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Orangeries: The history of the original conservatory

White uPVC orangery and lantern roof

When we think of an orangery in 2017, most people will most likely think of the familiar hardwood/brick-based structures, capable of seamlessly extending a property’s living space. This isn’t however the story of the orangery began however. Instead being utilised for a wholly different purpose entirely, before eventually taking Europe by storm.

To help interested homeowners learn a bit more about the nation’s favourite form of luxury living, we thought we’d take a trip through history and explore the journey of the original conservatory.

Serving a practical purpose from the 16th century onwards

Despite our tendencies to think of orangeries an extended recreational space, the design was originally used to house fruit and citrus plants, protecting them throughout the Winter period. This purpose has today, been replaced with greenhouses. Most of the original orangeries simply weren’t suited to sheltering people, wildly lacking a heating source and understandably suffering from poor insulation.

The first instance of a structure resembling an orangery dates back to the mid-16th century, and were fairly simple in the sense that they could be taken down and disposed of when Summer returned. The throwaway nature of this initial design meant that orangeries weren’t as exclusive to royalty and members of the social elite as one would think, with many people at the time making use of their offerings. It was in Italy that orangeries proper started life.

A different kind of Italian renaissance

Though they didn’t know it at the time, Italy would experience and undergo a notable period of substantial cultural change between the 14th and 17th centuries. A time which saw the musical, architectural, and conventional arts flourish, many argue that the Italian renaissance can be largely attributed to the birth of the orangery. Building designs were, after all, also a part of this cultural boom and experimentation, so it wouldn’t be out of the question.

Meanwhile in Britain…

As their popularity in Europe spread, some of the most famous historical orangeries began to grace British shores. Originally built to protect Queen Anne’s citrus trees from the harmful Winter weather, Kensington palace got in on the action in 1704, even going so far as to be used for afternoon tea and fine-dining. 50 years later, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew enjoyed an orangery. Designed by Sir William Chambers, his version was notable due to it being built of brick.

It was around this time that orangeries also started to make use of subtle glass integration, starting to facilitate heat by way of a stove of fire. People suddenly wanted to spend more time in their plant-housing space, but by warming themselves any present greenery would be exposed to harmful fumes that would prevent growth. Orangeries started to become more person than plant friendly.

What is an orangery in the 21st century?

Fast forward to the 21st century and orangeries have fully evolved into natural extended living spaces that differ from traditional conservatories, in the sense that they naturally merge with properties aesthetically. Constructed using a brick foundation that helps create an insulated, secure, and welcoming environment, Associated Windows frequently grace local homeowners in the South West with all the benefits modern orangeries bring.

Upgrade your lifestyle with a seamless orangery from Associated Windows

If you’d like to experience such benefits and upgrade your home lifestyle for the better, get in touch with the Associated Windows team today and we’ll help make your home improvement ambitions a reality.