Our Victorian Glasshouses are obviously a little bit special. They were built in the mid to late 1800’s by Foster and Pearson Ltd of Nottingham, who were renowned for their horticultural buildings and commissioned on several occasions by Queen Victoria. But we think they are more than just a little bit special – and the Walled Kitchen Gardens Network agrees:
‘Foster & Pearson Ltd certainly ranks among the best glasshouse manufacturers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This company built glasshouses to the highest standards of craftsmanship and horticultural design, using only the best materials. It is these attributes which have enabled so many of their glasshouses to stand the test of time.
Examples of individual Foster & Pearson houses are therefore not unusual, but large, complete ranges are rare. It is for this reason that we believe, as representatives of the Walled Kitchen Garden Network, that the range at Tongswood is a most significant survival. It should definitely be preserved, both for continued horticultural use and as a heritage asset.’
Walled Kitchen Gardens Network
We are doing our utmost to preserve these precious pieces of history. However, the fragile nature of our wood and glass structures means that we are in a constant state of restoration and conservation.
In 2016, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council gave us permission to place a conservatory roof over the existing Victorian Vinery, our largest glasshouse. The Vinery is now home to our Vinery Café instead of sitting empty, slowly rotting. We plan to use the profits from the Vinery to rebuild each of our glasshouses over time, then something amazing happened!
For around 100 years, our glasshouses have had piece meal repairs carried out by anyone who was willing to take on these demanding structures. They are now beyond any more cobbling together. Polyfilla and paint over rotten wood is not the answer! In 2017, we received a six figure sum from the granddaughter of the original Head Gardener of our estate, Ernest Hardcastle. This hugely generous gift is being spent on rebuilding our Carnation, Cucumber, Pelargonium House and Hot House.
Each brick has to be repointed; the cast iron will be sandblasted, cleaned up, restored and repainted. The glass will be removed and catalogued. The majority of the original materials will be reused. The wood however is no longer fit for purpose. We will be rebuilding these four glasshouses using Accoya, a softwood which is acid treated so that it becomes more like a hard wood. Work is due to begin in 2017 and we will have a display of the intricate drawings needed to carry out this very complicated task in the glasshouses once they are rebuilt.
In recognition of this lifeline, we will be naming the glasshouses after Ernests family and of course, the great man himself.
We are very lucky to receive a lot of moral support from our visitors and luckier still that many have generously requested to contribute financially. Therefore we created our Wall of Pane Sponsorship project. If you would like to read more about the Wall of Pane, or are interested in helping to conserve our glasshouses, please click here