Gareth Williams, Weston Park
The rapid expansion of global trade routes that began in the seventeenth century brought to England an ever increasing panoply of exotic plants from distant lands. The desire to cultivate these delicate treasures created a need to shelter them from the harshness of the English climate. This spawned the construction of remarkable structures that were not only capable of giving protection and reproducing the appropriate climatic conditions for the botanical specimens, but also of conferring status to their owners. From early orangeries to pineries, an amazing new form of architecture was born.
By the 1830s, many celebrated architects turned their attentions to the structural possibilities of coupling glass with the newly emerging use of metal as a framing medium. From George IV’s gothic extravagance at Carlton House to C.R.Cockerell’s Greek Revival conservatories at The Grange and at Oakly Park, no mansion was complete without a conservatory or a range of glass houses tucked away behind the walled gardens to provide exotic food, like the highly prized pineapple, for the dining table.
Specialist British companies such as Jones and Clarke, Foster and Pearson, and Messenger rose to the challenges of creating ever more innovative structures, which conveyed a sense of grandeur, as well as fulfilling their practical purpose of housing incredible collections of exotic plants. In America, one company came to dominate the conservatory market – Lord & Burnham, which provided for both private estates and public parks. Mr. Williams’ lecture will examine the influences that gave rise to these glittering structures in both Britain and America. He will explore the architecture of these glass houses, the technological advances that enabled their creation, and lend insight into the demand that was created for them by one of the first large scale global plant exchanges.
Mr. Gareth J.L.Williams MA is passionate about sustainable heritage and is an acclaimed speaker on a variety of subjects within this field. Having read History of Art at the University of Manchester from where he graduated with First Class honors, he later earned a master’s degree. After graduation, he gained a solid grounding in the commercial art world by working with two international auction houses, latterly spending five years as regional director at Sotheby’s. In 2006, after working with the National Trust in Yorkshire, Gareth was appointed Curator and Head of Learning at the Weston Park Foundation and received a Heart of English Tourism Award for his successful development of international cultural tourism at the property. In addition to overseeing Weston’s internationally important collections, he also undertakes consultancy work, sharing Weston Park’s expertise at other private heritage parks in the UK and beyond.
His publications include: “Beyond The Needles Eye: Robert Adam’s Huntwick Lodge at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire” for Apollo Magazine (April 2006), “The Hidden Hand of Genius: Robert Adam and the Pulteney Estate in Shropshire” for the Georgian Group Journal (2016), and “Rome Beyond The Battlements: James Byres at Sundorne, Shropshire”, for the Georgian Group Journal (2018). He also published the exhibition catalog “Masterpieces from the Ford Collection Exhibition Catalogue” for the exhibition at the Granary Art Gallery, Weston Park (2011) and “Guide texts inc. Weston Park, Cronkhill, All Saints Church Berrington”.