Conservatories have a long and colourful history both here in the UK and abroad. Conservatories were originally built as separate structures to house plants that needed shelter from bad weather.
The wealthy in the UK constructed the very first conservatories in the 16th century, which served as greenhouses. In the challenging British environment, conservatories were especially helpful for cultivating recently discovered citrus crops. The wealthy used their conservatories to cultivate lemons, limes, and oranges in addition to other imported fruits and flora.
Lean-To Conservatories were especially popular. Often built against south-facing walls, the expansive panes of glass would maximise the heat from the sun while the opposing brick wall, facing north, would give protection against the cold British winds. Further insulation was often added to the north wall in winter using straw bales. In order to provide plants with maximum warmth and light during the shortest days of the year, many Lean-To Conservatories also had glass walls that sloped at an angle.
The Glass House, built in 1637 at the Botanic Gardens of Oxford University using stone, slate, and glass, is the first conservatory known to have existed in Britain. There’s also The Nash Conservatory at London’s Kew Gardens which was initially built as one of two greenhouses for the Buckingham Palace grounds. It was later transported by King William IV to Kew in 1836, where it still stands proudly today, appreciated by both tourists and local residents alike.
Additionally, there is the Chatsworth House Conservatory in Derbyshire, which has an iron frame and was built at some point between 1836 and 1841. The building of the conservatory at Chatsworth House would lead to a gradual increase in the popularity of conservatories among the Victorian aristocracy. The Crystal Palace, one of the most famous and regrettably short-lived conservatories ever constructed during the Victorian era, was created by Sir Joseph Paxton and featured 900,000 square feet of glass.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of conservatories in the UK declined. This was mostly caused by the start of the First World War from 1915 to 1918 followed by World War II in 1939 which continued until 1945., During this time, conservatories were largely viewed as ostentatious and unnecessary.
Following the end of World War II, conservatories became a well-liked and long-lasting addition to residential and commercial properties all across the UK as a result of the lower costs and greater accessibility to key building materials such as glass. The architectural design, functionality, and technology used for conservatories have also evolved significantly in recent years. Self-cleaning, double-glazed glass is now commonly used in the construction of modern conservatories, which also offer increased comfort, energy efficiency ratings, and security. Acoustic glass and solar control glazing are also common.