The Dartmouth Greenhouse was built in 1905. This Greenhouse is part of the history of Royal Avenue Gardens and part of the heritage of the town of Dartmouth.
The Gardens were created gradually over a period of time as plans could be realised, and the Greenhouse was part of the original layout. It was built in 1905, shortly after the area known as the ‘Newground’ was reclaimed and turfed. The development of the grounds continued with flower beds, tree planting and gas-illuminations. In 1911 the present cast iron bandstand was built, considered at the time to be the finest in the South West. Both the Greenhouse and the Bandstand are iconic parts of these historical gardens.
As with the rest of Royal Avenue Gardens, the Greenhouse is an important part of the Town’s history, both as one of the two remaining original structures in the Gardens and also because it forms part of the social and cultural history of the town of Dartmouth: It was originally used to grow the plants for the Gardens and flowers for the Council offices etc. The seed order for 1915 was 14 shillings! This use of the greenhouse (plus the other more recent greenhouse, now demolished) continued until just a few years ago.
For the past 10 years the Greenhouse has been used by Dartmouth in Bloom to cultivate plants in a similar way, for the benefit of the town and to house the plants of local residents who are in hospital or on holiday. Although at the moment it appears quite ordinary and utilitarian, it certainly adds to the aesthetic quality of the area and is a lasting reminder of the town’s past. It is a part of our local heritage which the people of Dartmouth would like to save.
The Greenhouse is at present in a sad state. The woodwork and glass has probably been replaced at various times in its history and never to the original high standard of workmanship. However, the brick structure of the building, some of the glass and the heating system are believed to be original. The area of breeze block construction near the current entrance may be where the entrance was modified in the past. It is thought that the heating pipes were recycled from two older heated houses dismantled in another part of the town, and the Greenhouse was built by local workmen.
When first built it had ‘fancy glass’ to the front. The centre portion was used as a conservatory for exotic plants and was open to the public (The Greenhouse has been open to the public until its recent closure for health and safety reasons) At the north end is what was erected as a potting shed and tool house, also housing the stokehole for the coke boiler – unfortunately the original boiler no longer exists. This is in what is now part of the Council depot.
If the Greenhouse can be saved and restored to its former glory it will be a wonderful addition to the historic sights of Dartmouth and a permanent reminder of the history of the town and its ‘Royal’ gardens – the gardens have historically always been instrumental in the town’s success in the tourism industry.