Manchester Histories Festival

Putting some sparkle back into the glasshouse at Quarry Bank

Monday 23 May 2016

Emma Armstrong is Project Coordinator for the Quarry Bank Project. We asked Emma to contribute to our blog and tell us about the progress of the project that will see the glasshouse in the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank restored to its former glory.

Quarry Bank is a National Trust property and is one of Britain's greatest industrial heritage sites. You can currently visit the cotton mill, mill owner’s garden and Apprentice House where child workers lived. As part of the project we will be opening the Greg family home and a worker’s cottage, restoring the Northern Woods and reuniting this complete industrial community for this first time in eighty years.

There is so much happening and I’m writing this post to tell you about the fantastic restoration work currently taking place in the Upper Garden at Quarry Bank. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund we are restoring the rare curvilinear glasshouse and back-sheds, which will be used to tell the story of the garden. We are also building a Gardener’s Compound and opening and a garden café and shop. This is the first major package of capital works that form the Quarry Bank Project. For more information about the whole project please visit...

The Upper Garden

It is amazing to think that the National Trust only acquired the Upper Garden in 2010 and already it has changed dramatically. The Victorian dipping pond and small glasshouse have been restored and the fantastic views down to the mill have been uncovered.

The upper garden when it was acquired

The Upper Garden when it was acquired ©Quarry Bank

The Upper Garden today ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The Upper Garden today ©National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The jewel in the crown is the derelict curvilinear glasshouse built in the 1830s. Here the Greg Family displayed exotic plants, and grew grapes and soft fruits. Its modern design, materials and the huge amount of glass sent a clear message to guests about their success and position in society.

Unfortunately, the glasshouse was severely damaged by neglect before the National Trust was able to acquire it. Since this time we have cleared it out and made it secure.


The glasshouse when it was acquired by the National Trust ©Quarry Bank


The glasshouse in 2015, before the restoration work began ©Nick King

How is the restoration progressing?

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and our many other wonderful funders, work began to repair and reinstate the glasshouse in October 2015. Armitage Construction were successful in their bid to be our contractors and they have been working tirelessly to complete our plans.

Our plan is to fully return the glasshouse to its former glory including re-building the demolished section of the west vinery. We do not have the original architectural plans but our National Trust experts and external architects and archaeologists have carried out survey work and have been able to piece together a clear understanding of how the building was created. We also have information in our archives including photographs, letters, diaries, maps and garden plant orders mean that we can restore the structure and present it with a high degree of authenticity.

Once Armitage were on site, the glasshouse frame was carefully dismantled by Dorothea, historic metalwork restorers, and taken to their workshop in Bristol. Over six months the engineers carried out painstaking work to the structure to make repairs, identify missing pieces and examine the extent of the damage. At the same time Barr & Grosvenor were casting new pieces to replace original pieces that could not be salvaged.

After all of their hard work, the frame was returned on 4th April 2016 and is currently being built onto the existing wall. They are currently installing the central curvilinear section and will be working on the two vineries in May.

Glasshouse frame currently being installed ©Michael Erskine

Glasshouse frame currently being installed ©Michael Erskine

Once the frame has been installed the glaziers will arrive on site and begin to fit over 7,400 panes of glass. If you come and visit us over the summer you will be able to watch their progress. I’m sure that it will be quite a spectacle. We hope to complete the glasshouse restoration in the autumn ready for you to enjoy when the garden reopens in spring 2017.

What are our other plans for the Upper Garden?

The Upper Garden has been transformed in recent years thanks to the hard work of our garden staff, Sarah, Ann, Stefan, Jonathan and Tom, and the 67 members of our volunteer team. In April, they were rewarded with the opening of their new compound, which will give them a space to relax and work when not in the garden.

In April, the new garden café was opened. This glass building situated in the beautiful surroundings of the garden is a great place to enjoy tea, cake and a range of snacks and sandwiches.

New garden café at Quarry Bank ©Andrew Moores

New garden café at Quarry Bank ©Andrew Moores

Behind the glasshouse sit the back sheds. These small rooms were used for garden storage, sowing seeds, planting and looking after the heating system that kept the glasshouse heated. Unfortunately, when the National Trust acquired the back-sheds only the walls remained.

Back sheds currently being rebuilt (opening June 2016) ©Derek Hatton

Back sheds currently being rebuilt (opening June 2016) ©Derek Hatton

After months of work, the back sheds will be fully restored and open for you all to visit in July. There will be rooms that tell the unearthed story of the gardens, toilets and a new garden shop.

There is so much to see and do at Quarry Bank. Please come and visit us.

If you would like to know more about the four year Quarry Bank Project and how you can donate to help us to complete our plans please visit...

We use cookies to help us provide you with a better service, but do not track anything that can be used to personally identify you.

If you prefer us not to set these cookies, please visit our Cookie Settings page or continue browsing our site to accept them.