Restoration work began in the summer of 2000.
The Gardeners Cottage as it was when we first arrived at Croome.
The site was so over grown with brambles and nettles, it was hard to know where to begin
This is an extract from an article in Gardening World 1887 showing the full array of glass houses in their prime.
Croome Court from above. Photo taken in 2005.
A network of service tunnels was constructed during the mid eighteen hundreds to channel the cast iron hot water pipes from the main boiler room, outside the north wall, to the lower glass houses. These tunnels were recently featured on television in a ‘Time Team’ documentary about Croome.
After clearing away the brambles and self seeded trees, which were holding the Melon House together, it was apparent that it would have to be completely rebuilt. After a lengthy process, involving detailed drawings and photographic records, we were ready to dismantle the building. Most of the bricks were salvaged but the timber and glass were too far gone to be re-used. Fortunately the repetition of the structure provided us with sufficient information to achieve a full and faithful restoration.
It is almost 150 years since the Melon House was first built. After 3 years of pains taking restoration work, it now provides us with an insight into the grand scale of this restoration project. Rain water is channelled from the roof and stored in a large tank under the terrace below. The water is pumped back inside, through a network of pipes, to feed the vines in their raised beds.
It seemed like a good time to get started on the Fig House. With all the experience we had gained from the Melon House, this time we needed to be more cautious in our approach. A complex array of bespoke steel winding mechanisms had been invented to open and close groups of sash and hinging panels from within the Fig House. This presented a serious challenge because of the unpredictable outcome. “Did they really work properly in the first place?” was one of the unvoiced questions. We decided to hedge our bets by upgrading the old brass rollers to oil impregnated nylon in stainless steel housings. “If it’s to last another 150 years we may as well give it our best.”
Much like the Melon House, the Fig House had to be completely dismantled and restored from the ground up. We used the time to soak all of the old iron work in oil for a few months while we concentrated on carpentry and masonry and the like. The decision to restore back to the foundations had finally proven its value when we came to test the winding gear. The sash window panels glided up and down with ease. The old mechanisms had endured time with flying colours. It actually takes less then 30 seconds to open and close the entire array.