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14 Mar 2024

Restoring Culzean’s glasshouses

A view of a lush and colourful flower border running along the outside wall of a long glasshouse in a walled garden. It is a clear sunny day.
The long glasshouse at Culzean in summer
Find out about our recent project to restore Culzean’s historic glasshouses in the walled garden.

The walled garden at Culzean was established around 1815, and glasshouses along the south-facing walls appeared soon after this. The smaller glasshouse (the peach house) appeared later in the 19th century. The current main structure dates from 1906, when it was rebuilt by the famous glasshouse builders Mackenzie & Moncur.

The glasshouse ranges are large, but this was not unusual among large country estates during this period. This was a working garden, and the glasshouses supplied a wide range of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen of the ‘big house’. The Kennedy family would have served their guests rare and exotic home-grown produce that would have been difficult or expensive to obtain otherwise.

Timber-framed glasshouses require a lot of care and maintenance to stay in a good state of repair. The cost of such work became unsustainable for many estates, and so many glasshouses were lost.

At Culzean, in order to preserve these historic structures, skilled contractors are carefully cutting out the decayed timbers in the glasshouse. They will then piece in new sections to renew the seriously decayed sections, using Douglas fir timbers that have been moulded to the same profile as the historical components. Traditional linseed oil putty will replace any loose putty, and then the structure will be repainted with a durable exterior paint.

Good workmanship and careful attention to detail are crucial to the success and longevity of this conservation work. We must ensure the new timber is closely fitted to the existing material and that the paint is applied to a smooth dry surface to form an even, well-adhered film over the timber.

This project not only conserves magnificent garden structures but also uses traditional skills. It creates important opportunities for people to maintain these specialist skills as well as train a new generation of experts, who will be able to care for the glasshouses in the future. This is one of our key strategic objectives: to be a learning organisation by championing skills to support traditional conservation and innovation.

Read more about our ten-year strategy: Nature, Beauty and Heritage for Everyone

This work has been made possible thanks to generous support from the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, Historic Environment Scotland’s Partnership Fund Grant, and a supporter who kindly left a gift in their Will to Culzean.

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