Appeal launched for Victorian glasshouse
West Dean Gardens has launched an appear to restore the Victorian glasshouses in the walled kitchen garden at their gardens near Chichester, West Sussex.
Built by Foster & Pearson between 1891 and 1900 they are some of the few remaining in active use in the UK and are fine examples of the social aspirations and technological advancements of Victorian Britain.
It will cost over £30,000 to carry out restoration work on just one of the different types of glasshouses which range from cucumber and pineapple pits to vine houses. Maintenance is an ongoing project but two glasshouses are in need of urgent repair.
The West Dean Estate was bought by William James in 1892 and in the early 20th century the family used the estate as a social centre. Edward VII was a frequent visitor at shooting parties and this lifestyle created a huge demand on the Kitchen Garden and its 22 dedicated gardeners. The glasshouses were heated by the boiler which had to be stoked by hand throughout the night, however, today they are heated by a biomass boiler which is fuelled by trimmed materials from West Dean’s forestry enterprise.
The era of growing copious varieties of fruit, flowers and vegetables became problematic during the First and Second World Wars when the workforce was called up to fight. The concept of a Walled Garden is becoming rare and this style of gardening is under threat of disappearing. Most of the remaining walled gardens have lost their original glasshouses.
Today, almost 35,000 visitors come to West Dean Gardens every year and people can learn about Victorian engineering in gardening from the glasshouses.
Head Gardener Jim Buckland and his wife, Gardens Supervisor, Sarah Wain, with the support of a small permanent gardens team and volunteers, have redeveloped the 90 acre grounds and arboretum to bring the 19th century gardens into the 21st century. They are now a showcase of horticultural variety and quality and include many interesting architectural delights, including a 300 foot Edwardian Pergola designed by Harold Peto, 13 restored Victorian glasshouses, four sets of glass frames and a newly restored sunken garden.
Visitors to West Dean can also enjoy wild and woodland gardens, an arboretum and orchards as well as the walled and kitchen gardens and ornamental gardens.
West Dean Gardens forms part of The Edward James Foundation Ltd., which also comprises West Dean College, the West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. The college runs over 700 short courses in arts, crafts, music and gardening every year as well as full time postgraduate programmes in conservation and creative arts.
Please help in this vital conservation work by making a donation. Donations to the appeal can be made by logging onto the donation page at: www.westdean.org.uk/appeal