Victorian Glasshouses: From derelict to delightful


As well as creating beautiful bespoke kitchens in a range of styles, we also offer careful restorations and reproductions of Victorian glasshouses, including lean-to, 3/4 span or full span on a supply-only basis. 

Mike Ashwin, our director, explains how we lovingly restore glasshouses, transforming them from a derelict casing to a delightful showcase in Victorian ingenuity and contemporary craftsmanship.

“On the grounds of a Victorian property in Leicestershire in the late 1990s, held together (quite literally) but three grapevines, was a derelict  ‘Forster & Pearson’ Vinery. We had just installed one of our hand-built kitchens when we were asked if we could restore the ailing building. We arranged a price, and work commenced.

We ‘dipped our toe’, as it were, a little deeper last year at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and were surprised when our modest display secured two projects: one a magnificent group of glasshouses stretching over 171 feet.

Concerned about maintenance? Don’t be.

Our research over the years into producing these restorations has shown that many people are, understandable, concerned about maintenance, but technology has moved on. My own glasshouse, built partly as an experiment, is now in its eighth year and the paint shows no signs of a breakdown. A good clean with sugar soap at the end of each season seems to be sufficient to maintain its condition.

Faithfully reproduced

Each part of the glasshouse is faithfully reproduced in our workshops from Scandinavian Redwood, using the original timber as a template. We have a comprehensive range of cutters for making glazing bars, cills and door mouldings, enabling us to create perfect replicas of the original parts.

The components are then put together in our paint shop and given a full system of the very best coatings available, before erection on site.

The essence, in my opinion, of replicating these buildings lies in the interior ironwork. ‘Big boys toys’ as the late John Nelson (Lost Gardens of Heligan) called them! Venting tackle that can open 20 feet of front lights with one handle, likewise counter balanced 20 foot roof lights, once again opened by one handle. All a testimony to Victorian ingenuity. Where originals are not available, faithful castings from original parts are commissioned.

The feeling of walking into one of these derelict structures takes one straight back to the Victorian/Edwardian era in which they were originally created.

To be able to recreate these magnificent glasshouses is a great privilege and we are pleased to be able to offer the same attention to detail on a newly-built project as we would on a restoration. We attend to all aspects of the woodwork and glazing, site fitting to existing walls, or in case of a new build, to pre-constructed bases.

Brickwork can be undertaken by us, however, all groundworks and concreting, etc, would need to be done prior.”

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Thinking of choosing Hill Farm Furniture to bring your classic glasshouse back to life? Don’t take our word for it; let our timeless craftsmanship do the talking…

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