Competitors’ Boilers

Predictably, there are very few references to Thomas Messenger supplying competitor’s boilers.

In 1871, Thomas Messenger included Messrs John Weeks & Co.’s No. 4A boiler for his client Colonel George Hussey Packe of Prestwold Hall, near Loughborough. The order included a heated 129ft. 6in. long by 17ft. 6in. lean-to range, divided into three compartments with fittings for a mushroom house. The range appears to have been built facing south against the north wall of the walled garden, with the mushroom house on the northern side. The accompanying heating system included, besides the Weeks’ boiler, 500 yards of 4-inch, 32 yards of 3-inch, 53 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 402 cement joints. The boiler was probably Weeks’ patent duplex upright cast iron boiler, which the firm claimed were “marvels of safety, simplicity, durability and economy[1]. Perhaps their greatest claim was that the boiler was indestructible, with an average life of 20 years and could be guaranteed for 15 years[2]. The claim of indestructibility referred to that ability to convert the boiler into two. Where one-half could be removed for repair, whilst the other half continued to work. Whether the client demanded a Weeks boiler or Thomas Messenger thought that his boilers could not heat that amount of pipe, is unclear. The exact capacity of Weeks 4A boiler is unknown, although it is recorded that one of their No.6 patent duplex boilers, installed in a garden in Hooley, Surrey, was being used to heat 24 glass structures, with about 700 feet of 4-inch piping[3].

Also in 1871, Thomas Messenger included a Howard’s portable boiler in a scheme for Harold Lees of Birstall House, Birstall, Leicestershire. This scheme of which there were at least three different ones over a two month period, consisted of a heated 29ft, by 18ft. span structure and staging. The heating system comprised of the portable boiler, 130 yards of 4-inch, 58 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 123 cement joints. The Howard in question could possibly have been Messrs J. & F. Howard[4], of Britannia Ironworks, Bedford, who initially specialised in ploughs, but branched out to produce a range of farming implements, including cultivators, barn machinery, rollers, horse rakes, etc. They went on to develop a range of steam ploughing equipment, which utilised a portable steam boiler and it is possibly one of these that was installed for Harold Lees. However, Howard’s boilers were targeted at the large scale farming industry and not at the horticultural market. Four years later the 29ft. long greenhouse, described as a ‘moveable’ structure, along with the heating system was put up for auction because Mr. Lees was ‘leaving the county[5]. There is no mention in Thomas Messenger’s record books of the structure being portable, although it would make sense taking into account the use of a portable boiler.

In 1874, Thomas Messenger included a Lumby’s, No. 24 boiler, described by Thomas Messenger as being ‘their largest’. The client was a Mrs. Thwaytes of Holesfoot, Maulds Meaburn, Westmorland and the order that came from Mr. William Cockburn, included a heated partitioned 36ft. 3in. by 16ft. conservatory, and vinery, stages and an iron walk. The heating system comprised of the Lumby boiler fitted into a fireplace, 69 yards of 4-inch, 22 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 57 cement joints. Lumby’s was founded by Edwin Lumby around 1858 and based at the West Grove Works, Halifax, Yorkshire. The boiler in question could have been the Excelsior, which was cylindrical, made of wrought iron, with two flows and two return pipes[6]. Lumby’s went on to become the largest manufactures in the world of hot water and steam heating wrought-iron welded boilers. The subsequent firm of Messenger & Co. used Lumby’s components well into the twentieth century.

The same year, Thomas Messenger provided two conical boilers, from unknown manufacturers. The first an improved conical boiler was supplied unfitted together with 36 yards of 4-inch and 8 yards of 2-inch heating pipes to Mr. Luke Gimson, a builder of Royston, Hertfordshire. The second, only a few weeks later was a second-hand conical boiler for Boughton Kyngdon of Rose Hill, Topsham Road Exeter, Devon.



  1. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 2nd April 1870, page 475.

  2. Ibid.

  3. The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 21st January 1871, page 77.

  4. The firm was started in around 1813 by John Howard, by 850 his two sons had taken over the running and it became known for a period as James & Frederick Howard.

  5. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 28th February 1874.

  6. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 7th November 1872, page 359