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As keen gardeners will know, a greenhouse is more than a greenhouse. It’s an escape, a dream factory, a connection with nature, a place to watch the fireworks in relative warmth. But that’s not all it can be. How about a greenhouse that’s also a museum?
I’ve been on the hunt for innovative Rhino owners. Last month, I found a Rhino Glasshouse Gallery – owned by the artisan potter Geoffrey Kay. This month, I’ve been speaking to Andy and Trevor from the Alderney Society, and their story of how a Rhino became a Museum.
(Victorian Fire Engine inside Rhino Greenhouse; Credit: Bill Black)
On the tiny island of Alderney in the English Channel, the historical society have a rare and beautiful Victorian fire engine. Despite being renovated recently, it was hidden away. They thought it was about time it be given some daylight. Too big and heavy to bring indoors, too precious to leave to the mercy of the elements; it was clear that a solution was needed. Getting planning permission was proving a little tricky, so that’s when the society came up with a marvellous idea: a "Temporary Glass Display Unit" aka greenhouse! After doing some research, they settled on a Rhino.
They thought our Rhino would make a very attractive mini museum, and with the challenging island weather to consider too, our strength and build quality ticked all the boxes. Due to the size and weight of the contraption, the engine was put into position first and then the greenhouse built around it by Andy and Nick, which was surely no easy feat!
Andy was an engineer in a previous life and continues to be mightily impressed with the greenhouse and its design. In fact, he liked the greenhouse so much that he got one for his own garden, and it's now home to his family's chillies and tomatoes.
Before moving to Alderney, Andy and his wife used to own a smallholding in Dorset, where they indulged in the homegrown lifestyle – even making their own goats' cheese – and have continued to enjoy growing their own since retiring on the island. They like “the outdoor life”.
The island itself, is a fascinating place. “It’s a Marmite island,” Andy says, and “it can feel like being back in the 1960’s”. The beaches are beautiful, there is plenty of fresh seafood and lots of wonderful pubs and restaurants. with a population of only 2000 people, everyone knows each other and everyone does their bit to keep the community moving. Apart from being a member of the Alderney Society, Andy is helping to renovate an old watermill and occasionally drives the train on the weekends!
(Fort Tourgis; Credit: Alan Perks)
The image above shows Fort Tourgis - an extensive defensive fort built during Victoria's reign. The Engine House is thought to have been the original home of the fire pump that now resides under toughened Rhino glass outside the island's museum. Back when the pump was in use, it was from here that they would haul the engine down into the town when the call of "fire" went up.
I’d like to thank Andy and Trevor for sharing sharing this story with us, it was lovely to learn about and we’re so glad that our greenhouse is part of your community out in the Channel Islands.
If you’ve got an interesting story to share about you and your Rhino, we’d love to hear from you. You can find us on social media or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org