C is for (heritage) catalogues
The majority of the 13 Victorian glasshouses and four sets of cold frames at West Dean Gardens were erected between 1891 and 1905 by Foster & Pearson and demonstrate the variety of types and styles in use at that time, from three-quarter span houses, to a cucumber and melon house, and pineapple pits. Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor shares some of the collection of heritage catalogues.
These splendid glasshouses were all built between 1890 and 1900 and were completely derelict before their restoration in the early 1990s. They are magnificent examples of Victorian craft and ingenuity. They are repainted on a four year cycle; the exteriors over summer, when the weather is kinder, and the interiors over winter, when the glasshouses can be emptied. In addition, they are hand scrubbed from top to bottom, inside and out, each winter, a process that takes two tolerant gardeners two months to complete.
Because of their age and despite restoration it has become necessary to commence a programme of completely rebuilding the timber superstructures of the glasshouse range. This started two years ago and is programmed to continue over the next decade. This will ensure their survival for another century.
The glasshouses are heated by a woodchip burning boiler which also heats the College and associated buildings using woodchips produced from West Dean Estate's commercial forestry.There is always colour on display in the glasshouses from the large collection of plants including exotic plants, orchids, strawberry plants, figs, nectarines, peaches, chillies, gourds, grapes and melons.