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The Orangery, Blithfield

Description: The Orangery

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 12 January 1966
English Heritage Building ID: 273800

OS Grid Reference: SK0445723992
OS Grid Coordinates: 404457, 323992
Latitude/Longitude: 52.8135, -1.9353

Location: Blithfield, Staffordshire WS15 3NL

Locality: Blithfield
Local Authority: East Staffordshire Borough Council
County: Staffordshire
Country: England
Postcode: WS15 3NL

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Explore more of the area around Blithfield, Staffordshire at Explore Britain.

Listing Text


512/13/93 The Orangery
(Formerly listed as:
Orangery at Blithfield)

Orangery, c.1769. Designed by James Stuart for Sir William Bagot, and built under the supervision of Samuel Wyatt. Built of brick, the front or south-east elevation and the return elevations being clad in limestone ashlar; the rear elevation is bare brick. The front part of the roof is glazed; the timber structure and glass date from the C20.

The long rectangular structure is of a single storey, with a central section of nine bays flanked by tripartite pavilions, the whole raised on three steps. The nine central bays are open, being defined by baseless Tuscan pilasters; these bays formerly held full-height vertical sashes, for which the timber runners survive. The three bays of the pedimented pavilions are also defined by pilasters; at the centre of each pavilion is a six-panelled door - thought to be original - contained within a moulded doorframe with console brackets rising from acanthus leaves, and supporting a flat hood. To either side is a round-headed niche. Above the doors and niches are fluted friezes; above these, rectangular panels. A narrow dentilled-eaves cornice runs along the front elevation, continuing around each return elevation; these ashlar-clad elevations are defined by clasping pilasters. A brick modillion-eaves cornice surmounts the long central section of the brick rear elevation. This elevation has applied porticos to each end, echoing the front pavilions. To east, the pilasters frame a row of three blind rectangular windows with gauged-brick arches, not separated by pilasters; to west, the central bay has been filled by a doorway at a later date. Beneath the east end is a small oval subterranean chamber with arched ceiling, accessed by an external stair; the chamber is lined with white Victorian tiles. It is not known what the function of this room was originally, nor whether it was constructed at the same time as the rest of the orangery, and its use may have changed over time. Possible functions include the storage of fruit and the protection of especially tender plants, whilst it may have been connected with the heating of the orangery, or have been used as a plunge pool or shrine.

The floor is paved with stone flags, with areas demarcated by bull-nosed stone edging. The long central section of the orangery is separated from the pavilions by arches filled with multi-pane glazed screens - these are not original. On the back wall is a stone plaque inscribed with a poem said to have been written by the first Lord Bagot in celebration of the 'Progeny of milder Climes' the orangery was built to house, and of his wife Elizabeth, whose particular care they were.

The orangery stands in the garden of Blithfield Hall, a substantial country house with medieval origins; the fabric of the house is now largely C16, with notable additions of the C18 and early-C19. The orangery was built for Sir William Bagot c.1769 to the design of James Stuart, known as 'Athenian' Stuart for his scholarly promotion of the Greek style in architecture and design. Bagot would have known Stuart through the architect's work for his neighbour, Thomas Anson, at Shugborough, in the 1760s; this included an orangery, now demolished. Drawings in the possession of the Bagot family show designs for an orangery similar to the one at Blithfield, but Doric, rather than Tuscan, having a triglyph frieze, and with pedimented doorcases, and urn finials to the end pavilions. Drawings for an unexecuted scheme for altering the house may also have been supplied by Stuart. The construction of the orangery was overseen by Samuel Wyatt, who worked on a new drawing room for Bagot in the same year. The design is thought to have been used by Samuel Wyatt, perhaps with his brother James, in building an orangery for nearby Ingestre Hall soon afterwards. Substantial works were undertaken to the Blithfield orangery in the 1920s and 1960s; the glass was blown out during the Second World War, when a bomb dropped in a neighbouring field.

Bagot, N, Lady, Blithfield, An illustrated guide and history (1971)
Colvin, H, A Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (1978, 2008)
Mowl, T, The Historic Gardens of England: Staffordshire (2009)
Oswald, A, Blithfield, Staffordshire, Country Life, 116, (28 Oct, 4 Nov, 11 Nov 1954)
Pevsner, N, Buildings of England, Staffordshire (1974), 73
Robinson, J M, The Wyatts: An architectural Dynasty (1979), 23
Saudan-Skira, S and Saudan, M, Orangeries: Palaces of Glass - their history and development (1998)
Watkin, D, Athenian Stuart: Pioneer of the Greek Revival (1982)
S Weber Soros, James 'Athenian' Stuart: The rediscovery of antiquity (2006), 327-330
Woods, M and Warren, A, Glass Houses (1988), accessed 20 December 2010

* Architects: for its association with the architects James Stuart, who designed the orangery, and Samuel Wyatt, who built it
* Architectural: as a garden building of particularly striking design, notable for its adroit adaptation of classical forms to the practical purposes of a glasshouse
* Historical: As a noteworthy example of a horticultural building, making a more expansive use of glass than had generally been the case in orangeries. The orangery's poetical plaque, celebrating the horticultural enthusiasm it was built to serve, adds to the building's historical interest
* Group Value: with Blithfield Hall, and Blithfield Church, both listed at Grade I, and with the Grade II-listed fence and steps adjacent to the orangery, and with other Grade II-listed structures in the garden and park

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.