Victorian glasshouse is opened

The newly-restored Victorian glasshouse at St Mary's House in Bramber has officially opened.

Caroline, Lady Egremont, of Petworth House, declared the glasshouse officially open in front of a team of volunteer gardeners and visitors.

Caroline Egremont is a distinguished garden designer in her own right. In 1998, she gaccepted the invitation to become Patron of the St. Mary’s Bramber ‘Lost Gardens Appeal’, which succeeded in raising some £30,000 towards the acquisition and restoration of the former Victorian kitchen garden.

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The Glasshouse was originally built in the 1890s by prestigious horticultural engineers, John Weeks & Company of Chelsea, employed by the then owners of St Mary’s Bramber, The Hon. Gwendoline and Algernon Bourke. The couple employed Weeks to construct the walled kitchen-garden, pineapple pits, potting sheds, apple store, and five glasshouses.

A century later, it was thought that the historic Glasshouse, the only survivor out of the five original Victorian glasshouses, was beyond repair and would have to be demolished. Severely damaged in the 1987 storm, much of the timber-framing had collapsed, lime and mortar was crumbling, wet rot had set in to the wooden frame, fungus was rampant, and ivy had run riot right through the back wall. A visitor to the house, Terry Streamer, who happened to be a builder, decided that the Glasshouse could and should be saved. Using old-type joints as employed by the original manufacturer, the machining of the modern metric timber had to be recalculated to imperial dimensions for any replacements, whilst preserving every piece of the original woodwork and fittings that could be saved.

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