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Giving the garden a new lease of life

Visitor and staff in front of glasshouse, Attingham, Shropshire
Glasshouses in Frame Yard at Attingham, Shropshire | © National Trust Images/ James Dobson

Work is beginning to make Attingham's glasshouses a safer, more accessible space for all. This work will both improve the appearance of the Walled Garden and provide a practical workspace for our gardeners to grow lots of fresh produce.

Glasshouses in Attingham's Walled Garden

When the Walled Garden was established (c.1780) this included the building of glasshouses. During this time, glasshouses would have been the latest innovative, horticultural technology that Georgian gardeners could deploy to extend the growing season at both ends of the year.

Exotic fruits such as pineapples, melons, and grapes could be grown for the Berwick family whose fortunes were on the rise at this time.

The glasshouses provided ‘hot-house’ conditions for their produce, as they were protected by glass, and had heating pipes running through them. The glasshouses were serviced by a small boiler/furnace house on the north side of the north wall in the Walled Garden. One of these are still in situ, however no longer in use.

In the Walled Garden today, there are three glasshouses in the Frame Yard: the Melon House, Tomato House and Pinery Vinery.

Attingham’s lean-to glasshouses, the Tomato House and Pinery Vinery, were built in 1924 and were manufactured by Ducan Tucker & Sons Ltd. of Tottenham. Since their original construction, both glasshouses have received many repair schemes, replacing much of the original fabric.

However, these two glasshouses are in a very poor condition that make them inaccessible, and unusable. This is due to the glasshouses being prone to all weather conditions and naturally weathering over time due to being constructed from timber. Replacement for this densely grained timber is hard to source and, with lead paint no longer in use due to its toxicity, can be difficult and expensive to maintain.

Historic photo of 4 gardeners with a football in front of glasshouses at Attingham, Shropshire.
Historic photo of gardeners with a football in front of glasshouses at Attingham, Shropshire. | © National Trust Archives

Carefully dismantling the glasshouses

Experts within the National Trust have undergone a long consultation process where several options have been explored. After much research and careful consideration, it has been concluded that rather than carrying out repair works, a like-for-like replacement of the glasshouses would be the best option to retain as much of the historic fabric as possible, and last for decades to come.

Time has been taken to carefully, sympathetically design the replacement glasshouses to ensure that they will be constructed of strong, quality materials that will be easier for us to care for in the future. A combination of hard wood and aluminium has been chosen to retain the historic character of the glasshouses and reinstate a useable space for the working Walled Garden that can be sustainably maintained.

During the first phase of this work, specialist heritage contractors will carefully dismantle the Tomato House and Pinery Vinery to retain the historic metalwork fixings, brick plinths, and raised beds. The historic fixings will then be conserved ready to be reinstated into the replacement glasshouses.

This approach will ensure that Attingham’s glasshouses will last for many years, allowing the gardeners to reincorporate the glasshouse back into the working Walled Garden, and for Attingham’s visitors to enjoy.

Gardener at work in Melon House, at Attingham Park, Shropshire
Gardener at work in the Melon House at Attingham Park | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

A new lease of life

In Summer 2024, the first of the replacement glasshouses, the Tomato House, will be built. Specialists will work in the Frame Yard to carefully build these new structures, while incorporating historic fixtures from the original glasshouses. Attingham’s replacement glasshouses will be made of strong, quality materials that will conserve the historic appearance and functions of the Walled Garden.