We're 'Rooting for Restoration' at The Weir as the glasshouse is in need of repair
The Foster & Pearson glasshouse inside The Weir’s walled garden really is a thing of beauty. At around seventy foot long the impressive structure houses a myriad of interesting plants including a ‘Black Hamburg’ grape vine, Wall trained fig trees and a vigorous Red Angel's Trumpet. While it has endured for many years it is now beginning to show signs of wear. Read on and discover how we plan to revive this special feature, keeping it safe for future generations to enjoy.
When Roger Parr moved to The Weir in the 1920s he set about making it his final home; sparing no expense in creating a small haven alongside the Wye to spend the rest of his days. One of Parr’s most prized possessions was his very own Foster & Pearson glasshouse which is still utilised in the walled garden today. Manufactured in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, the Foster & Pearson glasshouse was a state of the art design, with underfloor heating fed from a boiler and beaver tailed glass panes, carefully crafted to allow water to flow down the centre. At seventy foot long, it’s the heart of the garden, growing produce year-round, protecting plants, vegetables and flowers from the cold; a hub of life, activity and colour throughout the year.
Parr received much pleasure from living alongside the Wye. A keen fisherman and socialite he hosted many parties within the garden alongside his life-long companion and chauffeur, Victor Morris. After thirty happy years at The Weir, Parr passed away in 1958, bequeathing the garden to the National Trust with the condition Morris stayed on living here until his own death in 1985.
By the time the National Trust had come to care for The Weir the garden it had fallen into a sorry state. Eventually the mansion house was sympathetically refurbished and let as a nursing home and work on the garden began with intentions to open it to the public as Parr’s 1920s vision. Over the years the rustic fishing hut was completely refurbished, the viewing bridge was rebuilt, and the retaining wall was repaired after a landslide.
It wasn’t until 2009 until Head Gardener at the time, Ned Price and his team of ambitious volunteers decided they wanted to tackle the walled garden, after the door had been shut for many almost fifty years leaving it in a completely wild state.
Due to lack of funding the glasshouse was only partly restored in the 1990s. It was in a poor state, no glass remained, and self-seeded trees had rooted through benches. After contractors cleared the trees, they installed straight-cut glass panes to keep the structure stable. In preparation for the glasshouse opening to the public in 2009, it was repainted and repaired and to match the original Foster & Pearson design, the straight-cut panes were replaced with ‘beaver-tail’ glass which is curved along the bottom edge to allow rainwater to run off.
The restoration project was a long and continuous journey but the team were elated in 2010 when the garden had its first harvest in many decades, once again filling the glasshouse with pumpkins, onions and squash.
The magnificent glasshouse was once again made usable and even today continues to be a sanctuary for volunteers and visitors whilst providing fresh fruit and vegetables for everyone to enjoy. Inside, original metal pillars support shelves at different levels and grape vines work their way up from the outside soil. It once again supports a variety of plants from figs, chillies, tomatoes and even carnivorous tropical plants; a fascinating sight for all age groups.
" The walled garden is a piece of heaven, sadly neglected for fifty years and now being loved and developed by a wonderful bunch’"
It has been eleven years since the glasshouse was last refurbished and now time is beginning to take its toll on the centennial structure. The original wooden staging is beginning to rot and ageing timbers are beginning to sag. Deteriorating masonry is in need of replacing and a great deal of re-puttying and repainting is needed throughout and the floor has been notably worn and will soon need replacing.
In time, many wooden glasshouses have been demolished and replaced with metal frames, rather than repairing the wood, which is both time consuming and expensive. A wooden glasshouse of this scale and beauty is a rarity in this day and age which is why this year at The Weir Garden we will be fundraising to preserve the glasshouse.
Repairing the glasshouse is going to cost approximately £40,000 which although is a large amount, we think it may be attainable with National Trust supporters help. Each year we welcome approximately 33,000 visitors to The Weir Garden, if everyone gave just a pound we’d almost hit our target!
How to help us fundraise:
- The best way to help us fundraise is through purchasing a raffle ticket from Visitor Reception. Although it’s a national raffle all funds from tickets sold here at The Weir Garden go directly into restoring the glasshouse and the National Trust have even pledged to double the money meaning every £1 you spend equates to £2 for us, plus you’re in with a chance of winning £10,000!
- Pop some loose change into one of our charity boxes. No matter how small your donation is it’s all a step in the right direction and it quickly adds up.
- Using the tea-tent. Money made in the tea-tent from drink and cake sales cover costs as well as make a little bit extra which goes directly into the project.
- Browse our second-hand bookshop. All proceeds from our donated books, games and DVDs go towards the restoration of the glasshouse.