The restored glasshouse at Quarry Bank

In the upper garden you can marvel at the sparkling glasshouse with its thousands of panes of glass and at the exotic fruit growing within its frame. In the back sheds, discover the stories of the gardeners who worked in Quarry Bank's garden 200 years ago.

In the early nineteenth century once the mill was established, Samuel and Hannah Greg moved their family from Manchester to the newly built Quarry Bank House. After their arrival, the Gregs soon began to develop the challenging terrain around the house into beautiful and productive garden.

Pleasure gardens and glasshouse

The Gregs created formal gardens designed for pleasure, landscaped Chapel Woods for recreation, and a walled kitchen garden on the cliff top to produce all the fruit and vegetables that the family’s 13 children and frequent guests. Care was taken to choose a suitable site for the kitchen garden.

The centrepiece of the walled garden was a magnificent curvilinear glasshouse with a cast-iron frame, which was built sometime in the early 1820s. Its innovative design and use of modern technology, expensive materials and a huge amount of glass sent a clear message to the Gregs' guests about their financial success and position in society.

Early photograph of the 1830s glasshouse at Quarry Bank
Early photograph of the 1830s glasshouse at Quarry Bank

Back sheds

The sheds behind the glasshouse were the powerhouse and administrative centre of the kitchen garden. Here, hidden from view, the gardeners carried out their varied and essential jobs under the watchful eye of the Head Gardener, William Brough. Deliveries arrived, produce was sent out, tools were cleaned, sharpened and repaired, tender plants were nurtured and precious seeds stored in rooms warmed from the heat of the glasshouse boilers.

Tending the glasshouse

The glasshouse’s high roof allowed for the cultivation of palms and other large exotic specimens, newly arrived in the country via the exploits of plant hunters. The fruits and plants housed in the glasshouse were rare and newly discovered; brought to this country by plant hunters travelling the world.

Keeping these fragile plants alive required careful tending and clever technology.  Pipes ran from a boiler under the floor, heating the glasshouse to carefully controlled levels.  This environment was perfect for growing exotic plants and delicate fruits. 

Keeping the boiler fed day and night was the job of the garden boys, some of whome were as young as nine years old.  To make sure they were always close by these boys slept in the backsheds, their few possessions kept close to their small beds.

See how we brought the glasshouse back to its former glory: