A Short Overview Of How The Conservatory Came Into Being

A conservatory may at first seem like a bizarre structure. It resembles a greenhouse, but in many domestic circumstances is not used to house plants. However, this was not always the case, and historically nature played a large part in creating the conservatories and orangeries we know and love today.

Emanating from Italy, the early structure of our contemporary conservatory was called a limonaia. It was used primarily to preserve citrus plants amongst other vulnerable species. At a time when seeds were being collected and brought back from South America and Australia, the Europeans had to find a way to provide the plants with the heat of their usual habitats. The limonaia was a basic structure which utilised wood panels to protect against the cold.

Whilst this was occurring, however, civilisations in more northern areas of Europe were beginning to consider how to preserve oranges. A structure was then invented, which gave way to the term Orangery. These were buildings made with stone, brick or wood, with large vertical windows to allow light to come in. Later, the usage of conservatories and orangeries began to expand, so that they were used for recreation in the form of social events such as tea parties.

By the 18th century the Dutch developed the idea of using slopping glass to let more light in for the plants than just the tall glass windows on the wall. However, excessive glass will have been avoided, since there was a tax on glass until 1845. This tax was based on the weight of the glass, and so double glazing would have not been as popular as it is now, reducing the effectiveness of the conservatories.

When the 19th century came around, the English began to build conservatories as a product of new glass and heating technologies – as well as because of the British love of gardening. The ‘50s and ‘60s was a time of increasing popularity for the conservatory as insulated glass and under floor heating was invented.

However, it was not until the 1970s that we began to build the Victorian and Edwardian styled conservatories in homes, which then lead us to today and the extensive range of conservatories now on offer. Compare our conservatories with the Italian limonaia to see how much they’ve changed, or even stayed the same.

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