The Orangery

The Orangery currently

The Orangery is the largest remaining heritage structure in Panshanger Park. It was built in the late 1800’s. Wikipedia defines an Orangery as “An orangery or orangerie was a room or a dedicated building on the grounds of fashionable residences from the 17th to the 19th centuries where orange and other fruit trees were protected during the winter, as a very large form of greenhouse or conservatory.”

From above, courtesy of Big Drone Shots
From directly overhead

The big house and 89 acres of land was sold for £17,750 in 1954, the house was then demolished, however the Orangery survived. Just before the house and gardens were sold off in 1954 the orangery was still largely complete, the below photo (which has been colourised) was taken at that time.

The Orangery fell into disrepair under the new owners, as the park became used primarily for gravel extraction. In recent years the owners have removed many decorative and other elements from the Orangery, as a precursor to some future restoration. There have been a couple of false starts but as things stand today there is no restoration plan, and no future use identified for the building. The Friends Group have been trying to progress this matter since it came into being.

This area was called the Dairy Garden originally, after the earlier octagonal dairy which contained displays of china and had a ceiling decorated with a trellis and vines pattern. In the 1820’s Prince Puckler Muskau ( a prince from Germany on the look-out for an available heiress to marry) had visited Panshanger and had commented on the dairy saying it was for entertaining by the Countess, and had a little marble fountain. He said Lady Cowper received us in her boudoir, which led immediately into a beautiful garden, even now gay with flowers, on the other side of which are green-houses and a dairy in the form of a temple.

By the end of the 19th century it was laid out with the orangery and conservatory and the geometric beds which had large displays of bedding plants from early spring to autumn. In the Conservatory (what we call the orangery ) the Gardeners’ Magazine  of October 12 1895 said  that it had a fountain in the middle of the central compartment (the basin is still there along with the channels for the heating pipes from the underground boilers). The conservatory was filled with camellias, which needed sponging, tree ferns, palms, Datura’s and Dracaena’s. Today you can still see the fixings on the walls for all the climbers. These brief comments give us a glimpse of how sumptuous it was in the past.

Old print of the Orangery from 1895

In September 2021 Tarmac made an announcement about a new management plan for the park, it included the following:

“Part funded by Natural England, the parkland management plan will draw together information on the park’s history, consider the current use and land management of the site, identify sensitivities such as habitats, woodlands and heritage assets, and make recommendations for future management and use.Tarmac is working with consultants Chris Blandford Associates to produce the plan, in partnership with Natural England, Historic England and Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.”

More here:

The new plan above is expected in draft form by the end of 2021, it will include the Orangery, although it won’t propose any future use for the building. It’s easy to imagine new and imaginative uses for a restored Orangery. For example a visitor centre, and/or cafe. Perhaps similar to those found at many National Trust properties around the Country. Below is a picture of the Orangery Cafe at Ashburnham Place near Hastings, just to give a flavour of what has been achieved elsewhere. There are many other examples around the Country.

The Friends Group will continue to pursue a forward plan for this historic building. It’s proximity to the house site and stable block (currently in use as offices) make it ideally located to be a main attraction for the park. The beauty of the building itself, and the leafy setting of it has a lot of potential. With ambition and imagination the Orangery could become a wonderful local historical attraction and amenity.

We can do better can’t we?