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Natural Stone Orangeries: Your Questions Answered

March 15, 2019   |   By
natural stone orangeries

Natural stone orangeries are becoming more and more popular in the UK. They’re a great way of creating flexible extra space in renovations and new builds alike. But what exactly is an orangery? And what’s the difference between natural stone orangeries and conservatories?

limestone orangery

Read on to find out more about the recent revival of interest in natural stone orangeries – a building style that has its origins several centuries ago.

What is an orangery?

limestone orangery detail

An orangery is normally an extension linked to a home. But it can also be in the form of a completely separate garden structure.

Orangery walls are most commonly constructed of either natural stone or brick, with a flat roof. Light comes from the large windows on all external sides of the orangery. French doors give easy access to the outside.

What is a roof lantern in an orangery?

orangery roof lantern
KATPod Roof Lantern

A roof ‘lantern’ is often included in the design of a stone orangery. They provide extra natural light from above. A portion of the flat roof (usually in the middle) is raised up with glazed sides, and a glazed or solid top.

So, do natural stone orangeries actually have anything to do with oranges?Yes, they do! Citrus fruits were first discovered by wealthy Britons touring Southern Europe in the 17th Century. They brought back orange, lemon and lime trees to grow at home. But the British climate clearly wasn’t warm enough. (Not much changes…) So they designed and constructed ‘orangeries’ to provide a warm, light place to cultivate these popular newly discovered fruits.

What else were natural stone orangeries used for?

limestone flooring

Over time, it became more feasible to import oranges, lemons and limes directly from warmer climes. This meant that natural stone orangeries were no longer in such demand for their original purpose. But they still remained popular as somewhere to bring the outside in. They became year-round garden rooms for aristocratic ladies and gents to ‘take tea’ – often surrounded by their collections of imported exotic plants.

What’s the difference between natural stone orangeries and conservatories?

limestone orangery

The technical distinction between an orangery and a conservatory is all about the glass. In a conservatory, more than three quarters of the roof is glazed. In an orangery, glass only covers a small portion of the roof area. Also, more than half the wall area of a conservatory will be glazed. In an orangery it can be much less than this.

Why the difference?

We’ve already looked at the original purpose of natural stone orangeries – to provide the ideal climate for citrus trees to thrive, safely protected from the vagaries of the British weather.

When orangeries were first invented, it wasn’t technically possible to create the large panels of glass needed to really maximise the effect of the sun’s weak rays. In fact, the extra warmth needed to cultivate citrus fruits came from stoves and fires.

Conservatories are a much more recent invention – using advances in glass technology to make the most of any available natural warmth. But beware – the large expanses of glass in a conservatory can often make them unbearably hot in the height of summer. What’s more, they can be too cold to heat and enjoy in the winter months.

By definition, orangeries tend to have less glass and a more robust roof and walls. Importantly, this makes them easier to heat in winter and keep cool in summer – and therefore much more versatile.

What are the main uses of orangeries today?

limestone orangery side

Here are some of the most common modern day uses of orangeries, taking advantage of their natural light and warmth:

  • Home office
  • Dining area (off a kitchen)
  • Art/craft studio
  • Playroom
  • Additional living room
  • Daytime pets’ hangout

Whatever you plan to do with your new orangery, give it a refined finish with natural English limestone from Stamford Stone. Contact us today for free advice on a wide range of natural stone orangery solutions.