The History of Conservatories


The word conservatory comes from the Italian word “conservato”, meaning to be stored or preserved, and the Latin word “ory” meaning, a place for.
It is said that the Ancient Romans defined a conservatory to let light in whilst keeping the cold out.

16th Century (1501-1600)

Whilst it was said the Ancient Romans had conservatories, they were truly first established within the 16th century, when wealthy landowners were eager to grow tropical fruits in their gardens. These fruits would normally be grown in hotter climates such as the Mediterranean, therefore, perceived a luxury to have. Where the Italians would use conservatories, known as ‘Limonaia’s’ to protect their potted plants for the duration of winter, northern Europe created Orangeries. Both buildings were traditionally made from either wood or brick with tall windows, usually facing the south in order to maximise sun exposure.

Slightly after this period in 1621, Oxford’s Botanic Garden was founded and labelled as the first notable conservatory. People were able to rent it out the room our for parties and gatherings.


Click on the photo to find more information about Oxford Botanic Gardens.

19th Century (1801-1900)

Once establishing large conservatories in larger areas to display exotic plants, John Nash designed 4 for Buckingham Palace, later being remodelled for Prince William IV. One of these conservatories has now been called The Architectural Conservatory, after the original designer, and is situated within Kew Gardens, still standing today.

In England, before 1845, there was a tax on glass based on its weight. Therefore, conservatories up to this point were made with very thin panes, later causing issues for conservatory owners.

A famous architect, Sir Joseph Paxton, built a conservatory at Chatsworth House, made with an iron frame, between 1836 and 1841. The room covered three-quarters of an acre and at the time was the largest building in the world. It roughly cost £30,000 to build and needed 8 boilers running heat through 7 miles of iron pipe.

Within the mid-19th century, wrought iron was expensive, leading to mass production in the cheaper product, cast iron. It benefitted a lot of people by being cheaper however the material has weaker tension and not so suitable for the heavy structures. Luckily, a man called Henry Bessemer invented the Bessemer converter, making steel cheaper than before. It took away the issues cast iron was causing and had a higher carbon content. The roofing mostly being made from polycarbonate or glass roofing which we still find today.

Conservatories started appearing within English Literature more often, for example, Oscar Wilde’s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the popular book had a positive effect and input for the growth of conservatories within the 1890s. It started becoming the Golden Age for the industry with a wide variety of styles and types, people grew and interest in technologies and gardening, therefore, grew interest in conservatories. They were used both privately and publicly for garden parties and flower shows.

20th Century (1901-2000)

A lot of changes went on in the industry during this period. Firstly, World War 2 (1939-1945) stopped the installation of conservatories all together, as the common materials like iron and glass were diverted to war efforts.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Sir Alastair Pilkington created insulated glass, reintroducing the conservatory and continuing its popularity amongst homeowners. Architects began recreating the Victorian designs within the 1970s, providing people with a variety of styles to choose from.

Towards the end of the 20th century within the UK, the Building Act 1984 came into play, meaning people living within England and Wales needed building regulations approval, making it harder to build conservatories.


The Building Regulations were altered during 2006 due to the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act making provisions of the production of heat and/or power, increasing the prosecution time to two years if the regulations were broken. Along with this, the document was completely rewritten to include Electrical Safety.

2010 – 2017

In 2010 the Building Regulations were completely rewritten, and there was no longer a need for the conservatory roof to have a translucent roof. Over the years, things such as the protection against falling, & glazing safety, security and high-speed broadband infrastructure came into force. This meant the regulations had to be altered yearly, right up until 2017.


Now there is a need for conservatories to be built considering the yearly usage of the room, people want their conservatory warm in the winter and hot in the summer, used for multiple functions rather than just tea parties and growing exotic fruits. Therefore, technology and new inventions have caused the industry to expand once again. There is a wide range of styles and types such as the more classic traditional look, ensuring the glass is as energy efficient as possible, maximising the light but maintaining the temperature throughout the seasons. Some technologies include argon-impregnated glass, easy-clean coatings, heat reflective film or thermal ribbons.

Because of the changes in planning regulations allowing solid roofs, Greenspace UK was set up in 2013 and has been growing every year with no means of stopping. Our insulated panels have helped people all over the UK utilise their conservatory. They are tailor-made to fit into your existing framework, so the installation process takes less than a day. The panels consist of condensed insulation surrounded by two sheets of aluminium.  If you want to find out more, don’t hesitate to give us a call  0800 65 25 157 or fill the form below for a free quote.

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Notable Conservatories Built within the UK

Kew Gardens 
South West London

Chatsworth House

Eden Project

Syon House
West London

Barbican Conservatory 
Central London

Isla Gladstone

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