Glasshouses at Stockwood Park

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1468978
Date first listed:
01-Sep-2020
Statutory Address:
Glasshouses at Stockwood Park, Farley Hill, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 4BH

Map

© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

Statutory Address:
Glasshouses at Stockwood Park, Farley Hill, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 4BH

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
Luton (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TL0856419733

Summary

Two glasshouses constructed around the mid-C19 by J Weeks & Co.

Reasons for Designation

The glasshouses dating to around the mid-C19 are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest

* they are well-preserved, retaining a high proportion of the original mechanisms for ventilation and temperature control, along the iron benches supported by the original ornate cast iron posts in the longer greenhouse; * as productive greenhouses, they are fairly utilitarian in style but this is relieved by the fluted mullions, ornate iron brackets and ball finials introduced into their design.

Historic interest

* they are very good examples of mid-C19 glasshouses designed and built by J Weeks and Co, a successful firm of horticultural builders that thrived throughout the C19 and into the early C20.

Group value

* they have strong group value with the stable block and walled gardens, both listed at Grade II, and the Grade II* registered Improvement Garden, altogether forming an important ensemble illustrating the evolution of the Stockwood estate over almost three centuries.

History

Stockwood was acquired by Richard Crawley in 1708 but it was his son, John, who was the main creator of the estate. John Crawley had already enlarged the estate by 1740 when he married a local heiress, Susannah Vanacker Sambrooke, and built a Palladian mansion, along with stables and a walled kitchen garden to the north. John continued to expand the estate until his death in 1767, after which progress was maintained by his widow and his son John. The younger John had no direct heir but his younger brother Samuel (d 1805) married a Nottinghamshire heiress, Eliza Rankin. Another Samuel Crawley (d 1852), presumably their son, bought further properties; and still later a few purchases were made by his son, John Sambrooke Crawley.

An article in The Cottage Gardener and Country Gentleman (October 11 1859) describes extensive glasshouses in the walled gardens (Grade II listed) which therefore presumably date to around the mid-C19. The two listed glasshouses are certainly present on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1880 which also shows two further glasshouses at right angles to the north-east with narrow building ranges to the rear. Another long greenhouse is shown adjoining the northern stretch of wall, and three parallel glasshouses are located in the west compartment of the walled garden. These three have since been demolished, and the others have been rebuilt (along with the building range), except for the two listed examples.

The glasshouses were built as greenhouses, ie, for potting and growing plants as opposed to displaying them. They bear the maker’s stamp of ‘J. Weeks & Co Horticultural Engineers London’. The business had been established by Edward Weeks who started a garden building business around 1815, making boilers and heating systems. In the early 1840s he handed it over to his son, John, who described himself as a Horticultural Builder and Hotwater Apparatus Manufacturer and moved the premises to 124-126 Kings Road. He constructed a ‘magnificent winter garden’ as a showcase for his work on the new site and successfully sold boilers which were exhibited at all the major shows and exhibitions in Britain. Although Weeks had grown exotic plants for many years, as he grew older he decided to concentrate on the building and heating side of the business. When he retired in 1869 he passed the business over to his brother Alfred G W Weeks and to three other partners, George Deal, George Lillywhite and Alexander Saunders. The company continued as J Weeks & Company until about 1908.

By the early C20 the expansion of Luton had almost surrounded Stockwood Park with suburban housing. The Crawley family left in 1939 when the house was converted into the Alexandra Hospital for children with hip disorders, and in 1945 the park was purchased by Luton Borough Council. The walled gardens were used as the borough’s flower nursery. The house was demolished in 1964 but the stable block was retained and then converted into a craft museum as part of the restoration works undertaken in the mid-1980s. The C18 walled garden was planted as a series of period gardens, and in 1985 Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was commissioned to design a contrasting ‘modern’ sculpture garden to the south, known as the Improvement Garden (registered at Grade II*).

Details

Two glasshouses constructed around the mid-C19 by J Weeks and Co.

MATERIALS: red brick plinth supporting a glazed timber frame.

PLAN: the two greenhouses are laid out in a line within the southern corner of the large east walled garden. They are both rectangular on plan, the shorter one to the north-east and the longer one to the south-west.

EXTERIOR: the span glasshouses have the same design and construction except that the shorter one has eight bays and the longer one has 14 bays. Each bay consists of a row of four large fixed panes, divided by mullions (the outer two fluted) with shaped brackets which support the guttering running the length of the buildings. The wooden doors at the gable ends have three chamfered vertical panels and two tall glazed panels above. The sloping roofs have large, overlapped, slightly scalloped glass panes which channel rainwater away from the glazing bars into the guttering. Each end of the roof is surmounted by a wooden ball finial.

INTERIOR: this retains a high proportion of the original mechanisms for ventilation and temperature control. The ventilation system allows for the upper lights in the roof to be raised and lowered using long rods connected to the opening lights and operated by a lever, stamped with the maker’s mark. The lights along the sides of the greenhouses are opened in groups using a long horizontal rod connected to each bay. The rafters and apex of each bay are supported by ornate iron brackets. Some of the original lock and handle plates are no longer in situ but have been retained. The stone flag floors survive in places.

The shorter greenhouse is divided into two equal parts by a glazed wall resting on a brick plinth. The door is in the same style as the external doors. The greenhouse has a floating floor which stands on bricks to allow for constant temperature control but the heating pipes along the north-west side do not appear to be original. In the south-west end a series of brick plinths, painted white, survive along the south-east side to support the bench. At the north-east end, the propagation unit was built in the 1970s.

The longer greenhouse retains iron benches on either side at the south-west end, supported by the original ornate cast iron posts. The central iron bench supported by brick piers at the south-west end is possibly original but the central raised brick bed at the north-east end probably also dates to the 1970s when the propagation unit was built.

Sources

Websites
John Weeks – Horticultural Architect , accessed 22 January 2020 from https://thegardenstrust.blog/2017/09/16/john-weeks-horticultural-architect/
Other
Stockwood Park Report by Elain Harwood (Historic England, 2019)
The Cottage Gardener and Country Gentleman, October 11 1859, pp. 21-24

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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