Orangeries in the Midlands

The Orangery at Belton

The National Trust is the largest single owner of orangeries in the UK, owning 28 historic orangeries, six of which are in the Midlands region.

These buildings are now some of the most impressive, iconic buildings in the gardens in our care, however the earliest, which protected cultivation of citrus and other tender plants, were less impressive structures often involving purely practical, temporary wooden buildings designed merely to keep away the frost.

What is an Orangery?

Built stone or brick orangeries with extensive areas of glass were developed in the 17th and 18th century estates of the wealthiest landowners and became an important element of a garden or park’s layout. Late 17 C early greenhouses and orangeries were a novelty and were therefore sited for maximum impact adjacent to the mansion.

Built in 1777 the Orangery is the oldest garden building at Calke
The exterior of the 18th-century Orangery at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Plants

The plants are kept at a frost free, ambient temperature of 5 to 7 degrees C, enough to keep the plants overwintered but these low temperatures do not ripen the fruit.  Plants were containerised and included many citrus such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit and other tender plants such as Myrtle.

Orangeries were highly versatile buildings within the garden. A place to protect exotic, tender plants in the winter months but becoming a place for socialising and relaxing in the summer months when the plants were removed from the Orangery onto brought onto a forecourt, free of plants that may cast shade and providing space for plants to be displayed in summer months.

The Orangery at Belton House
The Orangery at Belton House

The sides and rear were often surrounded by planting, usually evergreen and often scented. This provided a setting for the orangery very much focussing attention on the glass frontage and in summer the heavily planted forecourt. Such extensive shrubberies could also have afforded shelter to the tender plants when outside and may also have helped to trap the blossom scents.

At Charlecote Park you can take tea in the Orangery tea room
Exterior of Orangery tea room at Charlecote in spring

Decline

By the close of the 18th C and the height of the Picturesque movement garden buildings were screened from each other by trees and shrubs and often moved away from the Mansion. Many Orangeries were replaced at this time by conservatory or winter gardens attached to the house. These structures were extensively glazed, supported by the technical advances in glazing and heating and the abolishment of the glass tax in 1845. As a result conservatories could accommodate even more exotic and tender plants than could have previously be supported.

The greenhouse or orangery in the garden at Kedleston
Greenhouse or orangery in the garden at Kedleston on a sunny day in summer