The weather was rubbish - cold and wet, so photos were generally rather poor. But the rain made it a pleasure to get into the glasshouses. As we're currently studying 'protected environments' for the RHS Level 2 certificate, there was a lot of information on how glasshouses have developed over time. At Tatton, the glasshouses were added one at a time over a period of many years, so you can see the technical improvements over time. From very small glass panes with thick supporting structure, to larger and larger panes, and thinner and thinner structural support. And the engineering that went into opening the vents developed over this time period too, reaching a peak of complexity in the Victorian age.
Of course, the great houses didn't just make do with one glasshouse; with fruit needing to be supplied to the family all year round, a range of glasshouses were used to meet this need, supplemented with extensive fruit storage facilities. Apparently, by using a variety of cultivars, use of glasshouses, and storage of the picked fruits by placing their stems in grape storage bottles, grapes could be supplied to the house nearly all year round.
In one glasshouse, grapes were grown along with pineapples. This glasshouse was known as the "Pinery/Vinery". The pineapples were grown in around 3ft of rotting oak leaves (rotting and therefore heat production was encouraged by the addition of a nitrogen rich source to the leaves - urine). These particular pineapples weren't very happy as the building hadn't been heated over the winter.
The vines were planted outside, and then the stem fed through into the pinery/vinery. In the photo below, the holes that the vines came through are covered in slate. Incidentally, look at how small the glass panes are, and how thick the supporting structures are.
This photo (below) shows the depth of the bed. You can't really see it on this small photo, but there are brick arches along the back wall where they meet the floor (back left of bed). Below the arches was kept free of bricks, to allow the vine roots of any vines grown indoors to make their way out into the garden.
But pineapples and grapes are not the only fruits. The peaches were flowering in their glasshouse, and looked absolutely beautiful, fan trained against the wall.
Below gives an idea of the length of one part of the peach house, with Harry (in flat cap) explaining about fan training. You can also see, at the top, part of the clever engineering that is used to open the roof vents, using a lever next to the door.
More posts to come on this fascinating visit. Thank you, Harry!