Glass Coping, Walls and Cases

Glass coping, walls or cases are methods of providing protection for plants grown against a wall; typically, they were used to protect fruit bushes and trees, typically peaches, against early frosts.

 

Glazed Coping

Glass coping, as its name suggests, is essentially a narrow glass veranda without any vertical supports. The glass is normally held within a frame, which is attached to the top or near to the top of the wall, supported by a bracket. It hangs out from the wall and supplied in various lengths and widths.

Glass walls and cases are an extension of the glass coping, with a vertical or slopping front glass frame, normally with glass ends containing a door. It is reminiscent of a very narrow lean-to greenhouse, although the front glass lights were often movable, either laterally or completely.

Glass Coping

Whilst the firm offered a glass coping solution as early as 1875, when the new owners took on the business, it is 1903 before the first recorded installation is known. However, it is inconceivable that the firm did not either sell or install any glass copings prior to this date.

 

Glazed Coping – Messenger & Co., 1877 Catalogue

Between 1875 and the beginning of the Second World War, the firm’s design remained essentially unchanged. In the early days the iron frames were normally available in 10ft. lengths, with a 2ft. projection; the glass being ⅛in. ribbed plate glass cut to size and held in place with zinc clips. The coping was treated as a commodity product, with the frame and glass (direct from the supplier, normally Pilkington’s) being sent separately to the customer, for them to arrange fixing. However, on occasions, especially when the customer ordered a long run of coping or purchased other items, the firm would install, at additional cost.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a 10ft. length coping, comprising iron frame with a 2ft. projection, glass and clips, was priced at 2s. 3d. per foot (excluding packing and carriage).

By 1925, now known as No. 665, the coping was offered in three standards widths, 2ft., 3ft. and 4ft., although other widths were available to order. The coping had also been modified with the addition of tension rods so as to prevent the front rails from sagging. Instead of the frame and glass being sent separately, they were glazed in the factory and dispatched ready to install.

By 1934, whilst the design had not changed, it was now available in four widths, 2ft. 2ft. 6in., 3ft. and 4ft. priced at 5s. 3d., 6s 3d., 7s. and 8s. 9d. per foot run respectively, excluding carriage. Again, the were dispatched fully glazed with 21oz. glass, painted 3 coats. Packing cases were charged extra and credited in full when returned carriage paid in good condition.

In 1903 the firm installed an unknown length of glass coping together with a 45ft. x 10ft. lean-to plant, stove and potting house for the Reverend Charles H. Prodgers of Thurlestone Grange, Thulston, Derbyshire[1]. Over the next few years, they installed a 126ft. long, 2ft. 6in. wide glass coping for William Henry Fox, Bradwell Grove, Burford, Oxfordshire[2]; sold an 141ft. long, 2ft. wide set of coping to builders Messrs. Wiltshire & Son, St. John’s Hill, Sevenoaks, Kent for an unknown client[3]; installed two lengths of 4ft. wide coping, totalling 145ft. (83ft. and 62ft.), along with repairs to an existing greenhouse for Henry Arthur Attenborough of Catesby House, Lower Catesby, Northamptonshire[4]; a 213ft. long coping, together with a 29ft x 13ft span-roof greenhouse, a dome roof to a conservatory, and new ventilation lights to 3 existing greenhouses for Sir Arthur J. Evans ay Youlbury, Boars Hill, Berkshire[5].

Into the 1930’s the firm installed wall coping for Lady Emsley Carr, Wonford, Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey; Sir Bernard Eckstein, Oldlands Hall, Oldlands, East Sussex; Mr. A.J. Paton, The Lindens, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, Northamptonshire.

Glass Cases, Walls

When the new partners took over the firm in 1875, unsurprisingly they continued to sell Thomas Messenger’s (the previous owner) unique take on the Peach Wall, although it was marketed as a self-ventilating peach or fruit wall. Thomas Messenger developed this as an adaptation of the standard peach wall by adding a series of iron gratings along the base, in place of front lights and another of perforated zinc under the upper lights which was placed flat, instead of at an angle. Additional ventilation could be obtained by placing grills in place of glass in the end doors.

Self ventilating covered peach wall – Thomas Messenger’s 1870 catalogue

The firm appears to have only marketed this rather unique structure for a few years. By 1882, they were selling the more standard product where ventilation was obtained by means of the sliding front sashes. These sashes, which were completely removable, slid on brass rollers and iron runners. The roof lights were supported, as in the glass coping, on strong iron brackets, bolted to wall, and made so that by removing a wedge they can be taken down. The framing was red deal, carried on iron supports, glazed with 21oz. English glass sheet and painted with four coats.

1882 Catalogue
1882 Catalogue

It was offered in two variants, one with an upright front and the other with a sloping front; the latter providing either space for a narrow walkway or for placing fruit trees close to the glass. The upright model was available, as standard, in a 4ft. wide version, whilst the sloping version was 4ft. at the top, to 6ft at the bottom, when fitted to 10ft. high wall. Whilst both models were available in other sizes, they had to be custom made to the clients’ own specifications.

The standard upright model with front lights, iron supports, roof lights and brackets for a 10 feet high wall was priced at 12s. per foot run; carriage paid to any station in England for orders exceeding £3. Ends were extra and priced at £2 10s. The sloping model, 6ft. at the sill, with front lights, iron supports, roof lights and brackets, for a 10ft. high wall was priced at 16s. 6d. per foot run; carriage paid to any station in England for orders exceeding £3. Ends, fitted with door with lock and key were extra and priced at £2 15s.

The two models were still available in the mid-1920s, although now known as Nos. 663 (upright variant) and 664 (sloping variant). They were still dispatched fully glazed, although now only painted three coats instead of four. By 1934, whilst the cases were still being fully erected in the shop and marked for erection, by the customer, they were only being painted with two coats of paint. They were also now dispatched unglazed, although with nail and screws for fixing but not putty. The 21oz. glass, cut to size, was shipped direct from the glass manufacturer in boxes, which were charged extra although credited in full when returned to the manufacturer in good condition. By this time No. 663 was priced at £1 4s 6d., per foot run and No. 664 at £1 9s. 6d. Ends, with doors, were extra and priced at £4 2s, 6d and £4 15s., respectively.

1925 Catalogue
1925 Catalogue

The earliest known customer was in 1882, when Lord Mount Temple, Broadlands, Romsey, Hampshire purchased a peach case of unknown length. The last known customer was Sutton Gardens Ltd., of Sutton Bonington, Nottinghamshire[6], when in 1947 the firm undertook repairs and re-painting of a number of greenhouses, together with a lean-to peach case. It is unclear as to whether this was one of the firm’s own peach cases or from another local manufacturer, such as Foster and Pearson of Beeston, near Nottingham.

Modern Fruit Tree Protector, The Old Rectory Gardens, Sudborough
Modern Fruit Tree Protector, The Old Rectory Gardens, Sudborough

References:

  1. Museum of English Rural Life Ref: TR/MES/AD1/1541.

  2. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office Ref: DE2121/47.

  3. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office Ref: DE2121/48.

  4. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office Ref: DE2121/49.

  5. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office Ref: DE2121/49.

  6. Privately held records.