Our understanding and use of modern Conservatories has allowed creative means for the expansion for familial living throughout our wood-making world. Often discussion around these wonderful structures focuses on their affordable nature in comparison to brick structural expansion, or the benefits they give in the colder months when it comes to enjoying your garden, regardless of the United Kingdom’s affinity for downpour.
The history behind the rise of the modern conservatory gives interesting insight into the development from a building solely focused around housing and protecting exotic plants and fruits, to a fully-fledged social hub for familial life.
The development of comparative structures began in the early 16th century, gaining popularity throughout Italy in the form of practical “orangeries”, structurally cramped in concept based around the preservation of Citrus plants throughout the colder months. Known as “Limonaia” in reference to their main use for housing lemons, these structures had yet to take on their modern familial role that we understand today.
These at first purely practical concepts began to see interesting innovation in regards to their role and purpose throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. With developments in glasswork, particularly based around dutch developments in sloping glass, Victorian conservatories began to focus to a larger extent on a balance between practical, horticultural aspects with a newly introduced factor of recreational capacity.
You can see a fantastic, local instance of this in the 1835 Orangery sitting in Wrest Park, Silsoe. Unconventional at the time in it’s design, it was built around an imaginative take on french design, featuring classical decor focused around creating a unique living space. Though considered an Orangery, you can clearly begin to imagine the innovative thought that was slowly beginning to enter the common perception of orangeries and conservatories. The De Grey Orangery shows a greater focus towards creating a recreational space, which began to become a more featured part of conservatory construction.
This lead to the 19th century seeing a huge increase in English conservatories, combining our national love of gardening with new glass technology that enabled larger structures to be built with a focus on window space, with these victorian conservatories beginning to develop the modern concept of conservatories featuring the majority of its surfaces being glass plained. Larger architectural designs such as the Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace, the largest exotic conservatory built at the time, lead to an incredible increase in conservatory construction.
After construction lulled during the Second World War, a resurgence in modern conservatories picked up again in the 1970s, with modern construction methods following closely from victorian developments lead to the modern abundance we see today.
Though their history can be closely followed as a desire for practical storing of exotic fruits, we can clearly see how conservatories took on a life larger than that function. Becoming recreational in purpose, they have since become a key room in our familial homes, giving us access to our gardens in the winter whilst providing extra living space in general; their rich history has barely been scratched, and promises many future innovations to come.