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Sponsored property blog: The changing face of conservatories 19th November 2013

Conservatories have their roots in municipal 19th Century conservatoriesThe conservatories that you see attached to houses across the UK today have their roots in the huge iron and glass municipal structures made popular in the 19th Century, when England led the way in conservatory construction and development.

Conservatories were built all around the world in gardens, parks and botanical institutes to display rare tropical plants and flowers and and sometimes even had animal life living among the vegetation.

They were often used to preserve citrus plants (hence the name orangerie or orangery) in countries where they could not be grown outside successfully, such as northern Europe. Before conservatories were introduced, people would bring plants indoors or use a crudely built pergola to protect the plants during the winter months.

The original conservatories were enclosed structures made from brick, stone or wood with tall vertical windows on the south walls. Their use was quickly expanded to include a wider variety of plants and their design evolved, too, as sloping glass was introduced to bring in more light for the plants.

By the end of the 19th Century, people were using conservatories for social gatherings such as tea parties. Now, in a modern residential context, conservatories are frequently used to provide additional space rather than for their original horticultural purpose.

The onset of World War Two saw the halt of conservatory construction in the UK, but the invention of insulated glass in the 1950s saw a resurgence in the industry and sunroom structures began appearing. More creative designs in the 1970s led to the Victorian look making a comeback in smaller, domestic versions using insulated glass. 

Technically, the legal definition in the UK of a conservatory (which can also be known as a solarium or a sunroom) is a building with at least 50 per cent of its side wall area being glazed and 75 per cent of its roof made with translucent materials. 

Residential conservatories can be made from a variety of materials. One of the most popular choices in the UK right now is UPVC, but other options include aluminium or timber frames. Each material has different advantages and disadvantages and can add a totally bespoke aesthetic to your home.

“Conservatories have come a long way from early models,” said Richard Harvey from Approved Trader. “You can choose your materials, style and colour to create the conservatory of your dreams.”

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