Cucumber House

The Victorians grew cucumbers in both houses and pits or frames. To grow cucumbers successfully required heat, either using heating pipes or fermenting material. They thought that a narrow span roof house, typically 10ft. high, with a lantern ventilator, gave the best results. A 12ft. wide structure allowed for a central path with raised heated growing beds either side. Alternatively, a ¾-span house built against a wall was used, this allowed a path along the wall and a single raised heated bed, with the plants trailing up to the apex. Ventilation was provided by air holes in the front wall below the raised bed and high on the back wall. Pits and frames were also commonly used with the best results being achieved using heating pipes, along one of the walls.


Cucumber House – Luton Park – The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen 4 June 1861

As seen above, Thomas Messenger designed and actively marketed his cucumber house, although there are relatively few recorded customers.

During 1868 he sold one to Arthur Blackwood, of The Cedars, Oakham, Rutland who bought one cucumber box and three 7ft. by 3ft. 6in. lights glazed with 15oz. glass for a total of £5.

Also in 1868 Thomas Messenger gave Thomas Fletcher Twemlow of Betley Court, Staffordshire an estimate for a 36ft. by 12ft. span roof partitioned cucumber and melon house.

The following year, Mr. Thomas Forman of Nottingham requested several estimates for cucumber houses, the first for a 26ft. by 9ft. span roof house and another for a 17ft. by 8ft. lean-to roof house. Both were to be heated using existing boilers, with the former having 380 superficial feet of framing wire for the cucumbers and no ventilation apparatus, whilst the latter had 210 superficial feet of wiring and 4 sets of ventilation apparatus. Interestingly the framing costs differed with the span roof structure priced at 1s. per superficial foot and the lean-to at 1s. 2d.

In 1870, Thomas Messenger built a new conservatory, cucumber house and altered an existing vinery for Mr. Hawksley of Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.

In 1873, James Meldrum (a seed merchant) of Kendal, purchased a 3-light, 9ft. by 6ft. cucumber frame, glazed 15 oz. glass and with four coats of paint for £4.

Span Roof Cucumber House