Amateurs’ Greenhouses

Amateurs’ Greenhouses

Such was the demand for a “a Greenhouse of moderate dimensions, at a price within the reach of the numerous amateurs who now resort to the culture of fruit and flowers under glass as a recreation[1] that the firm introduced a range of low-priced amateur greenhouses described as “thoroughly good, substantial structures”.


No. 88 span greenhouse

Similar to their patent and bespoke structures, the firm assembled each greenhouse in the factory, to ensure that all the parts fitted together, before disassembling and dispatching as a ‘flat pack’ for, in this instance, the customer to erect. To help in this, each greenhouse was constructed using only lights, which they manufactured in a set number of sizes. The firm did not glazed the structures, but dispatched it unglazed together with a supply of correctly sized glass, including a number of surplus panes to cover breakages either during transit or when glazing.


No. 89 ¾ span greenhouse

The price included delivery to the nearest railway goods station anywhere in England. Glass boxes were charged at 3s. each, with half allowed for their return in good condition.

The amateur greenhouse range appears to have been introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was available in three models – span, lean-to and ¾-span. In-line with other products the firm allocated them “model” numbers; the span was No. 88, the ¾ span No 89 and the lean-to No. 90. These numbers prevailed through to the early 1920s; however, by the mid-1920s they had been renumbered – the span to No. 649, the ¾ span to No. 650 and the lean-to to No. 651.


No. 90 lean-to greenhouse

All three greenhouses were still in production in the mid-1930s[2] and still being manufactured to the same specification using well-seasoned red deal painted with two coats of best white lead; lights were two inches thick; each greenhouse had two sets of ventilators, one on the roof and the other in the front; there was one door complete with lock and key (the customer deciding which end it was to be located at the time of ordering); rainwater gutters and downpipes were supplied. All the houses had a five foot clearance to the eves; 21oz. English sheet glass for the roof and 15oz. for the uprights; all the necessary screws and nails were provided and sent with the house, although putty for glazing was not supplied. Obviously the firm recommended their own Loughborough boiler to heat these structures and sold separately.


No. 649 span greenhouse

The greenhouses were available in three widths, 8ft., 10ft. and 12ft. The standard length was 12ft. although this could be extended in 4ft. increments. Boarding under the sill was available as an optional extra, as was wood staging to both sides and a 2ft. 6in., wide wood slatted walk down the middle.


No. 650 ¾ span greenhouse

During the 1920s the firm introduced a cheaper variant, termed second quality (the normal variants were according referred to as first quality) of the span and lean-to greenhouses. The span-roof version was available in four sizes – 8ft. x 6ft., 10ft. x 8ft., 12ft. x 8ft. and 16ft. x 8ft.; whilst the lean-to was only available one width – 6ft. and three lengths – 8ft., 12ft. and 16ft. No optional extras were available. Besides the sizing, the only documented difference between first and second quality, was that the later used “rather smaller timbers”.


No. 651 ¾ span greenhouse

Whilst the specification remained constant overt the twenty year period, the price had doubled across the whole range including the optional extras.

Immediately following the Government’s lifting of consumption controls, in November 1953, the firm launched a new range of standard softwood greenhouses, to run along their existing hardwood models. The import control, which had been in existence from 1939, had been relaxed the previous year and the firm probably had a good supply of material, albeit purchased at inflated prices[3]. They produced three sizes, 8ft. x 6ft., 10ft. x 7ft. and 12ft. 8ft., available as either span roofed or independent lean-to.

Within a few years, these appeared to have morphed into a different range of Western Red Cedar and Red Deal greenhouses, including the 700, 701, the Charnwood and the Bradgate.


No. 700 span greenhouse

The 700 and 701 were both span roofed, available in sizes up to 19ft. x 10ft. (approx.). They were designed specifically for tomato and chrysanthemum growers, with the 701 having a higher (2ft. 6in,) weather-boarding base, compared with 1ft. 6in. of the 700.

The Charnwood greenhouse, which was produced in both hardwood and softwood versions, was only available in one width 10ft. (approx.) but in six lengths ranging from 9ft. 7¾in. up to 33ft. 3in.

The Bradgate, which was initially offered in both cedar and deal, came in one size, 8ft. 7in. x 6ft. 9in[4], although the softwood option was later discontinued. Their advertising material[5] describes the greenhouse as being “specially designed for the grower who wants a good quality greenhouse at a competitive price. It is ideal for the Tomato and Chrysanthemum Grower and, with the addition of staging, can be used as a plant house[6]. The base was available with either 3/16in. flat asbestos sheets or ½in. tongue and grove cedar weatherboarding.


No. 600 Independent lean-to greenhouse

The earliest known purchaser of a No. 701 was a Mr. H. Stew, of Garland Crescent, Leicester, who in late November 1955 purchased a 12ft. x 8ft. span structure[7], with cedar staging down one side, for £70 15s. The firm installed the structure for an additional £17; constructing the foundation using two courses of bricks[8].

By this time the firm had begun offering electric heating systems, as an alternative to the Loughborough boiler. They still utilized their standard 4in. heating pipes, simply replacing the boiler with a thermostat controlled immersion heaters rated between 1¼ and 4KW[9].


Electric heating system utilising 4 inch heating pipes

One of the first to order the system was Lt. Col. James Nockells Horlicks[10], co-inventor (with his brother William) of Horlicks Malted Milk drink. He was living in Achamore House on the island of Gigha when he purchased a 20ft. x 10ft. span greenhouse in Brunei Teak, wrought iron staging, cold frames, etc. However, it was not destined for Scotland, but to be installed at ‘Timbers’, Nettlebed, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Whilst the original order included two 2KW immersion heaters, a normal coal fired system using a No. 3 Loughborough boiler and 4in. pipes was substituted instead, costing an additional £101 15.

Later, the firm introduced a range of hardwood and softwood ‘glass-to-ground’ greenhouses, similar in size to the 700 range.

They also introduced a “Spacemaster” range of four greenhouses, all in Western Red Cedar[11]. Whilst they were marketed as a general-purpose greenhouse, they were like the 700 and 701 ranges, ideal for tomato and chrysanthemum growers, as well as a “first class plant house”. The marketing pamphlet attributed them a “6-star value”, namely a spacious interior, high doors, excellent construction, outstanding design, ample ventilation and unbeatable value. All four variations were constructed of clear Western Red Cedar, with 24oz. glass, mainly 24in. wide, held in place with putty and glazing sprigs. All screws and nails were sherardized, whilst other metal components were treated with rust resisting paint. The ‘7’, ‘8’ and ‘10’ models essentially varied only in the width sizing, being 6ft. 11in., 7ft. 11in. and 10ft. wide respectively. The ‘7’ and ‘8’ models were available in four lengths, 8ft. 5¼in., 12ft. 7¾in., 16ft. 11½in. and 21ft. 1½in.; whilst the ‘10’ was not available in the shorter length. Prices ranged from £49 upto £127; with extras for the preservative treatment, 3in. half-round plastic guttering, portable treated or untreated slatted staging on both sides. The fourth model was the ‘junior’; as its name suggests it was smaller in all three dimensions (height, width and length) and only available in one variant, 6ft. 4½in. long, 4ft. 7¼ in. wide, 5ft. 1¼ in. high to the eaves and 6ft. 8in to the ridge (compared with 5ft. to the eaves and between 7ft. 3in. and 8ft. 1in. to the ridge respectively, for the larger models). The price for the junior was correspondingly lower at £29 5s., with the same optional extras as the larger models.


Spacemaster ‘7’ greenhouse
Spacemaster ‘8’ greenhouse
Spacemaster ’10’ greenhouse
Spacemaster ‘Junior’ greenhouse



  1. Amateurs’ Greenhouses and Garden Frames Catalogue.

  2. Small Glasshouses, Garden Frames &C., catalogue dated 1936.

  3. Britain’s Place in the World: A historical enquiry into import controls 1945-60: Alan S. Milward & George Brennan; 2003; ISBN 978-0415139373.

  4. 1956 Greenhouse Catalogue.

  5. Privately held records.

  6. Privately held records.

  7. The 12ft. x 8ft. model was no longer available as a stock item by May 1956.

  8. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/45.

  9. 1956 Greenhouse Catalogue.

  10. He succeeded to the title of 4th Baronet Horlick, of Cowley Manor, Gloucestershire on 29th January 1958.

  11. Spacemaster brochure.