A view into the glasshouse industry

A commercial catalogue reveals a once-thriving glasshouse enterprise in north London

The glasshouse-making firm of Duncan Tucker in Tottenham Lock is not as famous today as those of Messenger or Richardson, but it was an important maker of glasshouses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. William Duncan Tucker (1858-1928) began his career as a timber merchant, before expanding into the making of glasshouses; the firm continued until 1959.

A Duncan Tucker advertising flyerWe know something more about the layout and organisation of Duncan Tucker’s establishment than we do with its rivals, thanks to a catalogue issued sometime after 1897 (the date of the last medal illustrated on the front board). It contains the usual battery of drawings of generic models and photographs of actual glasshouses, erected for private residences (Bletchley Park), nurseries (Rochfords), and public parks (the long-vanished palm house in Regent’s Park). But, uniquely among the greenhouse manufacturers’ catalogues in our collection, it contains a plan and photograph of their own works at Tottenham.

An artist’s bird’s-eye view of the works shows two series of buildings, with the different departments indicated. A long series of buildings bore the titles: four timber-seasoning sheds, painting shops, three building department structures and an iron, paint and glass store. Across the main thoroughfare, crowded with carts bearing wood, lay the main offices, with two more timber-seasoning sheds and a horticultural joinery mill. The interior of the mill is shown in a photograph on the facing page, with at least 35 employees posing amid piles of timber, one of them readying a circular saw.

This is our best indication of the scale, and the degree of organisation, that went into the workings of a great greenhouse manufacturing firm.

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