Conserving Sunnycroft's conservatory
In the garden at Sunnycroft stands a very special conservatory. Dating to 1899 it is one of only two known examples of its kind still standing, built by R Halliday & Co.
No ordinary glasshouse, this conservatory – a garden room – is fully intact with impressive original and decorative features including stained glass and decorative finials and ironwork. The 'Halliday' is grade II listed in its own right.
Unfortunately, the glasshouse has been showing its age and it is in need of full conservation and restoration. This will include work on the timber frame, cast iron supports and conservation of the leaded stained glass.
How special is our conservatory?
Standing immediately to the west of the house, visible and accessible from the Drawing Room french windows, this conservatory was a statement of design and horticultural excellence of its time. Elegant and refined, its finely chamfered rafters have a special quality of lightness while a sophisticated system of slender tensioned cast iron rods take the strain of the structure. Inside are still the original fixed cast iron display shelves around the perimeter with decorative rockwork beneath for ferns.
The conservatory was a key part of the additions and improvements that were made right at the end of the 19th century by apirational owner, Mary Jane Slaney, widow of a successful wine and spirit merchant in Wellington.
Mrs Slaney grew prize-winning exotic ferns, and it is highly likely that the ferns would have been produced in the high-status Halliday Conservatory. She is listed as a member of the Shropshire Horticultural Society in 1906 and programmes for the Royal Agricultural Society’s (Shrewsbury) show and Shrewsbury Flower Show of 1914 are in Sunnycroft’s archive.
Mrs Slaney also extended the house by adding the large reception rooms on the ground floor, including the Billiard Room and turret wing on the east side.
Interestingly, the glazed cast iron ‘porch’ over the front door in the turret was provided by R. Halliday & Co, as were the iron and glazed-roof veranda across the whole of the south front overlooking the garden. Mrs Slaney also added the Drawing Room bay with french windows to be better able to view the conservatory.
Update: May 2021
Over recent years the team at Sunnycroft have been raising funds to conserve and restore this special building and thanks to generous donations from visitors, supporters, and legacies the project is now underway.
The conservation work will be taking place in situ at Sunnycroft, as well as offsite in specialist craft workshops and is expected to be completed in early September.
Fundraising continues for the project, and visitors to Sunnycroft can make a donation when they visit, or make a donation online using the link below.
Update: July 2021
Raising the roof and investigations under ground.
The main frame of the conservatory is both heavy and fragile and so while work is taking place, scaffolding has been put up around the structure to enable access, provide weather protection, and aid stability.
Since May, window casements have been carefully removed and temporary timbers have been inserted to keep the conservatory’s skeleton square. Then pane by pane, the roof has been removed, along with the lantern glass for repair and to lighten the load.
Following a condition survey, investigations and work have been carried out on the North East corner of the conservatory where the building dips, most likely due to historic settling. The main frame was lifted around 20mm clear of the brickwork to minimise stress on the cast iron rods and brackets, while this was carried out.
Excavation of the ground revealed an old well, several historic pipes, and deep soft, wet ground. Subsequently drainage surveys and addition sub-groundworks have been carried out to firm up the foundations -taking a few extra weeks - but we are now able to begin rebuilding the wall, carefully putting each numbered brick back in its original position.
Work will continue over the next few months and we expect the project will be due for completion at the start of October.
Sunnycroft is open to visitors on weekends until Saturday 28 August. Please book our visit in advance, via the 'What's On' section on the Sunnycroft homepage.