Tim Smit

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Sir Tim Smit

Tim Smit (6509919409).jpg
Smit in 2011
Timothy Bartel Smit

(1954-09-25) 25 September 1954 (age 68)
Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands
EducationCranbrook School
Vinehall School
Alma materHatfield College, Durham
Known forLost Gardens of Heligan and Eden Project
Candy Pinsent
(m. 1978, divorced)

Sir Timothy Bartel Smit KBE (born 25 September 1954)[1] is a Dutch-born British businessman, famous for his work on the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the Eden Project, and the Charlestown Shipwreck & Treasure Centre, all in Cornwall, England.

Early life[edit]

Tim Smit was born in Scheveningen, the son of airline pilot Jan Smit[2] and his English wife. He was educated in England at Vinehall School,[3] East Sussex, and Cranbrook School, Kent, before going on to study archaeology and anthropology at Hatfield College, Durham.


He worked as an archaeologist before entering the music business, working as both a songwriter and producer receiving seven platinum and gold discs.

In 1987 he moved with his family to Cornwall and became involved with Rob Poole, John Nelson and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. During his time at Heligan, Smit wrote a popular book about the project.

Tim Smit in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about his work.

Later he created the Eden Project, near St Austell, an £80 million initiative to build two transparent biomes in an old china clay pit near the village of Bodelva. The biomes contain different eco-climates; rainforest and Mediterranean. The outside area is also described as a biome and features areas such as "Wild Cornwall". Eden aims to educate people about environmental matters and encourages a greater understanding and empathy with these matters. Smit raised the needed funds and was the driving force, pulling the team of people together to build what has been described as "the eighth wonder of the world":[citation needed] the site design was by Nicholas Grimshaw. Smit has claimed that The Eden Project has contributed over £1 billion into the Cornish economy.[4]

Smit's book about the creation of the Eden Project, Eden, was first published in 2001 and updated on the 10th anniversary of the opening in March 2011.

Smit was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2002 New Year Honours and awarded the Kilgerran Award of the Foundation for Science and Technology in 2003.[5][6] In 2006 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Design degree by the University of the West of England "in recognition of his outstanding achievements in promoting the understanding and practice of the responsible management of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources, which have made a major contribution regionally, nationally and internationally to sustainable development, tourism, architecture and landscape architecture".

Smit has been outspoken in his views on issues such as social enterprise and entrepreneurship. In a 2008 interview, he said:

Britain is crap at being entrepreneurial because (a) it's a risk averse country, and (b) the stigma of failure is so high that if you fail you're considered to be a loser. Entrepreneurism is a word that has been stolen by people who don't understand it. The truth is that people who are entrepreneurial take risks, and risk is something that is un-British, and if you're successful with it they'll hate you for it.[7]

In the early 21st century, Smit became a Social Enterprise Ambassador.[8]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2001 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at the Eden Project.[citation needed]

Smit was appointed Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in January 2011 in recognition of his services to public engagement with science.[9] In May 2012, the award was made substantive when he became a British citizen, allowing Smit to use the title "Sir".[4][10]

In November 2016, Smit was awarded an honorary Doctor of Education degree by Bournemouth University.[11]

Smit has embarked on a number of other projects. He is one of the backers of the Eden Westwood project, a joint project between the Eden Project and developers Westwood to build a 71 hectares leisure and tourism destination at Junction 27 of the M5 in Devon. The development was included in the Mid Devon Local Plan which was adopted in July 2020.[12][13] In 2018 he bought the 23-acre Charlestown harbour near St Austell, a site used in filming the Poldark films, this complements his The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre at the site which he bought in 2016.[14] His most recent plans are for a development in Lostwithiel consisting of an orchard with 3,000 fruit trees, a pottage garden, a multi-use building with cookery school, microbrewery, distillery, cider press and 20 accommodation units.[15]


In August 2014, Smit was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[16]

Prior to the 2015 UK general election, he was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[17]

Portraits of Smit[edit]

The National Portrait Gallery collection has two photographs of Tim Smit from 2002.[18] In 2008, Smit agreed to sit for sculptor Jon Edgar in Fowey as part of his Environmental series, and a terracotta head exists.


In February 2022, Smit criticised what he regarded as the backward-looking tendency of some Cornish people.[19]


  1. ^ "Birthdays". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media. 25 September 2014. p. 43.
  2. ^ Nicolson, Adam (24 February 2001). "Brave new worlds". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 April 2022.(subscription required)
  3. ^ Smit, Tim (27 October 2009). "Three men who changed me". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b "TIM SMIT KBE, SIR | Co-Founder of the Eden Project". Personally Speaking Bureau. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.[self-published source?]
  5. ^ "Re-creating the Garden of Eden" (PDF). FST Journal. London: The Foundation for Science and Technology. 18 (2): 6–7. December 2003. ISSN 1475-1704. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  6. ^ Jeff Gill (7 October 2003). "Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award Lecture – Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  7. ^ "Business television show - Celebrity Entrepreneurs 5: What it takes to succeed". www.yourbusinesschannel.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2009.
  8. ^ "Social Enterprise Ambassadors". The National Archives. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  9. ^ "Honorary knighthood for Eden Project boss". BBC News. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  10. ^ "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 32.
  11. ^ "Faculty of Management celebrates its new 2016 graduates". Bournemouth University. 9 November 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  12. ^ Clark, Daniel (20 July 2020). "Surf lake beside the M5 in Devon is getting closer". DevonLive. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Eden Project heads "Westwood" into Devon". Eden Project (Press release). 4 December 2014.[dead link]
  14. ^ Freeman, Martin; Merrington, Jacqui (27 June 2018). "Poldark harbour sold to one of Cornwall's richest men". CornwallLive. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  15. ^ "Eden Project's Tim Smit plans cookery school in Lostwithiel". BBC News. 19 January 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  17. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2022.
  18. ^ "Tim Smit (1954-)". National Portrait Gallery. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011.
  19. ^ Morris, Steven (16 February 2022). "Eden Project co-founder under fire for rant about Cornish people". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2022.

External links[edit]