Art in The Conservatory & Greenhouse (Maurice Adams)

The following paper was read before the Leeds Architectural Association, by Mr. Maurice B. Adams, A.R.I.B.A., on Thursday, January 15th, 1880:

Probably there is no branch of domestic architecture which has received less attention from the hands of the profession than that which comprises the several kinds of structures known under the generic term of horticultural buildings, while the entire absence of any concise or practical treatise of recent date on the subject renders unnecessary, I trust, any apology on my part for bringing the matter before your notice on the present occasion. When your secretary renewed his previous application to me last autumn, to read a paper before your Society, I was busily engaged in designing a series of conservatories and greenhouses, and having experienced a difficulty in obtaining technical particulars embracing the more recent improvements in buildings of this class, it occurred to me that a few notes for the use of others would, perhaps, be of some value. The subject under the title of ” Art in the Conservatory and Greenhouse” is a very wide one, and the limited time, both at your disposal and mine, will render anything like an exhaustive paper quite out of the question. A few leading details, from a constructive and architectural point of view, is all that I can pretend now to contribute for your discussion. And, indeed, in these days of restless haste, when most affairs have to be considered and executed with as little delay as possible, facts, above all things, must be required and that in a concise manner, at once straightforward and of easy access. Mere literary display in a paper on a practical subject, such as that before us, is better avoided as out of place, and as tending to confuse. I would therefore, ask your forbearance, should my lecture appear rather dry and matter-of-fact in its character.

The great advantages of conservatories and glass-houses of all kinds, both in immediate connection with dwelling-houses, and as detached buildings in garden-grounds are, of course, beyond dispute, while all intelligent minds can but find delight in the cultivation of flowers and fruit, even if circumstances will but allow of such a pastime being conducted only in a very limited decree. Lord Bacon tersely says: “God Almighty first planted a garden : and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures : it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of men” ; and Cowper adds, ” Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.” Nothing can add to the grace and comfort of a house so much as natural flowers. Decorators and furnishers, whether they belong to the Classic, the Mediaeval, the Queen Anne, the French, Modem, or any schools, will never make the comforts of a well-appointed dwelling in any sense complete, without some judicious use of flowers in their living state. The charm of a cottage, more than often, is to be found in its window-flowers, while the not very hospitable arrangements of an almshouse home are rendered enviable by the charmingly bright flower-beds and pots which nearly always are found in connection with such dwellings. Simple and trite as such commonplace remarks are they refer to facts which really lay at the root of the matter : for if there be one question of domestic economy, so to speak, occupying the attention of ordinarily cultivated people at the present time more than another, it is, in hackneyed phrase, ” art at home.” How to make one’s home in some sense artistic ? In the days of the Gothic Revival, as it is called, almost every effort was concentrated on the artistic building and furnishing of churches, and so generally has this feeling extended itself, that Nonconformists of every shade have long since become by no means behind-hand m imitating the High School of the Church of England, which may claim to have originated the movement in ecclesiastical matters. For all this enthusiasm architects can but be very thankful—this desire on the part of the public for a more artistic and appropriate treatment of things. Of course, much of it is no deeper than mere fashion, still use seldom fails to prove itself a second nature, and, already, the honest seeking for art at home has established itself as a fact. Furniture manufacturers, paper-hangers, and even drapers, have had discernment sufficient to notice this ; and further, it may be remarked that in several very important instances, much that should have fallen into the hands of architects to design has been executed by trading firms such as these, while some tradesmen have gone so far as to charge and obtain professional fees as decorative artists. The architectural profession has failed to secure much of the work alluded to, chiefly because it shrank somewhat from the opportunity thus presented, and it has been much the same with horticultural buildings, which either have been treated as of very secondary importance or relegated to the carpenter and builder to design. “Why should anything do for a conservatory ? Often, and more than often, one sees adjoining a pretentious and evidently costly house a mere glazed shed of the ugliest proportions, evidently the production of some house carpenter or mere greenhouse builder, and occasionally when an attempt has been made by the architect to render the conservatory in keeping with the architectural character of the house, it is to be feared that almost all the requirements of a building for plant-growing have been overlooked, the chief and only thought being to make the structure architectural. In the days when Gothic was thought to be the only Style for every kind of building, some of the most singular things conceivable were built in the way of conservatories. All the glories of the stop chamfer were intensified, and heavily-braced framing, which was quite out of place, with diagonal jointed boarding, ad lib., in short, all the incongruous mouldings and shapings of the residence itself, were brought to bear in the glasshouse adjoining ; and if one looks back to earlier days, when Classic architecture was thought more suitable, it will usually be found that conservatories were constructed in such a heavy style, and of such lofty proportions that it was almost impossible for any gardener to grow either flowers or fruit with success in them. But surely at the present time there can be no excuse, seeing that eclecticism rules with absolute sway in everything, especially in art. I do not say that such a rule is a good one—far from it ; but it is evident that no trammels of any architectural school need prevent conservatories and horticultural buildings from being treated in a common -sense and really artistic manner, whether they belong simply to the limited form of a window fern-box and glasshouse of a town dwelling flat, or the more extended character of conservatory proper and winter garden. The regular nurseryman s glass buildings also might with advantage, and without much extra cost, be made more picturesque, and the thought is worth consideration, even from a money-making point of view, seeing that his stock would show to better advantage, though it is to be feared that a long time will elapse before many are led to take this view of the matter. On the walls are exhibited a series of more than 30 designs of buildings, embracing most forms of garden architecture, which I have prepared for execution alone and in conjunction with Mr. E. W. Godwin, F.S.A. These designs must be taken simply for what they are worth, and judged according to their merits ; but probably they will illustrate my ideas better than a written description alone of what one has carried out. At the conclusion of my paper I will briefly allude to some of the drawings in particular. It may, however, be here remarked that nearly all the exhibited designs are in either ” the Adams” style, or, perhaps, rather in what has been called ” Queen Anne,” and it is in this respect of style I fancy that we have a considerable advantage over those who worked either in the Classic or Gothic manners. Neither Classic nor Gothic forms are. per se, suited for the interior finishings of ordinary domestic dwellings now, and most people will, I think, agree that the later styles just referred to are eminently adapted for our modern requirements. Mr. E. W. Godwin has very cleverly introduced an adaptation which he calls Anglo-Japanese, for one or two conservatory designs, and these will commend themselves to you. There is this to be said, however, about styles : that although the “Free Classic,” to use an appropriate term, lends itself to the horizontal lines and square openings of our modern houses, it really matters but very very little what style a thoroughly competent architect determines to work in, though of course he will succeed best in the style with which he is most familiar, but under most circumstances a true artist is able to produce a suitable design with thought and study in any style, and he often, out of the most elementary materials, succeeds in giving his client a well-proportioned and inexpensive building devoid at once of bad taste as well as the commonplace. On the other hand, an indifferent architect or designer will fail in producing anything good, be the style or outlay what it may, and the chief cause of failure is generally to be found in the fact that too great an attempt is made. And if this be true in house and “church building where the precedent is frequently followed, how much more must one expect it to be the case in horticultural building in which the most simple forms are needed, and where all pretence should carefully be avoided. Any architectural design worthy of being classed as a work of art should first of all be simply the outcome of the purposes for which the structure is intended, and it must always be folly on the part of the architect if he attempt to persuade himself or his client that a building is in good taste when it fails to fulfil the objects for which it was built. A conservatory of whatever kind must above all things be a practical building, and there is no reason why it should not be made in an equal degree a thoroughly artistic one, even where limited outlay governs the proceeding, provided of course a reasonable amount is to be expended.

Requirements to be Met.

With these few preliminary remarks we may turn to a few particulars regarding the practical requirements of the class of structures under notice, in all of which light and heating requirements, with a ready means of ventilation, are among the chief considerations to be observed. The working houses in a garden, that is the houses which are exclusively devoted to the growing of plants and fruit, are rather numerous. They comprise the plant house, intermediate house, stove, forcing houses, propagating houses, orchid house, vineries, peach house or orchard house, pine -pits, melon and cucumber houses, &c. In large establishments we frequently find houses devoted to one particular flower, as camellia-houses, azalia-houses, palm-houses, rosaries, &c, &c. Vineries have also to be so arranged that ripe grapes may be had all the year through. In order to do this special attention has to be paid to heating, so as to ensure a proper temperature as may be required, no matter what may be the temperature out-of-doors. It is also of equal importance, as I have just said, that a thorough ventilation should be obtainable at any time, and without special attention to these points in particular, no house can be considered a success. To briefly notice the various houses already enumerated may not here be out of place, giving at the same time a few details, most of which will be of service to an architect who may have to build glass-houses for general purposes of any kind, such as those in connection with houses especially requiring a more ornamental treatment than the special buildings now referred to.

Plant-houses.

“We will take the Plant-house first. This is frequently made a span-roofed structure, and 18ft. wide is found to be a width which will admit of the most advantageous arrangement of fittings. It is usual to place a flat stage on either side and a stepped one in the centre, thus leaving a walk all round the house. The pipes for heating can be conveniently arranged under the side stages. A span roof is the best form that can be erected, as the plants, having light all round them, are not so liable to be drawn to one side or the other, and thus become of bad shapes, as they are likely to be in lean-to houses. A span-roof house should be placed with the ends north and south, as by this means each side secures an equal amount of sun. The length from end to end may vary according to circumstances, but it is generally advisable not to have one house more than 40 or 50ft. long, as by dividing it up and heating each house separately, the gardener is afforded greater facilities for growing his plants. The heating-apparatus can easily be regulated in connection with one furnace as at Kew, where one big boiler heats three or more houses.

The Half-span house is the next best, and is very frequently used where a back wall exists. The light is not so well distributed as in a span, but the house has a great advantage over the lean-to-house for plants. Internally, the most convenient arrangement will be to have a flat stage in the front and a stepped stage at the back. I may here say that if no other provision be made for obtaining water, warmed in proportion to the temperature of the house in which it is to be used for watering the plants, a tank or cistern should be arranged in the floor of the structure for this purpose, a trough under the passage-way is a good method.

A “Lean-to” would be fitted in the same way ; both half-span and lean-to buildings should run east to west facing the south, and rather inclining towards the east. In this country the angle of 45° is, for most purposes, found the best pitch for horticultural buildings generally.

For Plant-houses 1ft. of 4in. pipe for every 28 or 30 cubic feet of air will be found to give a proper temperature.

The Intermediate house is used for growing plants that require a somewhat higher temperature than the plant-house, but not so high as the stove. One foot of 4in. pipe to about 25 cubic feet of air will answer best in this case, and in other respects the building resembles the plant-house.

The Stove House

The Stove-house is more usually made with iron stages carrying slate shelves covered with stone-chippings, sand, or small shells, on which the pots stand, thus obtaining a soakage for the superfluous moisture after watering ; and from an artistic point of view, this system of gravelling the shelves with small shells is much to be recommended, especially in ornamental houses, where the ground space should be laid out, as far as possible, in natural beds instead of devoting the room entirely to stages. If wooden stages were employed in stoves similar to those employed in the plant house, where they are made of stout laths 1½in. by 1in., about ⅝in. apart, it would be found that owing to the great heat kept up and the quantity of moisture usually produced that they would be liable to speedy decay. The stove may be either a span, half-span, or lean-to structure. Each form has its advantages, though all things considered, the span roof is the best. This house is heated in the proportion of one foot of 4 -in. pipe to about every 20 cubic feet of air, and the same system applies to the orchid house. These proportions must, of course, be taken as a medium guide, for it is evident that the quantity of pipe necessary to keep up a given temperature will vary according to different situations and local influences ; thus houses in the north of England and Scotland will require more pipe than those in the south of England. Also, a span roof, because it has a much greater cooling surface, will require more pipe than a half-span or lean-to, where the back consists of a brick wall, but the proportions of heating power which I have just given will be found sufficiently accurate for a basis. At the risk of being tedious, permit me to say a few words more with reference to the subject of heating, because the particulars may be of value for future reference, when a more strictly accurate rule than the above calculations is required. It has been found from careful experiments that one square foot of glass will cool 1¼ cubic feet of air per minute, as many degrees as the difference between the external and internal temperature. Therefore, having taken out the number of square feet of glass, multiply this by 1¼, which will give the number of cubic feet of air to be warmed per minute. Then proceed by the following rule :—Multiply 125 by the difference between the extreme external and internal temperature, and divide the product betwixt the temperature of the building and the pipes (the latter being usually calculated as at 200°), this quotient being again multiplied by the number of cubic feet necessary to be warmed per minute, and divided by 222, will give the number of feet of 4 -in. pipe required to bring the building to a proposed temperature. Suppose it be required, for example, to ascertain the quantity of pipe to heat a vinery with 400 square feet of glass to 75°, and, estimating the lowest external temperature at 20°, the calculation will be as follows :— 125 x 55 (difference of external and internal temperature) = 6875 / 125 (difference between temperatures of pipes and house) = 55, which multiply by 500 (number of feet of air to be warmed per minute) = 27,500 / 222 = 123¾, the number of feet of 4 -in. piping necessary.

Forcing-house.

The Forcing-House is used, as its name implies, for forcing-on plants, &c, before they are placed in the conservatory or other plant-houses. It is usually fitted with beds having pipes below them to heat the soil with what is called bottom heat, and Fig. 1 gives a section showing how the arrangements may be advantageously carried out. The beds are made with iron pillars supporting slates which form the bottom of the bed, the same material being used for the sides and ends. The air flues are formed in the wall of the building, and are so arranged in conjunction with the slate trough, so to speak, which carries the bed, that the heated air may pass up in the front as well as at the back, fresh air being admitted below in a flue, or air drain running from end to end, and which can be regulated at will. By this means the house can be supplied with fresh heated air when it is not desirable to open the front ventilators. And here it may be said that the most usual way of ventilating buildings of this kind is by allowing fresh air in at the lower portion of the building, either by an air-drain or by front ventilators, as shown in Fig 1, which, in some cases, are also repeated below the lights in the brickwork in the form of wooden doors or

flaps. The heated and vitiated air is then allowed to pass off at the apex of the roof by lifting lights worked from below. Any system which admits fresh cold air over the whole surface of the roof equally does not practically do the work so well, simply because no draught is set up, as is the case in buildings such as I have described ; and in very windy weather, much cold air which is not wanted must find its way into the building, when so many small ventilators exist all over the roof, a good number of which must necessarily soon fail to fit exactly as they may do when first fixed. With regard to the pipes being carried on bearers above the ground instead of their being buried in the soil, as is sometimes done, it is worthy of note that by this means they are less subject to moisture, and less liable to corrode. For forcing-houses, about one foot of 4in. pipe to from 15 to 16 cubic feet of air will be found a good proportion.

Propagating Houses are very similar to those last described, but are fitted with striking-boxes in addition to the beds; and this class of house is also suitable to cucumber and melon growing when provided with wires and frames, as shown by Fig. 1, on which the plants may grow.

Peach House

My diagram, No. 2, gives a good section for Peach Houses, which are frequently narrow, lean-to structures, from 8ft. to 14ft. wide, devoted to growing this beautiful fruit. A curved wire trellis (fixed on a pivot to lift up and down, bringing the fruit near or not to the glass) is provided in the front, as will be seen, on which to train the trees, and the back wall may be wired for other fruit. It will be observed in our section that the front is constructed with iron uprights or muntins, let into rough blocks of stone at the foot ; pockets cast on these uprights receive slates about fin. thick, and about Gin. deep. The rafters are secured to a bracket-head at the top, and provision is also made for the plate which carries the gutter. Thus a building is erected without brickwork, except for the back wall, and I am told that there are many competitors for the credit of having introduced slates into the construction of houses of tins kind. The trussed rafter is used for the purposes of lightness, and the tension-rods are useful for creepers to grow over, and for fixing other wires, for the same reason.

Orchard Houses

Orchard Houses may be like the last, but are generally span-roof structures of about 30ft. -wide, the height being in proportion. The trees are planted out in the soil, as they would be out of doors, care being taken to leave openings in the external walls under the surface, as in the peach-house, Fig. 2, where blocks of stone are used, or by means of arched brick walls, so as to allow the natural moisture of the earth from rains to permeate the soil-beds inside the building. Orchard-houses are often unheated, but sufficient pipes to keep out the frost should be provided.

Vineries

VINERIES are the most usual form of fruit-house, and are made of various forms. Three houses are necessary if grapes are wanted all the year round, and if it be intended to grow the fruit in the greatest perfection : One house for the earliest crop, one for the summer crop, and another for the autumn and winter crop. In large establishments this division is still further carried out, various kinds of grape being grown in different houses, and under varied treatment. The best form for a vinery is the span roof, provided it be properly ventilated at the apex, to let out the superabundant heat that accumulates there. If early grapes are intended, then the border must be entirely inside, but for a general crop, in order to give the vine a large pasture the walls are built on arches as already described, additional borders being provided outside or in some cases the vine may be brought through the wall, its root being planted entirely outside. The best aspect of such a vinery should be east and west. It will then have the benefit of the sunlight from the morning to the evening. Frequently circumstances allow but little choice in the aspect of glass buildings, but for the most part and especially for lean-to houses the south-eastern aspect is decidedly preferable to any other, whether they are intended for growing fruits or flowering plants. The sun’s rays in the morning are more strengthening and exhilarating to plants than at any other period of the day, and the rays of the evening’s sun, which may be lost if the building face the S.E., are of very little importance compared with the cheering beams of early morning, and it has been found, generally speaking, that plants are more prostrate d_ by the influence of the afternoon’s sun, when it is most powerful and oppressive, than at any other time. Vineries are frequently built against a wall either as lean-to or half-span buildings; they are generally built so for early vineries, as they are warmer than span-roof houses. For early vineries the proper amount of pipes is about 1ft. of 4in. pipe to 20 cubic feet of air, the proportion for late vineries being 1ft. to from 25 to 30 cubic feet.

Pine Pits

Pineries are similar to forcing-houses, but the beds are deeper in soil, and the lower part of the roof lights is made to slide so that the plants may be lifted out at pleasure, which is often a great convenience when the house is full. The hot-water pipes are of course in all the foregoing strictly speaking working houses, heated by boilers over furnaces fed with coke or small coal fires, but in ornamental buildings or those connected with the dwelling- house, the heating may be advantageously effected by the use of gas and air, provided, of course, that the furnace be entirely external to the conservatory. Mineral oil stoves are sometimes used for small glasshouses, but not, I think, with much success. Half measures generally are little better than failures. The sections which I have given in my diagrams, Nos. 1 and 2, are simply and entirely devoid of all attempt at anything beyond practical utility, they only present the necessary elements of such buildings ; my other pen-and ink perspective drawings, with plans, show how they may be made more in keeping with a simple artistic idea. Other architects have not failed to grasp the necessity of rendering their designs for similar structures with appropriate architectural treatment ; but the instances are by no means numerous, though I should be sorry to ignore anything which has already been done in that way.

The Palm Stove at Kew.

One of the earliest large buildings which still remain among the most important yet erected in England, is the celebrated and well-known palm- stove in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. It was built some thirty years ago, from the designs and under the direction of Mr. Decimus Burton, F.R.S. Mr. Burton, the architect, has most kindly lent me a copy of all the working drawings of this building, and I am thus enabled to show a general plan by Fig. 3, with a general cross section through the centre of the building by Fig. 4, and some details of the construction by Figs. 5 and 6. It will be seen that the entire length of the structure is 362ft. ; the centre is 100ft. wide and 66ft. in height ; the wings 50ft. wide and 30ft. high ; wrought-iron was used for the ribs of the roof, in lengths of about 12ft. long, which were welded together to form the required lengths, and then bent to the proper curve of the rib. Cast-iron sockets receive the ribs ; these sockets are sunk into granite blocks, upon a foundation of concrete. The cast-iron columns and the standards over them are hollow, and conduct the water from the gutter cornice of the upper roof into rainwater tanks, under the stone tables all round the entire interior, and these troughs are arranged here so that the water may be warmed by the temperature of the building before it is used for watering the plants, a necessity I have already pointed out. Fig. 5 shows a section of the main gutter cornice, and it illustrates the provision intended to carry off the condensed water of the interior, which, owing to the great quantity of iron surface, in cold weather is very considerable. I last visited this building during “one of the sharp frosts of the very severe weather which prevailed during the early part of last December, when a perfect rush of water was falling from the continuous gallery which runs round the central area of the house. The Board of Works had, at that time, not completed the intended alteration by which provision was to be made for the carrying off of this condensed water by means of a pipe from the above-mentioned gallery, where it collects in great quantities. An opening had merely been pierced in the gallery floors to receive the pipe, which was not then fixed, and hence, probably, the rush of water to which I refer. The building is heated, it seems to me, in the most perfect manner ; no less than 19,510ft. of hot-water 4in. piping being carried over the entire ground area of the building. This work was designed about three years since by Mr. E. G. Rivers, C.E., and executed by Messrs Simpson and Co., of Pimlieo.[1] Six large tubular boilers are arranged in the basement, three at either end ; two boilers being simply provided as a reserve in case of repairs in the others being necessary, and each boiler heats 4,877ft. of piping. Originally the architect arranged a series of underground flues, communicating with a smoke-tower, which was 96ft. high, at a distance of 500ft., but these arrangements have now been superseded by the flues from the furnaces being carried up within the wings of the building and the water supply is derived from tanks in Richmond Park, filled by engines near the temperate house in the Kew Gardens Pleasure Grounds.

Green Glass.

The glazing of Kew Palm House is in every way a success, as I am informed by Mr. J. Smith, the able curator of the gardens, to whom I am indebted for many hints. Plants growing in stove and other houses often, as is well known, suffer from the scorching influence of the solar rays, and great expense is frequently incurred in fixing blinds to cut off this destructive calorific influence. From the great size of a large building such as the Palm House at Kew, it would be almost impracticable to adopt any system of shades or blinds which would be effective, and it was therefore thought possible by the use of tinted glass, which should not itself be objectionable in appearance, that the most scorching of the heat rays might be arrested. Mr. R. Hunt made the suggestion, associated by Sir William Hooker and Dr. Lindley. The glass eventually used after a long series of experiments is that which we now see employed in the Palm Stove, and several other buildings at Kew. I have brought some specimens to show you. The glass, as you will observe, is of a light green colour, which is obtained by oxide of copper, and the glass is made so transparent that scarcely any light is intercepted. This glass is manufactured entirely free from the oxide of manganese, which is commonly used in making all ordinary sheet glass. The absence of manganese must be insisted on, and for this reason : that glass, into the composition of which manganese enters, will lose its green shade, and be certain to assume a pink tint after long exposure to much sunlight, and any tint of a pink colour would completely destroy the peculiar properties for which this glass is chosen. Messrs. Chance, of Birmingham, are the manufacturers, and I cannot do better than recommend it for more general use for fern, palm, and other similar buildings. It will be seen, however, by a visit to Kew Gardens, that where the glass has not been carefully manufactured, or by other makers, that the green has entirely left the glass, the pink tint which I have described having taken its place. The cost, at present, of this tinted glass is, I believe, about twice as much as ordinary 21oz. British sheet. The appearance of the green glass is very effective, especially when seen from the interior of large buildings. In ordinary conservatories, I am. inclined to think it might be adopted with much advantage, although some horticulturists object to its use, and especially I would introduce it in the lower panes of vertical lights, say on the south side, or anywhere where the glass is near the roots and pots. Much damage is often done by the burning up of roots by radiation from the side lights, and, therefore, it may be remarked, vertical lights generally should be lessened as much as possible. Stippling is now resorted to to avoid this scorching, but the method is a troublesome and by no means good-looking procedure. The whitewash with which the glass is clouded soon becomes begrimed with dirt and soot. Clouded glass, I believe, is sold, but, like the Kew green glass, cannot be used entirely in general conservatories with advantage, because in early spring most people want flowering plants, for which as much light as possible is required. I think, however, that a combined use of both plain and Kew glass might, even in ordinary circumstances, be made with increased success, and more extensively than at present, and so avoid stippling. With regard to the glasshouses of the French we have little or nothing to learn beyond the fine propagating house at La Muette. The appearance of most French conservatories is spoiled by the method employed for shading-, which is bad, expensive, and awkward. Laths painted dark green and connected together by means of a string and hooks, are adjusted as blinds on the top of the houses reached by gangways running along the top of the roofs.

Glazing

The French, however, have one mode of glazing which seems worthy of adoption, as it presents a neater and rather more satisfactory effect than laps as we use them. The sheets of glass, instead of being allowed to lap, are made with a butt joint, a small quantity of putty being rubbed into the joints when the glass does not exactly meet evenly. Strips of lead paper, about 1in. wide, are then fastened on to the outside over each joint by the use of a solution of india-rubber or marine glue. A good effect is produced by this silvery slip of lead paper, and repairs are easily effected, while the glazing is almost hermetical. It has, however, one objection for stoves and other houses where the temperature is a high one, and. much moisture is given off, on account of the condensed water having no means of escape, excepting by drips, and at the bottom. By curving the upper and lower edges of each sheet of glass in the top glazing (see Fig. 10) the water is brought from the sides of the pane into the centre, and, if properly fixed, much of the condensation water inside will Audits way from the under side of one sheet on to the outside oi the next sheet of glass below it ; and this is the method I have adopted in my own conservatory with success. In houses where a high temperature is kept up, such as in stoves, forcing houses, &c., a good method to carry off the condensation water, which, in these cases, during cold weather, is considerable, is to cut the rooting glass in panes, like this (Fig. 7), and provide grooves in the sash-bars, thus (Figs. 8 and 9) :— the object being to drain the water to the edge of the pane, when it runs off into the groove of the sash-bars at A, to be caught in a gutter below. Several patent systems of glazing have been largely used with much advantage, chiefly Ilelliwell’s and Rendle’s ; but for houses where architectural considerations are of any importance, the want of constructional lines on the exterior can but be an objection to the use of these methods ; that is to say, if the two systems are used, as shown by their patentees. There can, however, be no doubt that both modes are practically admirable, more particularly for large iron roofs, such as the Victoria Station shed, or at the Westminster Aquarium, where ‘they have been successfully employed. When •ordinary or curved laps, such as I have described, are used the lap should be as small as possible, say 3-16ths or Jin.; just sufficient to keep out the wet, and not allow dirt or water to collect, lest the latter should freeze, and result in cracked or broken glass.

Curvilinear Houses.

Curvilinear houses have many advantages, and may either be constructed with iron or bent wood, and glazed with either straight or curved glass. For ordinary purposes wood is preferable, to my mind, and if used with care a very good effect may be produced by the use of straight glass. Some of the designs exhibited on the walls illustrate the style of thing both in domes and curved roofs which one would recommend. For opening ventilating lights there are several methods. One of the best that I have seen is that used by the well-known horticultural builders of Loughborough, whose work for accuracy of detail architecturally, and whose experience as horticultural engineers, has a reputation of very high standing, and for good workmanship this firm is to be recommended. Their mode of opening the lights, which are all hung on hinge butts, is based on the principle of the old quadrant, and nothing is more simple and effective after all. A sunflower enrichment decorates the enclosing shields of the lever with good effect. Mr. Elsley, of Great Portland Street, who by the bye is a very good man to go to for brass rim locks and other Queen Anne door furniture, has an admirable lever for opening vertical lights, and I speak from experience when I say they are light in construction and work well. It is to be feared with all these constructional particulars that I have wearied you and laid myself open to the charge of having said but little about the more direct bearing of art upon conservatory building. My aim, however, has been to furnish a few of the leading practical details, and it is only upon such data that a true artistic treatment of any structure can be effected. Pugin once said, with reference to the Crystal Palace, “Let Sir Joseph Paxton build his conservatories, and I will build my churches.” Since then, however, if work has not decreased the profession has certainly multiplied, and few architects now could afford to decline work because it is not monumental in its character. Had Pugin lived now, I feel sure he would have been among the first to recommend his professional friends not to neglect so increasingly important a class of building as conservatories and glass-houses. There is this fact also certain, that he would have urged his true principles into the subject, and one has only to look at the small lean-to conservatory at the Grange, at Ramsgate, the residence Pugin built for himself, to see how thoroughly he knew how to bring his art to bear upon anything which he designed. It is more than 30 years ago since that building was designed, a fact which at once causes the modern critic to look over many points which would be, perhaps, differently treated now. Pugin’s was, of course, a florid Gothic style of building ; now men’s tastes have changed, and a more congenial domestic style has taken the place of the 14th century acutely-pointed arch and angular forms for our dwellings.

The Queen Anne Style.

The ” Free Classic,” or if you like to call it so, the ” Queen Anne” style, cannot claim to be a pure style, neither is it of a high monumental order ; but, as I said in starting, it lends itself better than any other style yet chosen for interior domestic finishings. The internal treatment of conservatories, like our houses, will tax the skill of the designer far more than the exteriors. Much may be done with curved ribs in the roof, either of wood or iron ; but in glass-houses, treated chiefly as ornamental buildings, in which decorative plants are grown, the foliage of creepers will soon hide any elaborate architectural detail, so that what are primarily wanted are good leading lines, such as elliptical or half oval curves, upon which creeping plants may be trained, thus forming natural bowers which will be satisfactory and complete. The architecture must always have but one purpose, evident at once to all, viz., the setting-off of the plants and flowers ; and these should be arranged in borders as much as possible where ornamental suitability is studied, and much may be done with hanging baskets and pots for trailing foliage. Leaded lights in tinted quarries may be used with good effect for the upper vertical lights and in gables, and an almost endless variety of effect may be obtained by introducing birds and fish, as well as fountains, for internal fittings. The colouring of the woodwork of the interiors of glass buildings is a point in which much taste may be displayed. For my own part, I prefer a light colour rather than a dark one for the roof and woodwork generally, always finishing the exterior simply with plain white. It is preferable, to my mind, to leave the red brickwork, both inside and out, neatly pointed with a struck joint of white mortar, and not washed with colour of any kind. Shelves and hanging boxes can also be more easily fixed than when the walls are plastered ; besides which, the red brick helps to throw up the green foliage, and it also retains the heat better than a light surfaced wall. This is an important point when the temperature of the conservatory during the cooler hours of the night is taken into consideration. For the finishing of the woodwork, I think nothing looks better than a light pea-green made with white, light Brunswick green, and a little celestial blue. In conclusion, I have only to remark that, with this class of building, like most others, a little thought and taste will often enable much to be made out of but very little material. Take, for instance, a lean-to adjoin in°- a dining or drawing-room—it may be small, but small as is it will frequently give double value and interest to the room ; or a floral porch to the chief or garden entrance will add greatly to the importance and comfort of the house while in towns and limited areas a first-rate conservatory can often be managed on the top, either of the entrance portico or over the slip room flat in the rear. Several of these suggestions I have practically shown in the collection of drawings on the walls, to which I will refer you, if you have not already had more than enough of my text, ” Art in the Conservatory and Green-house,” and I hope that my paper will tend to bring horticulturists as well as architects to consider glass-houses, of whatever kind, as worthy of more thought from an artistic point of view than that hitherto devoted to the subject.

 


Reference:

  1. An illustration of the new boilers was given in the Gardener’s Chronicle, Nov. 17, 1877.