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Artwork of the Month - September 2006


Night Steaming

Artist: Richard Thompson
Medium: Oil on canvas
Status: Loaned by the artist
Item No.: -

About the Work

This painting by Richard Thompson will evoke in the memories of many Islanders, the process of greenhouse 'steaming'. This arduous task was carried out in the commercial 'greenhouses' on the Island, and was essential for disease free Guernsey tomatoes, as the process sterilised the soil.

Steaming involved digging trenches, where perforated pipes were placed, and the trench would then be filled in with the soil from the adjacent trench. These pipes would be connected to a large boiler and steam would then be pumped through the soil via the pipes. Once one area of the greenhouse had been treated, further trenches would be dug, and the process repeated until all the soil had been 'steamed'.

Once the boilers were fired up, 'steaming' would be carried out without a break, and men laboured day and night in shifts until the work was done. The boilers were not designed or built specifically for 'steaming', but were in-fact adapted from old locomotive boilers imported from England from around the 1930's.

Many Islanders remember the sweet smell the 'steaming' process produced, as it wafted around the vineries and nearby lanes. Sadly we cannot recreate this, but I'm sure Richard Thompson's painting will help many to cast their minds back to past times.