An Orangery was a building frequently found in the grounds of fashionable residences from the 17th to the 19th century and given a classicising architectural form. The orangery was similar to a greenhouse or conservatory. The name reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees were often wintered in tubs under cover, surviving through harsh frosts though not expected to flower and fruit. The orangery provided a luxurious extension of the normal range and season of woody plants, extending the protection which had long been afforded by the warmth offered from a brick fruit wall. A century after the use for Orange and lime trees had been established other varieties of tender plants, shrubs and exotic plants also came to be housed in the orangery, which gained a stove for the upkeep of these delicate plants in the cold winters of northern Europe.
The orangery originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy, when glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced. In the north, the Dutch led the way in developing expanses of window glass in orangeries, though the engravings illustrating Dutch manuals showed solid roofs, whether beamed or vaulted, and in providing stove heat rather than open fires. This soon created a situation where orangeries became symbols of status among the wealthy. The glazed roof, which afforded sunlight to plants that were not dormant, was a development of the early nineteenth century. The orangery at Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, which had been provided with a slate roof as originally built about 1702, was given a glazed one about a hundred years later, after Humphrey Repton remarked that it was dark; though it was built to shelter oranges, it has always simply been called the "greenhouse" in modern times. The Orangerie at the Palace of the Louvre, 1617, inspired imitations that culminated in Europe's largest orangery, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart for Louis XIV's 3000 orange trees at Versailles, whose dimensions of 508 by were not eclipsed until, from the development of the modern greenhouse in the 1840s, were quickly overshadowed by the architecture in glass of Joseph Paxton. Notable for his design of the Crystal Palace, his "great conservatory" at Chatsworth House was an orangery and glass house of monumental proportions.
The orangery, however, was not just a greenhouse but a symbol of prestige and wealth and a feature of the garden, in the same way as a summerhouse, folly or "Grecian temple". Owners would conduct their guests there on tours of the garden to admire not only the fruits within but the architecture without. Often the orangery would contain fountains, grottos, and an area in which to entertain in inclement weather.
In England, John Parkinson introduced the orangery to the readers of his Paradisus in Sole (1628), under the heading "Oranges". The trees might be planted against a brick wall and enclosed in winter with a plank shed covered with "cerecloth", a waxed precursor of tarpaulin. "For that purpose, some keepe them in great square boxes, and lift them to and fro by iron hooks on the sides, or cause them to be rowled by trundels, or small wheeles under them, to place themin an house or close gallery" — which must have been thought handsomer than the alternative.
The building of orangeries became most widely fashionable after the end of the eighty years war in 1648, the countries that started this trend were France Germany and the Netherlands, these were the countries that saw merchants start importing large numbers of orange trees, banana plants and pomegranates to cultivate for their beauty and scent
The orangery at Kensington Palace (1761) is the earliest surviving work there by Sir William Chambers. At 28 m (92 ft) long, it was the largest glasshouse in Britain when it was built. Though it was designed as an arcade with end pavilions to winter oranges, the light levels under its solid roof were too low for it to be successful.
The Orangery at Margam Park, Wales, was built between 1787 and 1793 to house a large collection of orange, lemon and citron trees inherited by Thomas Mansel Talbot. The original house has been razed, but the surviving orangery, at , is the longest one in Wales.
There is an orangery dating from about 1700 at Kenwood House in London, and a slightly earlier one at Montacute. Other orangeries in the hands of the National Trust are at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire; Ickworth House, Suffolk, where it forms part of the garden front of the dwelling wings; Powis Castle, Montgomeryshire, a central feature on the late-eighteenth-century terraces; Saltram House, Devon, probably to a Robert Adam design; and Blickling, Norfolk.
A recent orangery was constructed in 1970 by Victor Montagu in his formal Italianate gardens at Mapperton, Dorset.
A more interesting, and extant, early 18th century orangery can be seen at the Wye Plantation, near Tunis Mills (Easton), Maryland. This orangery sits behind the main house and consists of a large open room with two smaller wings added at some point after the initial construction. The south-facing wall consists of large triple-hung windows. A second story was added as a billiards room, according to the current resident, Ms. Tilghman, a descendent of the Lloyd family. This plantation is also notable as having been the home of Frederick Douglass as a young slave boy. The orangery is described in the book Glass Houses, as is the orangery at the Tayloe house.
Ms. Tilghman notes that plants are still stored inside the building in winter, but a frame has been constructed to hold the houseplants, and the whole of the frame is covered with plastic to keep in moisture. In this way, the plants do not have to be watered through the entire winter.
Another orangery stands at Hampton National Historic Site near Towson, Maryland. Originally built in 1820, it was part of one of the most extensive collections of citrus trees in the U.S. by the mid-19th century.