Putting some sparkle back into the glasshouse


This week Emma takes over the blog to give an update about the Quarry Bank Project and the plans to restore the Upper Garden glasshouse.  Over to Emma….

One of the most fantastic things about being the project coordinator for the Quarry Bank Project, is the fact that it covers so many things, restoration, event planning, reporting and communication, to name but a few. One minute I find myself in a finance meeting then the next I am talking about the outdoors and learning the art of den building and how to make a fire. (I have caught the outdoor bug and want to go camping immediately).

Ally our Collections and Archive Officer tries out the den
Ally our Collections and Archive Officer tries out the den

As there are so many things that I could tell you about I have to be selective. In this post I would like to talk about the Upper Garden and how we plan to put the sparkle back into the glasshouse. This will be the first area that we will work on during the project in 2015-16.

It is amazing to think that the National Trust only acquired the Upper Garden in 2010 and already it has changed dramatically. The Victorian dipping pond and small glasshouse have been restored and the fantastic views down to the mill have been uncovered.

View of the alpine house and pond when the Upper Garden was acquired.
The Upper Garden when it was acquired
View of the alpine house and dipping pond as they are today.
The Upper Garden today

The jewel in the crown is the derelict curvilinear glasshouse built in the 1830s. Here the Gregs displayed exotic plants, and grew grapes and soft fruits. Its modern design, materials and the huge amount of glass sent a clear message to guests about their success and position in society.

Unfortunately, the Glasshouse was severely damaged by neglect before the National Trust was able to acquire it. Since this time we have cleared it out and made it secure for the time being.

The glasshouse when it was acquired
The glasshouse when it was acquired
The glasshouse today
The glasshouse today

How will we put the sparkle back?

We have safely stored whatever we can so that, where possible, we can use original materials in the rebuilding process, or at least use them to replicate elements as closely as we can. For example, new cast iron glazing bars will each be individually re-cast using a mould made from a surviving bar.

Our plan is to fully restore the Glasshouse to its former glory including re-building the demolished section of the west vinery. We do not have the original architectural plans but have been able to piece together a clear understanding of how the building was created and used from architectural and archaeological surveys and the advice of National Trust experts.

We also have information in our archives including photographs, letters, diaries, maps and garden plant orders mean that we can restore the structure and present it with a high degree of authenticity.

Of course we need funds to achieve this and this is where your support alongside the Heritage Lottery Fund is so important

One of the main reasons that I have chosen to tell you all about the glasshouse is because it seems that you all can’t wait to see it returned to its former glory either. In July 2014, Sally, our fundraising lead and I, launched the ‘Our Glasshouse Needs You’ campaign which invites you to sponsor a pane of glass for the glasshouse. In the last ten months you have raised over £20,000 and sponsored over 400 panes.

People from far and wide have shown their support and I would like to say a big thank you.  I am taken aback by your enthusiasm and support and very grateful as it will be wonderful to see it back to how it once was.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the Year 7 Humanities class at Wilmslow High School for coming up with a fun way to raise £250 for our cause. Each pupil was sponsored to fill a match box with as many items as possible, one child managed 50 items!

To say thank you, the pupils came to visit Quarry Bank to have a look at the glasshouse and to see what their money will do. I have since heard from their teacher that they keep pestering their parents to bring them back to Quarry Bank.

Pupils from Wilmslow High standing outside the glasshouse
Fundraising pupils from Wilmslow High

How does this fit in with our other garden plans throughout 2015-2016?

The Upper Garden has been transformed in recent years thanks to the hard work of our garden staff, Sarah, Ann, Stefan, and Tom, and our new addition Jonathan and the 67 members of our volunteer team. However, there is still much to be done. With the Quarry Bank Project we will…

  • restore the 1830s curvilinear glasshouse and back sheds
  • create new interpretation spaces in the back sheds to tell you all about the story of the garden and the people who worked here. These spaces will be flexible so they can be used for special events, talks and school activities
  • open a garden shop specifically for gardening and plant sales. This will be located in the back sheds behind the glasshouse
  • open a catering outlet so you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea and homemade cake
  • build a gardeners’ compound for vehicles, machinery and staff recreation to make it easier to care for this wonderful garden
  • plant up the glasshouse and garden with historic varieties and beautiful bloom
Upper Garden plans
Upper Garden plans

All of this work will begin in October 2015. Please come and visit and watch as we transform the garden throughout 2016. Luckily for us, 2016 is the national ‘Year of the English Garden’ so we will have a year of exciting and new events which will focus on the garden theme.

If you would like more information about the Quarry Bank Project and how to sponsor a glass pane, please visit our website:


Thank you,




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