The great British conservatory is, of course, something that has evolved over the ages, from the earliest glasshouses to today’s high-tech home improvements.
The original glasshouses were first seen in this country in from the thirteenth century onward, and were public, scientific affairs designed to house the plants which explorers had brought back from distant lands.
It was in the sixteenth century that that the concept of the orangery was first introduced, originating from Italy’s Renaissance gardens as it became possible to create big enough pieces of clear glass. The early models were structures made from glass, stone, wood and brick and housed citrus trees. At the same time, people often socialised in their orangeries, which were symbols of status and wealth, and used them for hosting afternoon tea parties. These buildings also stored plants – first citrus trees and then other species.
There were often elaborate grotto’s and fountains in the earliest orangeries, and guests would be taken on tours to admire the plants and the architecture.
During the eighteenth century, glass making techniques became more advanced, while the industrial revolution made steel production cheaper. The orangery at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1761 and, in its day, was England’s biggest glasshouse.
In Victorian times, conservatories became a status symbol for the wealthier classes. Aspects of their grand, intricate metal and glass styles can still be seen in today’s conservatories. In fact, the nineteenth century was something of a golden age of conservatory construction.
Meanwhile, during the Edwardian era, conservatories slowly stopped being the sole preserve of the moneyed elite. At the same time, these structures gradually became more of an integral part of the main house.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, widespread conservatory building stopped. And it was really only in the 1970s that the Victorian style of nineteenth century conservatory began to be recreated on any scale in domestic homes.
In modern times, one of the big trends with conservatories is the way they are used for a wide variety of purposes, from dining and living to places of work, or even for sleeping in. The range of materials and designs on offer is greater than ever, and modern technology makes it possible to have energy efficient glass, for example, that lets in maximum natural light while keeping a year-round steady temperature.
At Oasis Windows, we make full use of this latest technology, whatever style you choose, across Sussex from Bexhill to Newhaven. Like conservatories themselves, we have a strong history. Talk to us today.