The Foster & Pearson glasshouse
The crown of our restored walled garden is the 1920s ‘Foster & Pearson’ glasshouse commissioned by Roger Parr. Prior to the nineteenth century, glasshouses were a thing of rare beauty, only attainable to the very wealthy. The combination of both window tax and glass tax made even the smallest conservatory extremely expensive.
The repeal of both taxes in the late eighteen hundreds as well as social factors such as new wealth brought in by the industrial revolution, glasshouses became extremely popular by the Victorian age, Queen Victoria herself commissioned several Foster & Pearson greenhouses to be built for her kitchen gardens at Windsor. Innovations in the machine tool industry, improved shipping and the reduced cost of wrought and cast iron meant small glasshouses were popping up in many middle class homes.
Parr’s restoration of the walled garden at The Weir was no exception and he spared no expense in using the same reputable company as the late Queen Victoria. After being sympathetically restored by the National Trust after years of neglect after Parr’s death in the forties, you are still able to see this wonderful feature when you visit.
Why were Foster & Pearson glasshouse so sought after and expensive you may ask? These glasshouses were innovative in design. Each pane had a curved bottom edge, commonly known as ‘beaver tail’ glass. This directed rainwater towards the centre of each pane and away from woodwork to prevent rotting. It also helped collect more rainwater in the storage tanks below the glasshouse which was then used to tender plants during dry spells.
Before Parr’s time, OS maps show another glasshouse stood, situated in the spot of the Foster and Pearson one we see today. It is thought this was commissioned by John Griffiths’ who resided on the estate. With six children to feed he would have utilised the glasshouse alongside his kitchen garden. Records show the glasshouse was used year round with vegetables such as mushrooms, asparagus and rhubarb being forced over winter.
During Parr’s time, his impressive glasshouse was used to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in the first section, a fig tree in the central part and hardy plants in the end section. Cucumbers would hang from the ceiling, while below tomato plants were planted in champagne boxes and grew up canes.
Thanks to our generous supporters, you can visitor the glasshouse today. Our gardeners still plant in the same format today so you can step back in time and relived the gardens heyday of the 1920s when you next visit.