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The Orangery Roof Project

In October 2023, the ground-breaking conservation project of restoring the roof of The Orangery to the original solid slate, just like the corresponding roof over The Oxfordshire Pantry. This involved removing the 19thcentury glass ceiling, which had come to the end of its life and replacing it with a timber and slate structure. The new slate roof combined with modern insulation plays a part in reducing overall energy consumption, pushing us closer to our green goals.

The project aimed to restore The Orangery to what we believe would have been its original form, based on research and evidence. It’s also believed to be the first time this type of reinstatement programme has been carried out on a Grade I Listed building. 


Thank you!

The Orangery project is being fully funded by visits to Blenheim Palace therefore we would like to say a huge thank you to every one of you who has visited and therefore helped to make this conservation a reality – you are an integral part of Blenheim Palace’s history and without your support the work would not have been possible.

Our Built Heritage Team are working with construction company Savvy on the project. From left: Multi Tradesman Daniel Johnston, Head of Built Heritage Kelly Whitton, Site Manager Craig Smith and Trainee Manager Harry Coley Smith.


Find out more about the project...

The History of The Orangery

The Orangery has been many things over the past 300 years including a greenhouse, a conservatory, a theatre, an art gallery, offices and most recently a restaurant. When Blenheim Palace was first built, The Orangery was a greenhouse – a working space with large windows creating the perfect climate to grow oranges and lemons (hence its citrus name). Orangeries are found at many stately homes in Europe and for members of aristocracy in the 1700’s having an orangery was a status symbol and indication of wealth. The 4th Duke however, was the first to make Blenheim Palace a true family home, and to indulge his eight beloved children he had The Orangery turned into a 200-seat theatre which they used to perform and put on plays. The first performance took place during Christmas of 1786 and Oxford’s ‘town and gown’ came to Blenheim Palace to perform and watch.

The History of The Orangery continued

Fast forward to 1861 and The Orangery was being used as a greenhouse once again, but next to it was the laundry, a dairy and a bakehouse along with large, open fires for cooking. These necessities were kept well away from the main part of the Palace where the Duke and his family lived due to fear of a blaze (Blenheim Palace’s early inhabitants were within living memory of the Great Fire of London). Unfortunately, a fire did break out in the bakehouse and spread to the roof of the greenhouse, destroying it. The solid slate roof which the greenhouse likely had before was replaced with a glass ceiling, inspired by glass and iron rib-and-girder structures made famous by architect Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in London. The Orangery then returned to its original function, growing fruit until the 1980s. Most recently The Orangery has become a restaurant, serving afternoon teas and Sunday roasts to visitors.

Why replace the roof now?

The Orangery roof was last restored in the 1970s but now the 19th century glass roof has come to the end of its natural life and needs entirely replacing.

Why not replace it with glass again? Due to the pressures of climate change and temperature swings, which present a range of challenges for historic buildings, we are choosing to return the roof back to its original solid slate. Slate combined with modern insulation will be a far more effective insulator than glass, saving energy and helping us to reach some of Blenheim’s 10 year goals, two of which are to become a net generator of green energy and to complete £40 million of vital restoration work. Our 10 year goals were announced in 2017 with the aim to have delivered them by 2027.

Will it look like the original slate roof when it is finished?

Based on research and remaining pre-fire evidence we are restoring The Orangery to what we understand to be its original form. We are replacing the current glass roof with a timber and slate structure and are working closely with Historic England to make sure the work, materials and architecture are sympathetic to Vanbrugh’s design. We don’t know exactly what The Orangery looked like before the fire in 1861 – unfortunately there’s very little information in our archives. Blenheim Palace was designed by architect Sir John Vanbrugh, but post 1716 due to dwindling finances his architectural plans from 1704 would have been scaled back.

When will the project be completed?

Work on The Orangery is expected to finish in Autumn 2023, at which point it will open back up as a restaurant and normal service will resume. In the meantime get your afternoon tea fix at our beautiful glass marquee Clementine’s on the Lawn, situated on the South Lawn of the Palace, which is temporarily in place whilst work on The Orangery is carried out and is open until the end of August.

The Orangery Roof Project

The Orangery Roof Project