Living in Style: A Brief History of Conservatories in the UK - The Evesham Observer

Living in Style: A Brief History of Conservatories in the UK

Evesham Editorial 17th Sep, 2023   0

Looking to install a conservatory in your own home? This glass structure can be a great addition to your home if you want to increase space, brighten up your home and add to the overall value of your property.

But their functionality is not the only thing that makes conservatories interesting. Dating as far back as the 16th century, they have a rich history in the UK. Their uses and styles in the past significantly impact the way conservatories look and are used today.

So, if you want to know more about how your conservatory started out or are interested in its past before installing one of your own, you have come to the right place. We offer a concise history of conservatories in the UK and show how this structure that has been popular for centuries has changed over time.

Conservatories then and now

Early conservatory designs were quite unlike those we are familiar with today. We now know them as additions to houses, becoming a part of them and increasing their space. But in their early stages, conservatories were separate structures that looked more like greenhouses. Not only that, but they were also used with the purpose of growing various plants.




When conservatories first started being installed in the UK in the 17th century, they were primarily commissioned by the wealthy to house and grow imported citrus fruit. Being primarily made of glass, the configuration of the conservatory allowed plants accustomed to a warmer climate to survive the UK’s harsh winters.

Later, during the 18th century, conservatories were used as outbuildings to country houses for the upper classes. They had a similar purpose as in the previous century, as they were used as a greenhouse that primarily hosted plants and fruit that were not otherwise found in the UK.


100 years later, during the Victorian era, conservatories became further established as a symbol of wealth and status. They continued to be used to grow plants, fruit and vegetables, primarily with display purposes. At social gatherings, for instance, guests would be shown to the conservatory to admire the host’s impressive collection of flora from different parts of the world.

This was also the time when conservatories were built as grand glass structures. One of the most famous examples of a large UK conservatory designed and built in the 19th century is the Palm House in Kew Gardens.

In the 20th century, the use of conservatories took a significant turn. With the development of insulation and different types of window glazing, these structures started to be integrated into people’s homes and taking on residential purposes.

So, conservatories as we know them today have only had the form and use that we are familiar with for a very short part of the UK’s history. They have come a long way since the 17th century, going from displaying rare plants to providing an additional living space to homeowners across the country.

Modern conservatory styles

Not only has the purpose of conservatories changed a great deal since they were first created, but their variety in style is also more recent. Even though they have taken on modern touches, some types still carry the remnants of history.

This is especially clear when it comes to the Victorian and Edwardian conservatory styles. The former is one of the most popular conservatory types in the UK today. With a tall peaked roof and multiple glass panels, it is obvious that it draws inspiration from Victorian era conservatories.

The Edwardian style is also reminiscent of conservatories’ rich past. These are rectangular and usually have a peaked four-sided roof. Even though Victorian and Edwardian conservatories are more visibly tied to historical periods, they still fit well with modern architecture, making them a fitting choice for various home designs.

In addition to these two, other modern styles include:

Lean-to conservatories: These have a sloped roof and are rectangular in shape.

P-shaped conservatories: These consist of a Victorian style conservatory as the rounded part of the P shape. The straight section can be either Edwardian or lean-to.

T-shaped conservatories: Typically, these are made in the Victorian style with a centre projection, which most often includes french doors.

Orangery: This is also a type of conservatory, but rather than being made exclusively or primarily of glass, it is a brick-build structure with large windows to prioritise insulation.

Why install a conservatory?

Many homeowners across the UK opt for a conservatory. Whether you want to increase space, brightness or the overall aesthetics of your property, conservatories can be a great addition to your home.

In addition, because conservatories have become increasingly energy efficient, they can help you avoid high heating bills while also enabling you to live a greener lifestyle.

Nowadays conservatories come in an array of styles that homeowners can choose from. What is more, they can also be made from different materials for the window frames, have a variety of colours and sport any type of window glazing.

This means that conservatories today are highly customisable. Homeowners across the country can choose the style, materials, colours and glazing they want to make a conservatory a unique addition to their property.

If you are interested in installing a conservatory for your home, you should consult a specialist who can help you decide on the style, material and glazing type that will best match your home. Not only that, but they can also assist you in determining the exact cost of installing a new conservatory.

This is a submitted article.

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