Stages

The firm offered a number of varying styles of staging designed for specific uses. Whilst they sold a large number of wood stages with their greenhouses, they never until the 1950s marketed them as a separate entity: instead, they put their marketing effort into iron staging, either wrought or cast.

It is difficult to determine whether any existing wood staging still survive, mainly because they appear to have been utilitarian, probably with no distinguishing features that would identify the firm as the manufacturer.

Wrought Iron Stage

These stages were made of wrought iron framing with angle rails back and front together with angle iron bearers with round iron legs. They were typically covered with galvanised corrugated sheets. An air gap was provided along the rear of the staging, against the wall, so as to allow hot-air from any pipes to ‘escape’.

If the staging was more than 3ft. wide, a centre ‘T’ iron was inserted resting on the bearers, in order to carry the sheets.

The firm also offered white Derbyshire spar (normally shipped directly from the third-party supplier) for covering the sheets so as to form a suitable surface for the pots to stand on.

The staging was offered in two formats, each sold on a per foot basis:

  1. The first being side stages, offered in five widths, 24in., 30in., 36in., 42in. and 48in. It came with galvanised corrugated sheets.
  2. The second for flat central stages, offered in six widths, 42in., 48in., 54in., 60in., 66in. and 72in. Again it came with galvanised corrugated sheets.

Additional angles were sold separately.

Wrought iron stage with galvanised corrugated sheets

Cast Iron Stages

These stages were made by the firm specifically for conservatories and greenhouses, including one specifically designed for forcing and mushroom houses.

These stages had cast-iron framing, normally with a cross-tree and made deep enough to carry either strong porous red tiles, flat or later corrugated (galvanised or asbestos) sheets, with or without a covering of shingle, spar, or gravel.

In the early 1880s, the firm offered the cast-iron framing covered with strong ton slates[1], on which they placed shingle or gravel for the pots to stand on. As a variation, specifically for conservatories, they offered the cast-iron frame fitted with an ornamental grating, below which a covered trough was inserted, in which ferns and moss was planted, essential hiding the hot water pipes; alternatively the grating could be continued to ground level, again helping screen the hot-water pipes.

Cast iron flat stage with corrugated sheets

Similar to the wrought-iron stages there was an air gap between the back rail and the wall or sill; so as to both allow hot air from the pipes to escape in front of the glass and to avoid moisture coming into contact with the sill.

These stages were more expensive than either their wood or wrought-iron equivalents; typically the price of a complete (frame and sheeting) set of wrought iron stages would only purchase the equivalent sized frame in cast-iron.

In the 1920s the firm offered the framework, in foot runs, with ‘T’ iron ready for either tiles or 18 gauge[2] galvanised flat sheets. It was available in five widths: 24in., 30in., 36in., 42in. and 48in.

Weights were given for the three components across the range:

Weight (lbs per foot run) / Width

2ft.

2ft. 6in.

3ft.

3ft. 6in.

4ft.

Framework

14

15

17

18½

21

Galvanised Sheets

4

5

6

7

8

Tiles

28

35

42

49

56

 

In the 1930s, the staging was offered in two formats, each sold on a per foot basis.

  1. The first being for side staging, offered in five widths, 24in., 30in., 36in., 42in. and 48in. It was offered with either galvanised or asbestos corrugated sheets, with the latter being more expensive that their galvanised equivalents. The tile option was dropped
  2. The second for flat central staging, offered in seven widths, 36in., 42in., 48in., 54in., 60in., 66in. and 72in. Again offered with or without galvanised or asbestos sheets.

In both cases the framework consisted of legs, bearers and rails, with additional angles available at extra cost.

Cast iron flat stage with tiles
Iron Stepped Stage

As its name implies the staging was arranged in tiers and could be used either as a standalone central display or fixed against a back wall. Into the twentieth century it was offered in two formats, either two or three tiers, both straight sided. In both formats the plants, in early versions, stood on shingle, although later they introduced 18 gauge galvanised sheets and red tiles “supported by strong iron cross bearers”. In their early catalogues the firm described the stages “as a permanent and convenient stage of light yet firm construction, and is very durable”. Later they dropped the red tiles and introduced asbestos cement sheets, which, again, was more expensive than the galvanised sheets.

Stepped Stage

In the early 1880s, the firm offered a multi-tier (semi-)circular iron flower stage, made in half circles; allowing single pieces to be placed against a wall, or placing two together to form a circle for a standalone display. It was also available in quarter circles, for corner positioning. There were three variations; the first being three tiers, 2ft. 9in. diameter; the second of four tiers, 4ft. diameter; the third of 5 tiers, 6ft. diameter.

Circular stage
Semi-circular plant stand c.1908

 

As an alternative the firm also offered, again in the 1880s, an oblong stage. This was achieved by providing straight sides to be inserted between the semi-circular stages, with additional horizontal bearers for the semi-circular pieces. It came in three options: 3 tiers (5ft. 2in. by 2ft. 9in.), 4 tiers (6ft. by 4ft.) and either 4 or 5 tiers (8ft. 5in. by 6ft.).

Oblong stage
Improved Orchid Stage

The improved orchid stage had been introduced by the mid-1890s, although there is no knowledge of the firm offering a ‘non-improved’ version. The early improved orchid stage used iron staging with slate slabs cemented into the framework, so as to be able to hold water, liquid feed, leaves, etc. A wood slatted stage is placed above the slates, allowing moisture from the water, or’ fumes’ from the liquid feed and leaves to freely circulate amongst the plants. With the legs standing in water, the stage was isolated, providing protection against slugs and vermin.

The original improved cast iron orchid house stage

By 1925, the ‘improved orchid stage’ had undergone further development, presumably an improved version of the improved version. The firm now used the then standard cast-iron stage, although not quite so high. The original slates being replaced with either red tiles or galvanised flat sheets; the wood (the firm preferred using teak, although deal was also available) slatted surface was now positioned several inches off the tiles, supported by iron legs sitting in a iron basins filled with water. The stages were sold in three elements; the standard cast-iron framing, available in sizes described above; the slatted stages in teak or deal; iron basin with iron leg.

The improved version of the improved cast iron orchid house stage with tile base
The improved version of the improved cast iron orchid house stage with slate base
Forcing House Stages

Although marketed for use in forcing houses it used the same design as the standard cast-iron stage framework and available in any width. The bottom consisted of red tiles sitting on ‘T’ irons, with a hardwood board front, which replaced an earlier design using slates. The design positioned air flues in the front wall to permit the heated air from under the bed to pass up against the glass, thus doing away with the necessity for a top-heat pipe and avoiding scorching of the plants.

Cast-iron Forcing House stage
Iron Beds for Mushroom House

These stages were constructed using an iron framework, similar to the iron stages above, although two or three tiers high, with the floor forming the base of the lowest bed. Similar to previous stages the early designs the base of the upper beds were initially slate carried on iron ‘Ts’, with site fronts; later designs replaced the slate bottoms with red tiles, again on iron ‘Ts’; the slate fronts were also replaced, this time with hardwood board.

Mushroom house stage c. 1897

The iron beds could be supplied in any width; the two tier version was 4ft. 5in. high, with the three-tier 7ft. 11in. high.

Mushroom house stage c. 1925

Photographs

Numerous examples of the firm’s iron staging still exist, some of which are in remarkably good condition, with apparent little corrosion despite some being well over 100 years old.

Semi-circular Plant Stand 1880s
Cast Iron stages c. 1893
Cast Iron stages c. 1897
Cast Iron stages c. 1899
Cast Iron stages c. 1908

 

References:

  1. Ton slates – random slates sold by weight, usually the larger sizes of tally slates (single size slates normally sold by count) or queen slates (large or oversize slates).

  2. 0.04in; 1.02mm.