Greenhouse – History of the Greenhouse

History of the Greenhouse Trust


A group of nine volunteers became the Trustees of the Greenhouse Trust and raise a mortgage of £153,000 to purchase 42-46 Bethel Street, in semi-derelict condition and undertake major roof repairs at the rear of the building with the aid of £10,000 grant from a private Trust.


Funding from a variety of charitable trusts allows work to proceed on the removal of outbuildings at the rear of the property to enable a small organic courtyard garden to be built. A grant from the Chase Charity allows preparations to be made for the installation of a wheel-chair lift to the planned public meeting room on the 1st floor. The Government’s – Environmental Action Fund -funds the structural work needed for the buildings planned rainwater and grey-water systems.

With approximately a third of the building usable as offices and shop, the Greenhouse launches it’s environmental information service, generating 600 enquiries in its first year and helped secure our status as a local environment service. The Trust is a winner of the BT-WWF Partnership Awards for Environment in the Community. Local building, scaffolding and timber companies add their support to the work and grants from the Paul Bassham Charitable Settlement, Percy Bilton Charity, C.A.F. John & Ruth Howard Charitabe Trust, Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, Radley Trust and Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust add continuously to the Trusts ability to continue the renovation and services. The Helen Roll Charity funds the installation of the buildings fire-alarm system, which allows the Greenhouse to begin functioning as a public building.


A substantial private donation and a grant from the Thomas Anguish Foundation provided funding for the first and second floors to be completely replaced. The Trust is host to its first national conference. Two part-time workers funded by the National Lottery Charities Board staffed this event. The conference launches a national network of sustainability centres (Centres for Change) and for the next two years the staff work with the many individual volunteers and agencies on a wide range of local projects including a major consumer conference on – Good Food.


During this time generous private and public financial support made it possible to install a hot water solar system on the front (south facing) roof. This became the first renewable energy system on a public (and listed II*) building in Norfolk. The Esmee Fairbain Trust provided a grant towards the Information Service and a number of short radio programmes for Radio Norfolk are made. The Greenhouse receives a grant from the Town Close Estate, which allows the Trust to commission furniture for the meeting room.


A grant from Eco-Power part funds the installation of a photo-voltaic electricity generating system, again this is a first for the county. This successful partnership with Eastern Energy allows the Trust to generate approximately 5-10% of its electricity needs and provided Eastern Energy with the opportunity to test a newly designed import/export meter in the building. Grants from the Jenny Wood, John Jarrold and the Mrs F B Laurence Trust add to the funds available for the development of our solar educational work.


A grant from the Helen Roll charity made the installation of a kitchen and servery possible. With the previous planting of the organic garden taking hold the Cafe begins to attract regular users to it. The Company obtains a liquor licence for the building as part of the development of the new organic and fair-trade café.

The Thomas Anguish Foundation makes a grant to the Trust to enable the development of the educational resources available to visitors to the Greenhouse. An independent evaluation estimates that approximately 90 different community groups use the centre during the year and that 10,500+ people benefit from the services over a two year period of the evaluation. The shop Green City Central continues to develop its trading activities.

Chairs made of many different local species, even the furniture is educational!

During the year a major building Appeal is run to repay the mortgage/loan. With the support of the Marchioness of Worcester, George Monbiot and Lord and Lady Joffe the Appeal is a great success. Our Appeal patron sign up as ongoing supporters of the Trusts’ work. David Hood, a keen Friend of the Greenhouse leaves the Trust a bequest in his will, which completes the purchase of the building and creates a reserve to secure the future of the building. The Greenhouse Trust can is now able to focus its fundraising efforts almost exclusively on the running and development of services.


The shop and café frontage is repaired and redecorated with a grant from the Helen Roll Trust. After nine years of hard work, involving more than a hundred volunteers, the restoration and conversion work is complete. The shop and café increasingly draw visitors to the building and increasing numbers of fundraising and education related events are added to our diary. A grant from the Tudor Trust enables us to improve the level of volunteer training and volunteering opportunities at the Greenhouse.


A Lottery – Awards For All Grant, allows the Trust to improve the educational and training opportunities on offer at the Greenhouse and successfully publishes its third educational cookbook. With government funding, from the FundIT programme, the information in this booklet, along with other resources are up-loaded onto a new Greenhouse website. The café and shop continue to attract a growing number of users to the building, and the level of use and educational activities continues to develop steadily.


Funding from the Helen Roll Trust enable the Greenhouse to complete the rainwater collection system at the Greenhouse. An appeal to increase the amount of electricity generated on site was launched. Designs for a garden roof, which would be made of glass laminated PV’s (electricity generating) was launched. The roof is also designed to increase the roof area from which rain water can be collected. A grant from the Energy Saving Trust match funds the money raised towards the PV’s and the system is installed during 2006.

The Polden Puckham charity enable the Greenhouse to co-ordinate a national lobby/briefing of MPs on the urgent need for increased investment in local energy systems and the need to end the UK’s addiction to nuclear energy/weapons. With the Stern report raising the debate on the economic benefits of addressing climate change before crisis occurs, the Trust’s educational work increases. Part of the educational work includes a travelling exhibition entitled 20 years 20 lives. The launch of this exhibition of photos of 20 people, from all walks of life across Europe affected by the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl takes place consecutively in City Hall (London) and the Greenhouse in Norwich. Three set of the exhibition then spend the year travelling around the UK (co-ordinated by the Chernobyl Children’s Project), and the regions Libraries.


The Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are tenants of the Greenhouse Trust. They publish ‘Green Buildings in Norfolk, 21 examples of renewable energy in action’. The Greenhouse is included in the booklet and during the UK’s Heritage Open Days, the Greenhouse offers a limited number of guided tours. In 2008, the Energy Savings Trust assist CPRE in expanding the number of tours on offer to the public. In conjunction with these activities the Trust opens the building for four days and publishes a set of information sheets to provide the thousands of visitors using the building.

The website continues to be developed as a way of promoting events, information and goods available from the Greenhouse. The Greenhouse runs regular second-hand book sales and sells books on line in order to increase both the level of access to our education materials and local fundraising. The Cobb charity, the Naturesave Trust and the National Lottery all provide grants to enable the Trust to develop our volunteer training, and education and briefing materials.


Website re-launched with on-line information briefings and improved second-hand book store-front.
3rd year of ‘Green building tours’ Developed to include ‘Future Heritage’ Display & exhibition, with information workshops.
9th Fairtrade Fortnight event, as part of Trading Fairly’ project.


The Greenhouse joined the Sustainable Energy Academies (SEA) ‘Superhomes’ Network and organised a second ‘Future Heritage’ exhibition as part of the National Heritage buildings week. A selection of historic buildings were updated ‘virtually’ to reveal how renewable energy technologies can be introduced into the most inefficient listed buildings. The public responded extremely positively to the idea, but the cities planners and politicians failed to grasp the challenge! The Age of Stupid was indeed the correct response to the climate change crises. From the release of the DVD in August, we undertook to distribute 200 copies to key decision makers across Norfolk.

The Greenhouse also organised the Social Environmental & Economic Sustainability (SEEing the Future) competition which involved Sprowston Community High School, The Norwich Academy, Notre Dame and Framingham Earl schools. The winning drawings, paintings and poems were placed on display in the Café and the Lord Mayor handed out the awards in his Parlour during a tour of Norwich City Hall.


Having raised £21,000 to install a pioneering array of glass PV laminates it became clear that this R&D technology had significant problems. Small hair-line cracks were allowing water to corrode the contacts between the crystals. The Trust negotiated with (Romag) the manufacturers and (Sundog) the installers and installed a replacement system. The new system qualified for the Feed In Tariff, assisting us in balancing the cost of the new system.

Stop Climate Chaos Coalition used office space and resources to co-ordinate a meeting with Norwich South MP (Simon Wright). Delegates from a wide range of organisations including, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, United Nations Association, Salvation Army, Norwich Women’s Institute, Christian Aid, UNICEF, CPRE, RSPB and Norwich City Council put questions to our MP, prior to the COP 17 UN Convention on Climate Change in Durban. Local supporters made a virtual journey and raised £1,000 towards the lobby work.

Future Heritage exhibition and educational work around the poor insulation of Norwich houses, involved five Greenhouse volunteers being trained to deliver the Government funded ‘save a tonne’ campaign.


The Greenhouse published an information booklet on Climate Change – the myths and answers, originally created as part of the Trust’s decision to take part in the County wide ‘Open Studios’ fortnight. The booklet initially acted as a briefing for the visual artists and writers involved in the exhibition. The booklet, eventually ran to three re-prints (1,000 copies).

Organic wine tastings were established as a key way of inviting new people to support the Greenhouse. The Directors and Trustees combined the two administrative boards to join up our education and marketing work. And finally, in December the Trust piloted its first on-line art sale.


The Greenhouse website was re-designed to respond to the increasing level of virtual visits to the Greenhouse. All the paper educational resources were translated into down-loadable pages.

The Trust took part in Open Studios, creating a virtual tour and exhibition entitled ‘The Pollen Path’. This created the opportunity for twelve local artists and seven writers to work on images and poems that connected to the issues linked to Bee decline. The Greenhouse linked in to Friends of the Earth BeeCause and the local group lobbied MPs across the County. The success of the poetry reading and the visual art show continued into the autumn. The Greenhouse fund-raised by selling the artwork both on-line and via a public exhibition/sale.


The 20th anniversary of the Greenhouse Trust. See front page for celebratory events.