Time is running out for the iconic Victorian glasshouses in the National Botanic Gardens unless action is taken to restore them.

The Curvilinear Glasshouse Range in the National Botanic Gardens is under threat.  Designed and built by Richard Turner in the 1840s, they are one of the architectural highlights of Dublin and the sister buildings of the glasshouses at Kew Gardens in London, and Belfast Botanic Gardens. 

It was in glasshouses such as this that the Victorians recreated the moist, humid conditions of the world’s temperate zones.

The high temperatures and plentiful supplies of water which nourished the luxurious palm trees and other plants in the glasshouses also created perfect conditions for rust to form.  Fast forward one hundred years, and the existence of this beautiful structure is in a precarious position.  

Director of the Botanic Gardens Aidan Brady brings reporter Vincent Wall on a tour of the glasshouse.  There is no escape from the decay, and there is even evidence that rust is coming from inside the iron supports.  The Palm House was closed to the public this year for safety reasons.  

The only thing that’s holding a lot of these bars together is the netted wire. That was originally placed there to support plants that were growing up on the pillar, but now it’s serving the purpose of holding the pillars together.

Artist Robert Ballagh feels that Richard Turner’s genius has been neglected by his native city.

We don’t have hundreds of buildings like this in Ireland, it is unique, and it is an extraordinarily elegant, relatively small building, and the detailing is extremely attractive...

Despite the fact that the Curvilinear Range has been honoured by appearing on a postage stamp, funds are not currently available from the Exchequer to enable the Office of Public Works to restore the building.

Is there an alternative?  Aidan Brady is hopeful about funds from the National Lottery.  Ballagh does not agree with the principle of National Lottery funding, but acknowledges that money must come from somewhere, 

It’s absolutely essential that this very fine building is preserved for the nation.

This report for ‘Evening Extra’ was broadcast on 12 April 1988.  The reporter is Vincent Wall.  

'Evening Extra' was a nightly magazine programme which ran from Monday to Friday at 7 pm dealing with current issues and people in the news.  The first episode was aired on Monday 13 October 1986 and it ran for 278 shows over 2 years until the final show on 29 April 1988. The programme had numerous presenters and reporters including Siobhan Cleary, Richard Crowley, Bibi Baskin, Aonghus McAnally and Shay Healy.