Broomfield Conservatory: History
The Conservatory is much younger than it looks. You might think it dates from the Victorian or Edwardian period, but in fact it was built as recently as 1934. Southgate Borough Council accepted a tender from Messrs W Richardson of Darlington to build it for the sum of £912 and it opened to the public in October 1934 with a splendid display of chrysanthemums. This event was recorded in the Palmers Green & Southgate Gazette on 26 October 1934 (see below).
Messrs A H Brown of Enfield provided three large palms at a cost of 3 guineas each, but it is not known who provided the metal seat at the far end of the Conservatory. Sadly, the seat you can see today is not the original, which disappeared some years ago. Ironically, even back in 1934 the Council could not find the money to build the Conservatory, so it took out a £912 loan from the Ministry of Health, repayable over 20 years!
Despite some research, there is little documentation about the uses to which the Conservatory has been put since 1934. In the time when Broomfield Park had a large workforce of gardeners it is thought that plants were propagated in the Conservatory and brought on ready for planting out in the beds and borders of the Park itself. And the gardeners were able to maintain a rich collection of exotic and ornamental plants for visitors to admire. In those days the Conservatory was open on a daily basis and older visitors today can still recall fond memories of regularly visiting the building.
Over time Council staffing cuts meant that the Park staff were gradually reduced in number and it was not possible to maintain a daily presence in the Conservatory. So the building was repeatedly vandalised, to the extent that in August 2003 so much glass was broken that it was closed to the public on safety grounds. The Conservatory then continued its decline until the Winter of 2009, when Enfield Council commissioned a major refurbishment. In February 2010 the Enfield Independent Newspaper reported that the Council had spent about £130,000 on redecoration and new glazing and joinery on the windows and doors.
Following the refurbishment volunteers from the local community re-opened the Conservatory doors, initially in 2010 on a few selected special Open Days, and now on a regular basis twice a week. See Visiting the Conservatory for opening times.Since 2010 volunteers have both increased the stock of interesting and unusual plants and, assisted by small grants and their own fund-raising efforts, have improved the appearance and management of the building. A particular success in 2015 was the installation of the new railings in front of the Conservatory which were formerly at the Triangle toilets in Palmers Green. Sadly funding cuts suffered by the Council mean that the building is still at risk and without an agreed maintenance plan there is a real danger the fabric of the building will once again decline.
Volunteers have now taken over where the Park staff left off, and it is their aim to recreate the lush feel of the 1934 building by re-introducing the exotic plants for which the Conservatory is well known. Please email Liz Macnicol if you are genuinely interested in helping the band of volunteers.