Help us to bring the citrus plants back to the orangery

Mary Eleanor Bowes orangery in early summer

Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749-1800) was once described by a contemporary 'as the most intelligent female botanist of the age', so it makes sense that she would have her own orangery. And it might just be the most poignant structure within the gardens.

Built for Mary Eleanor between 1772-74, the orangery is her only original contribution to the buildings of Gibside.

During her life she commissioned plant collector William Paterson to explore South Africa in search of rare and new species, and the orangery - or green house - would have been home to this brilliant and diverse collection of unusual plants.

Sadly the architect of the orangery is unknown. Even though some of the features point to the influence of James Paine, who designed the chapel.

The original layout of this large space was into three rooms to the north, known as ’garden rooms’. There was also one large room to the south, purely for the display of plants. Especially in winter when the more exotic species were kept heated throughout the colder months.

The large south-west facing windows provided a huge amount of light and a heating system would have kept plants warm during the winter.

Evidence does suggest that Mary Eleanor used the north east room as a writing room and it is likely given her social status (when widowed) that she would have entertained guests here.

Once married to her second husband, Andrew Robinson, Mary Eleanor’s love for botany was once again suppressed and the Orangery fell into disrepair.