The Temple Greenhouse at Croome
The Temple Greenhouse was Robert Adam’s first garden building at Croome and is a Roman Doric building constructed of Bath stone with a central hexastyle (six columned) portico with pediment not unlike the front of the Pantheon in Rome.
Adam charged £15 for the design in the early 1760’s which included designs for garden furniture, such as benches with Lion’s paw feet, to go inside. The large windows seen today are replacements for the lost originals and they are designed to be removable so they can be taken out in the summer months.
The building housed some the 6th Earl’s collection of exotic plants such as orange and lemon trees, birds of paradise plants, cacti, canna lilies and oleanders.
Adam included symbolic sculptures to complement the vegetation that once filled the greenhouse: overflowing cornucopias and a brimming basket of flowers. These vigorous reliefs carved by Sefferin Alken are full of life, with a variety of blooms turned this way and that, and leaves twisting, as it were, in the breeze.
The greenhouse was heated in the winter by a fire that was lit in a brick built bothy at the back, with the heat then channelled through voids in the floor. The bothy was also used to store the windows during the summer months.
After purchasing the parkland in 1996 we started our research and restoration using the archive documents to replant and restore the landscape as faithfully as possible.
In 2004 the Temple Greenhouse was restored which included repairing the roof, the ceiling, the flag stone floor and the external steps. In 2006 the interior was decorated.
Restoration of the sash windows
In 2011, Carlton Smith Projects, of Pershore, were commissioned to supply and fit replacement sash windows. The original windows were made by John Hobcraft in 1763 for £84, replacing them in 2011 cost around £40,000. Approximately as third of this cost was covered by the proceeds of raffle tickets sales sold at Croome during the previous year.
The only evidence of the existence of the sash windows was a photograph from Country Life magazine from 1913, some holes in the stone floor, and a sketch from the 1824 guidebook the Hortus Croomensis. Architect, John Goom and his team, designed the windows using joinery details contemporary with the time of the installation of the original windows.
The current windows are made of larch with European oak sills - materials very similar to those used in the original windows in 1763 when John Hobcraft manufactured and installed them. At 4.65m high x 2.1m wide they are the largest ones Carlton Smith have ever manufactured.
In the Victorian era the sash lights were changed in favour of larger panes of glass, which by then were more readily available. The windows were removed altogether in the 1950s and rumour has it that they were used to construct a greenhouse by one of the estate workers in the nearby village of High Green.
" The Temple Greenhouse is a stunning building that draws people in – either to look at the plants, or to sit and admire the view across the parkland. As a greenhouse, it’s perfectly sited to get maximum sunshine, and from a distance the building glows in the light whether in summer or mid-winter"
In 1824 William Dean, who was the Botanic Gardener at Croome, published a book with the catchy title ‘An historical and descriptive account of Croome D’Abitot, the seat of the Right Hon. The Earl of Coventry with biographical notices of the Coventry Family to which are annexed an Hortus Croomensis, and observations on the propagation of exotics.’
Within the book there is a descriptive walk through the ‘Pleasure Grounds’ where he describes the Temple Greenhouse …..
’A few steps onward bring us to the Temple..... It is a handsome stone building; open in the centre, and closed at each extremity, where two interior rooms, of good size are formed. Its front is a supported by Doric pillars. In two niches, one on each side, are figures of Ceres and Flora: and in the centre, near the summit, is a Basket of Flowers, extremely well carved. This building being closed up, in front, with glass windows, is used as a greenhouse in winter: and when these are removed, it becomes an agreeable summer apartment. From the Temple there is a fine view of the house, which, here, appears seated at the extremity of a sweet retiring vale..... And all this, it must be remembered, to the praise, skill and perseverance, was once a flat and a marsh’.
Later conservation work
In 2016 a piece of the internal plaster architrave above the sash windows fell onto the moulding below it. The area was investigated and it was found that there had been rot there prior to the 2004 restoration, and this had damaged the lathes holding the architrave. New architrave was created using the old section as a mould – 32 layers of paint had to be removed from the original section!
Also in 2016 several of the flagstones in the floor dropped. Upon investigation by a structural surveyor, it was found that there had been animal activity under the floor in the voids made for the heating. Stonemason Louis James was contracted to lift the back section of the floor, secure the area under the flagstones and re-lay them.
The Temple Greenhouse is once again fully open for our visitors to enjoy.