A rare example of a 19th century curvilinear glasshouse has been restored at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank in Cheshire after a year-long restoration project.
The 1820s glasshouse was built to supply the owners of Quarry Bank mill, the Greg family, with tender fruit of the time, such as grapes and peaches.
Although the National Trust acquired the 18th century cotton mill in 1939, it was only in 2010 that the kitchen garden was acquired by the conservation charity. The jewel in the crown of this walled garden was the severely damaged curvilinear glasshouse, a name given to the structure because of its uniquely shaped roof.
Eleanor Underhill, Quarry Bank’s general manager, said: “We knew that we had something special here and that hidden under years of decay and old corrugated sheeting was a remarkable glasshouse which had stood derelict for many years.
“We carried out archaeological, structural and historic research into the building which revealed that it is one of the earliest curvilinear hot houses in the country. We knew then that we had to save it.”
In 2014, Buttress was appointed by the National Trust as architects to the restoration.
The initial stages of the project involved the careful dismantling of the glasshouse’s damaged cast iron frame. The frame was then removed from site and taken to a workshop where, over six months, engineers from Dorothea Restorations carried out painstaking work to make repairs and identify missing pieces of the structure.
The new structural frame was then recast using metal recycled from old automotive parts and reassembled. More than 7,500 panes of glass were then used to fill the frame.
Sarah Witts, Quarry Bank’s Head Gardener, said: “Seeing the glasshouse restored to its former glory is a real delight. It is such a unique structure and tells us a lot about the lives of the Greg family and the luxuries they would have enjoyed compared with the mill workers.
“With our newly installed biomass boiler, we’ll be able to heat sections of the glasshouse so that exotic plants such as orchids and palms along with fruits including grapes and peaches that the Gregs would have enjoyed, can once again be grown here.”
As well as the glasshouse, the adjoining back sheds that were once the potting area for the estate’s gardeners and the location of the boilers, have been restored. These ‘interactive potting sheds’ will allow visitors to discover the story of the people who cared for the garden.
Stephen Anderson, Associate Director at Buttress, added: “The restoration of the glasshouse was a fascinating project to be involved in and it’s a real pleasure to see it complete. I look forward to seeing it back in bloom and create a focal point for the upper garden, much like it did more than 200 years ago.”
The restoration of the glasshouse is part of a major four year, £9.4 million project to transform Quarry Bank and reflect its position as a rare survival of a complete industrial community, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and other generous organisations and individuals.