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Glasshouse job is seen through to completion

OWNERS of the Walled Nursery in Hawkhurst have finally completed their five-year painstaking renovation of nine Victorian glasshouses thanks to funding assistance from Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils’ Buildings at Risk Scheme.

The Walled Nursery was built in 1850 and formed part of the 1,200 acre estate then owned by Charles Gunther, who founded the Leipzig Meat Extraction Company which later became known as OXO. At that time there were nine gardeners employed within the wall, five in the greenhouses, and four working in the grounds of the nursery.

The walled garden produced fruit, flowers and vegetables including mushrooms, grapes, lemons, peaches and melons for the mansion next door. Any surplus was donated to Hawkhurst Cottage Hospital. After the war the house and gardens were taken over by St Ronan’s School, and eventually leased out to a succession of market gardeners.

The Walled Nursery contains nine Victorian 'state of the art' glasshouses built by Foster and Pearson, the Nottinghamshire company renowned for horticultural buildings.

Having leased the nursery for many years Peter and Karen Horn purchased it in 1995 and, in 2000, they applied to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for support from the Buildings at Risk Scheme to restore their glasshouses. Total repair cost was £78,000, split equally between council and owners.

The Buildings at Risk Scheme began in 1999 after a survey of all 3,000 of the borough’s listed buildings. The aim of the scheme is to have a more structured approach towards listed buildings at risk. The Borough Council works with owners to help make restoration work a viable option as a main reason for decay of properties is lack of finance.

The Buildings at Risk Scheme provides grant aid and advice. This enables future generations to have the opportunity to appreciate the history of local architecture. In 2004 the register of Buildings at Risk was reviewed. In its first year a total of 40 Buildings at Risk was reduced to 25.

Cllr Elizabeth Thomas, Portfolio Holder for Planning, said: "The Walled Nursery is an important repair project to be grant aided through the Buildings at Risk Scheme."

Owner Peter Horn said: "Our customers are pleased to see the glasshouses restored so the hard work has definitely be worthwhile.

"Future plans for the Walled Nursery include a small museum based on walled gardens, their history and a selection of Victorian gardening tools."

* The Walled Nursery, St Ronan’s School, Water Lane, Hawkhurst. For information call 01580 752425.

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