The conservatory was originally a New Zealand centenary memorial project. Conceived in 1939 as a winter garden, the conservatory was designed to give a taste of exotic foliage for visitors to Victoria Esplanade.
The Begonia House cost £3,500 in 1941, and the main glasshouse was built in 1951 and is still in use today. The lathe house entry was added in the mid-1980s after the porch-way was damaged when a car was driven into it.
After 52 years the main glasshouse area was overdue for refurbishment. The thin 3mm glass planes were breaking regularly and a danger to staff and visitors alike, while many of the structural elements were degrading.
Time to conserve the conservatory
In late 2013 Council was forced to close the glasshouse because of safety concerns. After considering relocation options, the decision was made to refurbish the existing glasshouse.
The refurbishment involved a good clean up, sandblasting, repairing and repainting the steel work, along with a complete overhaul of the glass with longer and thicker panes to eliminate the previous risks.
Timber work has been refurbished and where required replaced, the staff workshop has been re-clad and electrical systems replaced. Heating systems have been refreshed and new paths and a misting system installed.
Signage has also been updated to tell the story of Peter Black, and showcasing the conservatory’s special plants.