Hermes

Hermes

During the long winter months you can really appreciate the Victorian concept of a winter garden. Avery Hill Park has the second largest winter garden in the UK after the temperate house at Kew. So quite an asset in this part of South East London and the prospect of funding from the English Heritage Fund to restore it to its full glory was welcomed by all sectors of the community. Now, all that’s changed as the University of Greenwich announced its plans to sell off the site and abandon its plans for the restoration of the historic Grade 11 listed winter garden.

Avery Hill Winter Garden

The three-domed winter garden was created by Colonel North who had made his fortune from the nitrate trade in Peru and Chile. As well as recreating a little bit of tropical South America in south east London he wanted his family to enjoy exercise in inclement weather. On top of one of the domes is a playful statue of Hermes and the original iron framework dates back to the 1890s. The reclining figure of Galatea, one of the goddess nymphs of the sea, is in an imposing position. Galatea can also mean “milky white” and the statue is certainly that. Galatea Reclining on a Dolphin was designed by the Italian sculptor Leopoldo Ansiglioni in 1882.

Galatea

Galatea

The building did suffer some wartime damage and there is a tall palm, still there, that had grown through the broken roof back in 1947. The University had already received some funding from The English Heritage Fund and some restoration had started. Information boards with details of the full scheme have been on display for over a year. Further funding of £2.3 million was needed to restore the winter garden to its full architectural grandeur and the bid for this was within days of submission. Now there is a suspicion and fears that the site could be sold to developers.

It’s not that easy to see how a developer could make the winter garden economically viable as it wouldn’t be that easy to convert to luxury flats although there is plenty of scope on the remaining site. The future of the winter garden remains uncertain and will cause jitters in this corner of the capital.

Advertisements