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Restoring cold frames

November 2021

At Gravetye Manor we are lucky to be custodians of such rich heritage and this is especially notable in our collection of Victorian glass houses.  William Robison initially insisted that these structures, so popular at the time, were unnecessary and costly, advising his readers to instead concentrate on all the wonderful hardy plants available.  He was also noted to say, “The worst thing about green-houses is that the gardeners will hide in them when it rains”.  After he started building his garden at Gravetye however, he quickly saw their value, and wasn’t afraid to change his mind, building a range of magnificent structures.  These he used, as we do today, for producing tender and out of season crops for the kitchen as well as the production of plants needed for a vibrant and productive garden.

Although these are the most wonderful buildings to inherit and use, they do take a lot of up keep.  All of them have had to be refurbished or completely re-built over the years and the latest project has been to re-build one of our Foster & Pearson cold frames.  Although the Victorian metal work and mechanisms were as good as the day they were made, sadly much of the timber had become rotten and so we enlisted the help of Nigel, a local craftsman to rebuild the wooden frame.  The intricacy of the Victorian design and joinery became quite a challenge to understand and replicate, but thankfully with his skill, experience and tenacity Nigel persevered to build us the most beautiful refurbished cold frame, with the detail and precision the original designers would have been proud of.  Last week we had a wonderful few days in the late autumn sun, glazing the new frames and now we are ready to fill the cold frame with plants for next year. Thank you Nigel, for such a beautiful job, and we promise not to hide in it when it rains!

Tom

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