South Yorkshire castle’s Victorian glasshouse renovation nears completion

A £3.74m renovation of a derelict Victorian glasshouse at a South Yorkshire castle is nearing completion.

The Grade II Listed glasshouse at Wentworth Castle, in South Yorkshire, fell into disrepair over the years and was placed on English Heritage’s Risk Register.

After a ten-year fundraising campaign, restoration work began in 2012 and in October 2013, the glasshouse will be opened to the public.

Although the restored glasshouse will no longer be heated, conservation specialists are keen to recreate as much of the original planting as possible using detailed historic planting lists.

Internal plants have been procured from Treseders Nursery in St Austell, Cornwall, which specialises in rare temperate plants.

One of the main challenges for Wentworth Castle’s Head Gardener Dr Michael Klemperer has been sourcing two established examples of the fern species Adiantum diaphanum and Adiantum reniforme.

Wentworth Castle’s head gardener Dr Michael Klemperer said:

“It has been fascinating trying to locate these rare examples among others. One of the prize specimens in the Victorian conservatory was The Grass Tree (or Black Boy) Xanthorrhoea Australis and I’m confident we will be able to replicate this native Australian perennial.

“The Grass Tree is a protected species under the CITES programme ( Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) but Wentworth has been lucky enough to obtain a sizeable UK seed grown plant and I’ve also obtained seed and will be growing some more in case of emergency, although they take many years to mature!”

Other plants to feature in the renovated glasshouse include Asian species Gardenia augusta and Lillium regale. Europe will be represented by Geranium maderense (giant geranium) and Aeonium arboreum (houseleak tree) and from Africa, there will be specimens of Strelitzia regina and Zantedeschia aethiopica.

As plant procurement continues, so too does painstaking work on restoring the conservatory’s grandeur and planting up the adjacent areas. Volunteers have been helping prepare the grounds.

The original iron frame consisting of 4,000 parts has been carefully dismantled, labelled, cleaned and re-cast where necessary. It is now being re-erected by heritage craftsmen and wider landscaping work is underway.

The restored Grade II Listed conservatory’s plight came to national prominence during the BBC2 Restoration programme in 2003. Although it failed to win the public vote and secure funding, it prompted a 10-year fundraising campaign.

Wentworth Castle Trust Director Claire Herring said:

“Putting the finishing touches to the plant collections is tremendously exciting. It’s a very significant step in a very long restoration journey.”

Wentworth Castle’s renovated conservatory opens to the public in October.

Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust volunteer Sally Johnson helps plant the outside areas around the restored conservatory

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