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The mystery of the movable greenhouse: from patent to solution

Blog verplaatsbare kas goedemorgen tuinbouw headerBlog topics for Goedemorgen Tuinbouw can be found just about everywhere. In this case, I found one at my neighbour's house. She recently celebrated her 80th birthday. While I was having a lovely piece of cake in the festively decorated old wooden barn, the history of a movable greenhouse that dates back to the 1930s started to unfold. Let me tell you about the mystery of the movable greenhouse.

Discussion at the birthday party

To mark my neighbour’s 80th birthday, her children had put up some enlarged photos from the past. They were really fascinating because my neighbour Nelie Schouten has lived on Zwethkade Zuid in Den Hoorn practically all her life. When I moved there myself, I was soon told that I had the great honour of living next door to the 'Mayor of the Zweth'. Nelie's grandparents had bought a market garden there in the 1930s, which was first taken over by Nelie's parents and then by Nelie and her husband Krijn Kooy. Nelie was born 80 years ago in 1943 and grew up on a houseboat in the Zweth in Den Hoorn.

Blog verplaatsbare kas goedemorgen tuinbouw

The old photos sparked a discussion among the party guests. Had there, at some point, been a movable greenhouse on the land that belonged to Nelie's grandparents? According to one of the guests there definitely had. According to one of the others, the greenhouse could be moved, but not by rolling or wheeling it along. Now you can understand that this Patent Attorney's ears pricked up the moment someone mentioned a 'movable greenhouse'. Not just because I am a big fan of old inventions, but also because I recently stumbled across an old patent for a movable greenhouse. Could it possibly be true? Had there been an innovation in my 'backyard' that stemmed from the patent I had seen? I will keep you in suspense for the outcome of this mystery.  

Smart Westlanders

Before I tell you whether my neighbour's family's greenhouse stemmed from the patent I had found, let me first show you what the invention was all about. The drawings below are from a patent family that can be dated back to 1933 in the names of Cornelis Maarten de Jong and Cornelis Willem Rodenburg, both from Honselersdijk. Its title says it all: 'Greenhouse for growing plants, where the lower edge of each side wall is provided with a rail or guide, which can be moved on a roller conveyor'. These Westland inventors devised a way of moving a large greenhouse complex quickly and easily at a time when, for example, there was no artificial fertiliser.

This prevented soil depletion because the greenhouse was moved over a fresh piece of land each time. The released piece of land was then given time to recover from any diseases and intensive use.

Blog verrolbare kas schematische tekening 1

The figure above is a schematic drawing of the greenhouse. The greenhouse was supported by three uprights on tubes (1). The tubes (1) rested on guide rollers (3) mounted on top of concrete seating blocks. The tubes (1) could be connected to a heating system or a water mains. This is clever double use of the equipment. If you need a tube anyway, you might as well use it to heat the greenhouse by running hot water through it.

Blog verrolbare kas schematische tekening 2

Furthermore, the inventors had also thought of incorporating an expansion section that could take a tension load into the tube! When the tube heated up and expanded more than the glass, the glass could potentially break. The 'loop' (9) in the expansion section could absorb this expansion. To absorb tensile force during movement, a detachable swivel connection (10) was included at the bottom of the 'loop' (9).


Let's get back to Nelie, my neighbour, because I am sure you are dying to find out whether her parents' movable greenhouse is the same as the one in the patent. I won't beat around the bush: It's not. Nelie's grandparents bought the garden containing the large greenhouse complex in 1930. Aluminium wasn't around then. So it consisted of wooden uprights on seating blocks and foundations. Single-panes were laid on top of these. It was a revolutionary greenhouse for that time, because it was a tall greenhouse that you could stand up in. This was in contrast to the single-pane ones that were also widely used for flat trays at that time. Moreover, you could move the greenhouse around. Only not by rolling it or wheeling it along, but by repositioning it.  

For this repositioning, the single panes had to be removed first. Then the wooden frame had to be jacked up in several places at the same time so that it could be moved to the fresh piece of horticultural land with the help of many hands. It was quite an undertaking. So the inventors from Honselersdijk were quite right to come up with an alternative. The sad thing is that the original owner almost went bankrupt as a result of buying the movable greenhouse and had to sell it to the Schouten family as a result. After that, they hardly moved the greenhouse at all. My neighbour couldn't even remember her ever witnessing this, but her old photo albums showed that it must have happened two or three times. The greenhouse was finally demolished in 1978.

Rich history

Although the greenhouse is not the forerunner of the patent, I am not disappointed. What a great story. From a nearly bankrupt entrepreneur to a family with a rich history in horticulture. And that right in my backyard. With a new appreciation for the history of my neighbourhood, I continue to search for new, unexpected stories that provide inspiration for my blogs for you.