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This is how to plan a complex Victorian-style glasshouse

The 25-metre glazed structure at Ramsay Walled Garden near Huntingdon offers an instructive case study on how to design a growing space-cum-visitor attraction

In association with
Alitex glasshouse at Ramsey Walled Garden near Huntingdon. The lean-to Victorian-style design is constructed against a south-facing brick wall to absorb and retain solar heat.
Alitex glasshouse at Ramsey Walled Garden near Huntingdon. The lean-to Victorian-style design is constructed against a south-facing brick wall to absorb and retain solar heat.

Ramsey Walled Garden in Ramsey Forty Foot near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire has a great example of a modern glasshouse designed for a historic setting.

The garden's Trust wanted to replace three smaller original glasshouses with a single lean-to design.

The new glasshouse had to reflect the local vernacular as well as the history of the garden, which dates from around 1840 and, along with other historic buildings, occupies a site that once contained a medieval abbey.

The Trust approached greenhouse and conservatory specialist Alitex to plan and design a 25m display house that would be used for propagating, overwintering and growing fruit and vegetables.

As well as providing a practical growing space, the internal layout had to accommodate and manage visitor flow in a way that would not disturb working gardeners and volunteers.

An additional complexity on site was the fact that a local school now occupies the original abbey’s garden service buildings. To ensure minimal disruption for pupils, parents and teachers, timing was crucial. 

Alitex met all the expectations of the brief and crafted and erected a new Victorian-style aluminium design reminiscent of a historic timber glasshouse. The structure is powder-coated in Wood Sage (RAL 7032) and measures over 25 metres long.

It has a faceted feature lobby with two three-quarter span wings on either side. The glasshouse was officially opened by landscape architect Bunny Guinness in 2017.

  • Side profile of the aluminium and brick glasshouse at Ramsey Walled Garden.
    Side profile of the aluminium and brick glasshouse at Ramsey Walled Garden.
  • Proposal plan for Ramsey Walled Garden.
    Proposal plan for Ramsey Walled Garden.
  • The site at Ramsey Walled Garden before the installation of the new glasshouse.
    The site at Ramsey Walled Garden before the installation of the new glasshouse.
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Key considerations with any glasshouse project like this are size, style, location, growing requirements and who will influence and support the design process. Alitex offers some pointers:

Close collaboration is key to a successful glasshouse project

  • Work closely early on with all parties and the aspirations of architects and their clients will be understood from the beginning. This includes conservation officers and professionals from public bodies such as Historic England, planning committees and local councils.
  • Provide examples of previous work and case studies to help them visualise designs.

The fittings that create an ideal growing environment

  • Consider accessories and ancillaries - they are an important aspect of glasshouse design. 
  • Factor in benching, shelving, heating, watering systems and other enhancements as these help determine size and an ideal layout.
  • Ask whether service buildings such as cleaning facilities for washing down tools, a boiler house, potting shed or a plant room are required.

Glasshouse building materials and construction

  • Bear in mind that all glasshouses, greenhouses and conservatories require building works, whether they are restoration, replication or new projects.
  • When it comes to the design, research the local vernacular to ensure the structure is seamless and blends with its surroundings.
  • Ensure the foundations and base are structurally sound enough to support the weight and size of the glasshouse for years to come.
  • Arrange on-site meetings with a glasshouse expert such as Alitex to help make the process smoother.

Mechanical and electrical factors

  • Consider the provision of water and electric services prior to glasshouse foundations being laid.
  • Combine ventilation systems, lighting, blinds and heating sources that will provide the buoyant atmosphere required for healthy plant growth.

Find more on the Ramsey Walled Garden case study at alitex.co.uk/ramsey

For more information and technical support, visit alitex.co.uk

 

Contact:

01730 826900

enquiries@alitex.co.uk


 

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