Carlton House Conservatory

On 19th June 1811 the Prince of Wales, later to be George IV, held a lavish event in his newly completed Conservatory in Carlton House.The Prince’s advisor was Walsh Porter who had no architectural qualifications and appears to be a style guru of his time. He advised the Prince to commission a young architect named Thomas Hopper to design the conservatory that was to be built in the gothic style. Hopper had remodelled Walsh Porter’s home in gothic style. You may have heard of it; at the time it was described as “a charming retreat by the waterside” and called Craven Cottage it is no longer there but today is the site of Fulham Football Club.

The Conservatory Hopper built for the Prince of Wales was made of cast iron with translucent coloured glass. It cost £22,685 to build and I don’t suppose you would have much change left out of £25 million if you built it today.

You can see a watercolour of it by a contemporary artist William Henry Pyne (1769-1843) at the top of this article.

Back to the event on the 19th June. Two thousand invitations were sent and according to the Gentleman’s Magazine:

“A most splendid Fete was given by his Royal Highness the Prince Regent this evening, with a two-fold motive – first, in honour of the birthday of his august Parent; and secondly, to benefit the numerous classes of British artists, who, by the illness of the Sovereign, and the discontinuance of the accustomed splendour of the Court, had been deprived of many advantages…The company began to assemble at nine.

The Grand Table extended the whole length of the Conservatory, and across Carlton-House, to the length of 200 feet. Along the centre of the table, about six inches above the surface, a canal or pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the had of the table. Its banks were covered with green moss and aquatic flowers; gold and silver fish swam and sported through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet.

The company did not separate till six in the morning.”

Well you have to give them full marks for stamina!

Exterior of Carlton House Conservatory.

Exterior of Carlton House Conservatory.

You can find further illustrations of the Gothic Conservatory at a description of the event at Regency Fete.

Today a Gothic Conservatory is likely to use just some simple style details influenced by Gothic, with pointed detailing in window and doors…that’s unless you have £25 million to spend!