This week Emma has been looking into the work on the glasshouse restoration where lots of exciting things have been happening.
The wait is finally over. After years of fundraising and anticipation, the restoration of the derelict 1830s glasshouse is underway. Armitage Construction have been on site for 111 days, and wow have we got some interesting stories to share with you.
Putting the brakes on
In October, Dorothea, the historic metalwork restorers and engineers carefully dismantled the large cast iron frame piece by piece from the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank. All the items have been catalogued and transported 160 miles to Dorothea’s workshop in Bristol. The engineers are now carrying out painstaking work to the structure to make repairs, identify missing pieces and examine the extent of the damage.
Meanwhile, in Wolverhampton, Barr & Grosvenor were preparing a slightly surprising material for the restoration work. Automotive brake discs have been melted down and will be used to replace any damaged or missing parts of the structure. Odd choice, you might think. Stephen Anderson, Architect and Associate Director at Buttress Architect is ready to explain. “’Brake discs are an important safety component in automotive uses and as such, vehicle manufacturers take great care to ensure that brake discs are designed and manufactured to the highest possible quality. When they are at the end of their life on a vehicle, they can be recycled into iron for use in other applications, in this case to cast the missing components for the glasshouse.”
Load of old cobblers
Whilst this restoration has been taking place, archeologist have unearthed yet more of our garden’s history. A surprising discovery of leather shoes – mostly children’s – have been found in a historic rubbish pit. Along with the shoes, pottery and broken bottles stopped workmen in their tracks. A flurry of theories ensued as the mystery of the abandoned shoes gripped their imaginations.
Jamie Lund is an archeologist with the National Trust, and has shed some light on the case. We believe the pottery dates back to late Victorian or even Edwardian times which means that it’s unlikely that the boots had been worn by Apprentices as that system had finished by 1847. They could well have been used by the children keeping the garden wall stoves burning at night. However, new clues now point to a different conclusion.
Scraps of leather also discovered suggest that the rubbish pit was filled by a cobbler – maybe he was a Quarry Bank gardener who moonlighted as one to supplement his income. The shoes might have been beyond repair and thrown away. Leather experts will conduct further research and the best pairs will be repaired by conservators at the University of London – and hopefully we’ll get them back here at Quarry Bank and on display.
As more of our stories are unearthed throughout the glasshouse restoration, there’s a lot to be excited about. With the opening of our new café in the next few months and the garden shop opening this summer, you will really start to feel the story of our Upper Garden unfold as a new chapter at Quarry Bank begins.
When the gardens reopen on 13 February, you can watch the restoration. We will have viewing portholes so visitors can watch the frame slowly take shape. Once this is complete, visitors can watch glazers cut the glass to shape and delicately glaze the whole structure with thousands of glass panes.