The “Loughborough” Plant Protector Range

By the early 1880s the firm was offering three models of span-roofed plant protectors, with glazed ends, known as the ‘Loughborough’, together with an iron and glass protector; although in keeping with their practice, the frames were also given numbers. The term ‘Loughborough’ was dropped from the range at the beginning of the twentieth century, presumably to reduce any confusion with their ‘Loughborough’ Boiler.

 

The basic “Loughborough” protector (later known as No. 226) was intended for those requiring an inexpensive portable solution. It had a boarded base, which because it was liable to decay could be easily replaced as they were just bolted to the cast iron ribs of the frame. As was standard across the range, the lights were made of 2in. thick well-seasoned red deal, painted with three coats of white lead and fitted with 21oz. sheet glass. They were fitted such that they could be opened anywhere from a few inches to being ‘thrown over the other side’. The iron rib frame could be placed either directly on the ground, on a course of bricks, or on a hot-bed. These protectors were typically used for growing cucumbers, hardening off bedding plants, ground vinery or forcing vegetables and salads. They were available in a single 6ft. width and five lengths up to 30ft, starting at 8ft., followed by 12ft. 18ft. and 24ft. Prices for these standard sizes ranged from £5 7s. for the 8ft. version upto £17 10s. for the 30ft. The firm displayed the protector at various shows, including the 1912 Royal Agricultural Show, held in Doncaster, Yorkshire; The Royal Horticultural Society’s Spring Show (Chelsea), where in 1924 they sold a 12ft. x 6ft. model to Mrs. Fetton, Petersfield, Hampshire.

Another (No. 227) was available to place directly on several courses of brickwork, aimed at providing a low-cost permanent plant protector. The firm even recommended fitting one of their Loughborough boilers. Again, it was only available in one width – 6ft. and in four lengths from 12ft. upto 30ft. These were slightly cheaper than the standard model; £7 2s. for the 8ft. version and £14 12s. for the 30ft.

 

The third model (No. 228) was termed an improved version of the ‘basic’ model, with a lifting ridge for top ventilation; operated by a mechanical device a cap along the top of the ridge could be raised and lowered. It was available into two standard sizes, 8ft. x 7ft. and 12ft. x 7ft., although the length could be extended in 4ft. increments. In the early 1900s the price (including the two ends) for the 8ft. was £5 5s. and £7 5s. for the 12ft.; extra lengths were priced at £2 5s. each. Mr. Alexander Rowland Alston, of The Toft, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, purchased a quantity of theses, measuring 37ft. 3in. x 7ft. 9in. in 1907[1]. The firm displayed an 8ft. x 7ft. version at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1912, held in Doncaster, Yorkshire. In 1923[2], they sold an 8ft. x 7ft. protector to Theodore John Hubert Schmitz, of Niton Undercliff, Isle of Wight, together with a 12ft. 10in. x 11ft. 8in. ‘cheap’ span greenhouse and a number of unspecified garden lights. In 1924[3], the firm displayed the protector at The Royal Horticultural Society’s Spring Show (Chelsea), selling at least 2; one to Mr. Hickmann, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and an 8ft. x 7ft. model to Mr. J. Neville Cross, Chilworth, Surrey. The following year, they again sold two at the show; an 8ft. x 7ft. version to Mr. F.W. Black, Elizabeth Way, Burnham, Buckinghamshire; a 12ft. x 7ft. model to Mr. Lionel S. Gooch, of The Boynings, Maidenhead,

The iron and glass protector (No. 225) was more expensive than the “Loughborough” and described as being “imperishable”. It had been in production from at least 1877, when it was described as being met with “universal approval”. By the beginning of the twentieth century the fronts were formed of 1in. glass slabs, located into pockets cast on the iron ribs. Alternatively, slate slabs could be used, although glass was recommended as being better for the plants than an opaque material. They were constructed to enable them to be dismantled in a matter of minutes, by a competent gardener. The lights were securely held open with iron legs. Whilst they came in set sizes (5 lengths – 12ft., 14ft., 20ft., 24ft. and 28ft. and a single width – 7ft.). The lights were made of 2in. thick wood, glazed with 21oz. sheet glass, and painted three coats. The prices, complete with two glazed ends, varied from £9 5s. for the 12ft. upto £19 5s. for the 28ft. If glass sides were not required (for example they were being placed on brickwork), the price was reduced accordingly, by £1 2s. for the 12ft. and by £2 2s. for the 28ft.

By the mid-1920s the term “Loughborough” had been dropped in favour of a differing numbering system; the basic “Loughborough” model, No. 226, was now known as No. 652, with the variant for placing on a brick base was known as No. 653, instead of No. 227; the model with the lifting cap was No. 657, instead of No. 228 and the iron and glass protector was No. 656, instead of No. 225.

All four models had lights made out of 2in. good quality well-seasoned red deal fitted with an iron handle, glazed with 21oz. glass bedded in putty and well sprigged, and painted with 3 coats. They were all fitted with long and short iron rods for opening purposes.

Models 652 and 653 had frames made of cast iron ribs instead of wood rafters, the foot of each rib being secured to the boarded base or wood plate. No. 652 had a wood base made of 11in. by 1¼in. boards bolted together with angle plates. Both models were only available in 6ft. widths but offered in five lengths, 6ft., 8ft., 12ft., 16ft. and 20ft. (2-, 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-lights respectively).

Model No. 656 still had a framework made entirely of iron but instead of glass or slate fronts the firm was using asbestos cement sheets, again fitting into the pockets of the rib frame. It could be supplied without the base for fitting onto brickwork. It was still only available in a single 7ft. width with 5 length options starting at 4ft. (2-lights) then in 4ft. increments upto 20ft. (10-lights). In 1955 the City of Nottingham Education Committee purchased a 16ft. x 10ft. (Amateur Type) span greenhouse with wood base, staging & slatted walk, together with a 6ft. x 6ft. No. 652 span frame to be erected at Ellis School, Bar Lane, Old Basford, Nottingham[4].

Model No. 657, originally known as the improved “Loughborough” plant protector, was again a modification of the basic “Loughborough” model (No. 652) with the addition of a lilting ridge cap. It was now available in the same sizes as No. 656. In 1951, the firm sold a 16ft. x 7ft. version to Dagenham Borough Council, Essex[5].

References:

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

  2. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office: Ref DE2121/51.

  3. Private Records.

  4. The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Record Office: Ref DE2121/55.

  5. Private Records.