The Palm House
By the early 1950s, the Palm
House had been subjected to over a hundred years of external weathering, together
with high temperature and humidity inside. These adverse conditions had taken
their toll and restoration was long overdue.
The first restoration was in
1955-57, when the glazing bars were cleaned and realigned and the house completely
reglazed. New beds were built, during which time the plants were simply moved
around within the building as the work progressed.
The boilers were converted
to oil and moved to a site behind the Campanile. The tunnel continued to be used,
now taking hot water to the heating system. A later conversion to dual-fuel (oil
or gas) boilers has resulted in gas being the standard fuel.
restoration, during 1984-88, was much more comprehensive after major work was
found to be vital, for both the building and the heating system. For the first
time in its history, the Palm House was completely emptied. Most palms were 'heeled
in' in temporary glasshouses, but some were too large, so were cut down and made
into specimens for the Herbarium and Museum.
The Palm House is a world-famous
Grade 1 listed building. Under the direction of the Property Services Agency,
it was dismantled entirely, restored and rebuilt, with parts replaced like for
like. Burton and Turner were at the leading edge of their glazing technology,
but standards today are vastly superior. Toughened safety glass is held by ten
miles of glazing bars made of modern stainless steel, but to exactly the same
section as the originals.
The floor layout was revised to allow planting
in beds, rather than pots, which made room for wider paths and seats for visitors.
The basement was enlarged to house staff facilities and the new Marine Display.
second restoration took as long to complete as the original house took to build.
Replanting was completed in mid-August 1989 and H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen
Mother officially reopened the Palm House on 6 November 1990.
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