Help restore Attingham’s Walled Garden Glasshouses
There are three glasshouses in the Frameyard of the Walled Garden, the Melon House, Tomato House and the Pinery Vinery. The glasshouse buildings essentially date from 1924 and have become incredibly and increasingly expensive to maintain and repair. This unfortunately means that traditional maintenance methods of these structures are no longer viable. Over the past two years we've been raising funds to restore, refurbish and replace parts of these structures that are vital in the growing of fruits and vegetables in this productive kitchen garden.
Attingham's first glasshouses
When the Walled Garden was established (c.1780) this included the building of glasshouses. At that time they would have been the latest innovative horticultural technology that Georgian gardeners could deploy to extend the growing season at both ends of the year. Exotic fruits such as pineapples, melons, and grapes could be grown for the Berwick family whose fortunes were on the rise at this time.
The glasshouses provided ‘hot-house’ conditions for the produce, as it was protected by the glass, and had heating pipes running through them ( which were serviced by a small boiler/furnace house on the north side of the north wall in the garden. One of these is still in situ).
20th century rebuilding of the glasshouses
The family’s fortunes declined through the centuries and the garden was used for a variety of different purposes, and some of the areas became disused and fell into disrepair.
The current glasshouses were commissioned by Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick in the early 20th Century and were originally supplied in 1924 by Duncan Tucker of Tottenham, a small family firm established in the 1830s. Again, the family’s fortunes during the mid 20th Century were failing and once again the glasshouses fell into disrepair.
21st century revival of the Walled Garden
The restoration of the Walled Garden began in 2008 and as part of this the glasshouses were repaired. During the restoration work timber was found to be rotten in many areas and large parts were rebuilt, meaning they are no longer original buildings.
The glasshouses are now a vital part of 'growing' the Walled Garden, in particular in the Melon House. The gardening year begins in January where fruit, vegetables and flowers are propagated, tender seedlings are grown through the early months of the year, in spring and summer the trailing melon plants and cucumbers grow and come to harvest before french beans then take over in the autumn. Even in the winter months of November and December the cuttings from the garden's plants are tended within the protective structure.
Without the glasshouses the Walled Garden would not be able to grow the interesting and delicious range of produce it does now, supplying both the onsite Carriage House Cafe with fresh fruit and vegetables for seasonal recipes, and the Stables Shop where visitors can take home their own taste of Attingham.
Restoration aims and costs
Sadly, the glasshouses structures have come to the end of their life (not bad for nearly 100 years!) To ensure their continued survival and crucial role in growing seedlings and produce, parts of the frames are being replaced with another material such as aluminium, as the maintenance of traditional timber and paint is proving unsustainable. The use of aluminium, where appropriate, is approved by Historic England.
We’re retaining the character and spirit of the Glasshouses whilst ensuring their continued use for production, and incorporating as many of the original fixtures and fittings as possible, such as the iron opening mechanisms, door furniture, window catches.
The benefits will be that the glasshouses will last much, much longer and that parts will not need repainting or replacing annually, nor will a full maintenance overhaul every 4-5 years be needed, and these ongoing repair and maintenance costs which run into tens of thousands of pounds, will reduce.
As Georgian gardeners utilised the most up to date and efficient horticultural technology, so will we, as today’s more modern long lasting materials and methods of construction will be used.
2018: Work completed on the Melon House
After the building was photographically recorded in April 2018, work began on removing the glass and frame structure during June. The window opening mechanisms and cold frame (where we nurture seedlings) lids were also removed leaving just the bare brick structure.
The window opening mechanisms have been saved to be used in the new structure and will be refinished and powder coated.
Once the frame had been removed it became clear that the brickwork was not level across the structure—in fact, there was a difference of about 30mm in the levels, from one end of the walls to the other. The brick walls that support the frame need to be absolutely level for the new aluminium structure otherwise the doors and glass will be put under stress. As a result at the start of July we laid a stone coping on the walls, to level them and include a small sill to overhang the brickwork,
Hartley Botanics were the company building the new glass frame, returned to Attingham to carry out a final measure and survey of the walls before building the new aluminium frame. The new frame was installed and work was completed in autumn 2018.
2019: Fundraising continues
During 2019 we continued fundraising at Attingham to continue the restoration and refubishment work on the two remaining glasshouses. Thanks to a generous legacy left to the Shropshire National Trust Centre we were able to identify the Tomato House as the next glasshouse to begin work on. During later 2019 and into 2020 we will be carrying out further research into the work needed on this building before beginning work.