The term orangery originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy between the 17th to 19th Century. Orangeries were luxurious extensions or free-standing buildings for housing orange and lemon trees in the winter months to protect them from the elements. Having such a structure was a sign of wealth and prestige and the owners would impress their guests with tours showing off both the architectural design of the orangery and the interior citrus trees.
Architecturally, the Roman inspired designs would have been built of stone and would house tall narrow windows, usually south facing, to allow in as much light as possible for the nurturing of tender orange and lemon trees over winter – hence the name. They would have had a solid roof and were generally heated throughout the winter to maintain a temperate climate as found in the Mediterranean. The Orangery soon became an architectural feature as there was little regard for the health of plants and trees, only that they should ‘survive’ winter.
As glass making technology evolved the Dutch adapted the designs by developing larger expanses of window glass and it was in the early 19th century that sloping glazed roofs were introduced which allowed more sunlight into the building. The greenhouse was born and keen horticulturalists whose cultivation of exotic plants had reached new heights, gained greater understanding of the benefits of light on plants. The glazing of orangery roofs also became increasingly common during this century.
Manufacturers emerged during the Mid-19th Century to cater for a growing middle-class market. Advancements in heating and glazing lead to a wealth of designs for horticultural buildings constructed in both iron and timber, often embellished with elaborate decorations. Whilst mostly free standing or abutting walled gardens, it was the building of these structures against houses that further developed the concept we now know as the early conservatories.
This article is credited to ‘Vale Garden Houses’.