Hot House Greenhouse
The Victorian hot house or stove house as it was known was always always a magnificent affair, lined as they were, with row upon row of exotic plants basking in the piped heat during the coldest winters.
The heated pipes provided a very dry heat, which most stove plants were not accustomed to in their natural environment. In order to increase the humidity it was not uncommon for stove houses, like the ones at Winsford, to have open water tanks, which were themselves heated. Young journeyman gardeners were also responsible for throwing water on the hot pipework which would then provide clouds of precious steam. The benches at Winsford were covered in sheets of thick slate and these facilitated not only general cleanliness but could be damped down as often as required.
In the first photo, notice the three small ‘doors’ in the wall. This arrangement allows cold winter air to enter the greenhouse and be pre-heated as it flows across the two pipes against the wall. The three pipes beneath the slate base of the raised compost bed are clearly seen. This arrangement allows the gardener to heat the compost to whatever temperature his precious plants require.
Both these unique heating methods can be seen on the hot house restoration page – Part2
The heat for Victorian hot houses came from boilers located underground. Heated water would leave the boiler through the 4″ (100mm) ‘flow’ pipework and rise to the highest point of the heating circuit and the cooled water would run back down to the boiler. The boilers at Winsford were located between 6 and ten feet (1.8m & 2.7m) below ground and up to 10ft long!
The improvement in boiler design and efficiency throughout the nineteenth century, combined with the repeal of the glass tax in 1845, together with the invention of the float glass process, ensured that construction costs were no longer as prohibitive as they once were and led ultimately to the proliferation of glass houses.
For further interesting information read Victorian Gardens
It is all too easy to imagine the gardeners working in Victorian hot houses having a relatively comfortable time, especially during the English winter months. Until you realise that the lifespan of many such gardeners was a short one. Victorian chemical sprays, included poisons like arsenic, which did kill the unwanted insect life in their glasshouses, but they ultimately did for the gardeners themselves.