vegetable garden at Arundel. He is a firm believer in developing and making history, not keeping to strict historical layout or features as his work at the castle testifies.’

See 2018 Journal pp 285 and 322.

2019 – Laurie Olin

Awarded ‘in absentia’ at the annual Dinner.

‘Laurie is a distinguished American teacher, author, and one of the most renowned landscape architects practicing today. Born in Wisconsin and raised in Alaska, Laurie studied civil engineering at the University of Alaska and pursued architecture at the University of Washington, where Richard Haag encouraged him to focus on landscape. He practiced in Seattle and New York before travelling to England on a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972-1973 and to Rome as a Fellow in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 1974-1976.’‘He is currently Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught for 40 years, and is former chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University.’

See 2019 Journal pp 401 and 454. 

  • Winner of the 2008 Kew Guild Medal, Roy Lancaster
  • Winner of the 2008 Kew Guild Medal, Ray Desmond
  • Winner of the 2010 Kew Guild Medal, Alan Barber
  • Winner of the 2012 Kew Guild Medal, Noel McGough
  • Winner of the 2014 Kew Guild Medal, Sir David Attenborough
  • Winner of the 2015 Kew Guild Medal, Chris Brickell
  • Winner of the 2016 Kew Guild Medal, Alan Titchmarsh
  • Winner of the 2017 Kew Guild Medal, Chris Beardshaw
  • Winner of the 2018 Kew Guild Medal, Martin Duncan
  • 2019 Laurie Olin

Precied for the Kew Guild website by Sparkle and Richard Ward in December 2020.