A Brief History of the Conservatory

A UPVC white conservatory fitted by Northants Windows and Conservatories.

Conservatories have the potential to be an incredible feature of your home. They can help you create a stylish space with modern or classic themes, depending on your interior design preferences. When you ask people what a conservatory is, however, many people will have a different answer. The truth is that conservatories all have unique designs and all originate from a fascinating history.

The History Of Conservatories

Conservatories originated in 16th century Europe as a way for wealthy landowners to cultivate citrus fruits. After delicious oranges, lemons, and limes were imported to their countries, these wealthy individuals wanted a space to grow their own citrus fruits. To do so, they needed a suitable environment, which is where conservatories began on their journey to an innovative feature of homes across the world today.

In conservatory history, their name is taken from the Italian ‘conservato’ and the Latin ‘ory’. As a glazed structure, the conservatory’s main function was to conserve and protect plants, mainly fruit plants, from cold and harsh weather conditions – in a similar way to a greenhouse. Over time, the structures evolved to become a feature of buildings that occupants could enjoy.

Originally, a conservatory would have looked almost unrecognisable to the innovative and unique designs we’re used to today. They were constructed from stone and glazing with the purpose to create a hospitable environment for various exotic plants. A far cry from PVC, which is the most popular material used on modern-day conservatories. Scientific communities, the landed gentry, and nobility were the main groups who used conservatories; unlike today where people from all backgrounds can enjoy the structures.

The First Conservatory in Britain

In Britain, the first conservatory dates back to 1637, and was built in the Oxford Botanic Gardens. Uncharacteristic of modern conservatories, the structure was made using a stone foundation and incorporating slate, and very little glass. Only a few hundred years later one of the most recognisable conservatories was constructed: The Nash Conservatory, which was built on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. King William IV decided to move the structure in 1836 to Kew where you can still see it today.

As time passed, the popularity of glasshouses and conservatories grew hugely, especially in England. Sir John Paxton designed the ‘Chatsworth House Conservatory’ which became the largest glass building in the world before he eclipsed his own creation with the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace is higher than Westminster Abbey and spans 19 acres to become the largest enclosed space on the planet (at the time it was built).

This structure became iconic in the Victorian era and cemented Paxton as a world leader at using glass as a building material. It was a big driver in making conservatories a trend that has remained consistently popular. The main period where the construction of conservatories was reduced was during both World Wars.

After the second world war, however, conservatories began to see a boom in popularity. Due to developments in industry and steel production, steel became the main material for framing glass. Over time, materials and innovative designs have evolved, to create the wide range of conservatories available today.

What Conservatory History Means Today

Conservatories are now a stylish way to extend your floor space,and create an extra room on the ground floor of your home.

Whilst trends and styles change, conservatories have remained a popular feature in many homes.

Working with conservatory design specialists means you can build a structure that matches your interior design preferences. Contemporary and classic designs, as well as a combination of the two, are available with Northants Windows. If you want to add an extension to your home, don’t miss out on an energy-efficient, stylish, and secure conservatory.

Conservatories by Northants Windows

The right conservatory can transform your ground-floor living space. That’s why, from the initial decisions on design concepts until the installation, our team works diligently to ensure you get the best conservatory for your space. Discover your dream conservatory today, get in touch on 01604 946669, or send us a message through our contact form.