Horticultural Buildings

As one would have thought, if a horticultural structure were capable of being heated then Thomas Messenger would no doubt have had been able to provide a heating solution. He provided heating solutions across the whole range from peach walls, pits, through small amateur greenhouses, vineries, hothouses, ferneries, large conservatories up to the largest of ranges.


Peach Walls and Pine Pits

In the spring of 1867, Thomas Messenger gave Mr. John Mitchell (see also 1866 and Peach House/Peach Case ) of Bangors, Iver, Buckinghamshire an estimate for supplying and erecting a heated peach wall and pine pit. However, this appeared to be no ordinary peach wall or pine pit, with the peach wall measuring in excess of 50ft. in length and 8ft. wide, possibly L-shaped; the pine pit roof was 72ft. long and 9ft. wide[1]. The heating system which was to utilize an existing boiler included 200 yards of 4-inch, 66 yards of 3-inch, 60 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes, 250 cement joints and estimated to take 60 man-days to install. The pipes in the peach wall, which was essentially a peach house, ran at least, in part, underground as the estimate included a 2ft. 3in, wide iron walkway along its’ entire length.

A more typical pit heating system was one for Thomas Knowles Tillotson of Whatton House, Long Whatton, Leicestershire that involved using an existing boiler, just 30 yards of 3-inch, 40ft. of 1-inch pipe and 14 cement joints.

Heating to an already existing peach house and pine house of unknown dimensions was undertaken in 1871 for Mr. Parker Jervis, of Ashton Hall, Little Ashton, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. The heating system for the peach house consisted of a No. 2 boiler, 51 yards of 3-inch, 28 yards of 2-inch hot water pipe and 49 cement joints; whilst that for the pine house included 51 yards of 4-inch, 11 yards of 2-inch hot water pipe and 40 cement joints. As there was no was no boiler included in the heating system for the pine house, presumably the boiler installed for the peach house was used. Interestingly both houses had 51 yards of the larger diameter pipe. The pine house used 4-inch whilst the peach house was the smaller 3-inch. Presumably, the pine house required a higher temperature.


Small Greenhouses

A standard small greenhouse set-up is exemplified by Mr. J. Woods of Cavendish Lodge, Clipstone Park, Clipstone, Nottinghamshire. In October 1866 he purchased a heated 14ft. by 10ft. span greenhouse, for a total price of £28 5s. The heating system consisted of a boiler priced at £3 3s., 13 yards of 3-inch pipe at £1 3s. 10d., 10 joints at 4s. 2d., with installation of 5½ man-days priced at £1 3s. 6d.

Another example was that of Mr. Hydes, an ironmonger of No. 88, Market Place, Sheffield. In 1868, he was presented with an estimate for a heated 14ft. by 10ft. ¾-span greenhouse, with two sets of ventilation apparatus. The heating was to be provided using the smallest sized boiler that Thomas Messenger produced, a No. 1, together with 25 yards of 3-inch, 4 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 20 cement joints.


Clement Beatson Clark, Sharon, Doncaster Road, Rotherham



Clement Beatson Clark, was a partner in Beatson and Co., medical glass and bottle manufacturers, located at Rotherham Glass Works, George Street, Rotherham. He lived at Sharon, Doncaster Road, Rotherham, which stood within extensive grounds of approximately 0.4 of an acre, located on the corner of Cottenham Road, opposite Clifton Park. The property still survives, and although it appears to have been built as a semi-detached property, it was at the time and for a period afterwards occupied as a single residence. Sometime prior to 1956, it was divided into two semi-detached houses, known as Sharon and Dunluce.

Between 1869 and 1874 Clement Clark purchased three horticultural buildings from Thomas Messenger, as well as a couple of porches.


Sharon, Doncaster Road, Rotherham – 1889 Town Plan

The first occurrence was in April 1869 when he received two estimates. The first of £144 10s. for a heated 58ft. by 14ft. ¾ -span structure, divided into two houses, one of which was intended to be used as a vinery, with 470 superficial feet of vine wire. The heating system included a No. 4 boiler, 72 yards of 4-inch, 25 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 45 cement joints. The second estimate of £14 was for the fittings, which included one 27ft. 6in. by 2ft. 9in. iron walkway, one 23ft. by 6ft. 6in. stepped stage, two 3ft. 6in. by 3ft. and one 29ft. by 3ft. flat stages. The structure was built at the rear of the property adjacent to its north-east boundary with Ridge Street, on a WSW/ENE alignment, facing SSE.

Later the same year, he purchased a 6ft. by 6ft. 2 light frame for £2 19s. and a roller blind for £3 10s., to cover the roof of one of the houses.

In 1872, he purchased a heated 46ft. by 14ft.6in span roof structure partitioned into three houses, to be used as a fernery, plant and forcing house respectively. The fernery, which may have been relatively small, had a rough plate glass roof. It appears that the forcing house was 14ft. long, with the plant house being slightly longer at 18ft. 6in. The heating system utilising an existing boiler, included 78 yards of 4-inch, 52 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 126 cement joints. Also included in the order was a 25ft. long slate fronted bed; a 29ft. by 7ft. pit, heated using 24 yards 3-inch, 21 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 24 cement joints. The total order amounted to £214 10s.; £110 for the main structure; £6 15s., for the slate fronted beds; £67 15s., for the heating apparatus; £15 10s., for the pits; £15 for additions, which included a door, extra staging and additional heating pipes in the fernery. The main structure was built close to back of the residence on a NNW/SSE alignment butting up against one of the several outbuildings. The pit was built further way on almost the same alignment as the structure built in 1869.

In August 1873, Clement Clark purchased a small 9ft. by 6ft. span roof porch. The price of £32 included a folding door, ornamental ironwork in the gables, cresting and scrolls up to a single finial. Also included in the order was wiring to both roofs of the forcing house (£3 2s. 6d.) and one roof of the plant house (£2 6s.). To economise on travel the installation was arranged to coincide with some remedial work for another client in the area, James Yates[2] of Oakwood Hall, Moorgate Road, Rotherham. The remedial work was actually at Oakwood Grange also on Moorgate Road, just north of the Hall, which James Yates had just had built for his daughter. Thomas Messenger having previously installed a heated 36ft. by 18ft. span house with staging, at the Grange. The original proposal was to use Messenger’s own No. 2 boiler for heating the span house, but at the client’s request, this was swapped for an Appleby boiler.

Towards the end of 1874 Clement Clark accepted an estimate of £46 5s., for another porch, presumably on the other side of the ‘semi-detached’ residence from that purchased the previous year. The span roof porch measured 10ft. by 7ft. or 7ft. 6in, having cresting, scrolls in the gables and a finial. The installation was not completed prior to Thomas Messenger selling the business[3] and was subsequently undertaken by the new company, Messenger & Co.


J. Cartland, The Priory, King’s Heath

Between 1866 and 1874, Thomas Messenger undertook work on numerous occasions for John Cartland who lived at The Priory, Kings Heath[4], Birmingham, which sat in a nine-acre estate.


The Priory, King’s Heath – 1881 OS Map

John Cartland was a brass founder with works at Nos. 68-72, Constitution Hill, known as the Great Western Brass Foundry. The firm of James Cartland & Sons was founded by his father following the break-up of his partnership with John Dyer in 1833[5]. They had been trading as Dyer & Cartland at No. 27 Loveday Street, Birmingham. The firm of James Cartland & Sons, lasted until 1954[6] when it went into liquidation[7].

John Cartland’s first known engagement of Thomas Messenger was in late 1866 when installing a heating system into a range of three apparently new hothouses and one old house. These new hothouses might well have been built by Thomas Messenger. The heating system included a boiler, 140 yards of 4-inch, 17 yards of 3-inch, 48 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 100 cement joints. The price of £74 included, 40 man-days for installation and a 20 per cent surcharge on the heating pipes, etc.

The second occasion was early the following year when Thomas Messenger quoted for a heated 49ft. by 18ft. structure with bays, 4 finials and ridge cresting. The structure possible a conservatory was to be heated using an existing boiler, 87 yards of 4-inch heating pipe and fifty-two 4-inch cement joints. If this was indeed a conservatory, it was not executed. In September 1867, Thomas Messenger supplied two further estimates, one for a heating system and another for an apparently elaborate conservatory, for which the estimate allowed 136 man-days to erect. The records do not indicate whether the heating system estimate was for the proposed conservatory or another building.

The next occasion was almost two years later, in mid-1869, when Thomas Messenger delivered a further two estimates. The first to construct an apparent ‘M’-shaped ridge and furrow roofed structure 33ft.long, with cresting, iron walks, flat and stepped stages. At least part of the structure was intended to be used as a vinery. The accompanying heating system included a new un-numbered replacement boiler, possibly a No. 7, 135 yards of 4-inch, 26 yards of 3-inch heating pipe and 100 cement joints. The second estimate allowed for a No. 8 boiler, in place of the probable No. 7 boiler quoted in the first estimate…

In mid-1870 John Cartland’s gardener ordered eight 8ft. by 5ft. garden lights, costing one pound each, delivered to Loughborough Railway Station.

A few months later, Thomas Messenger submitted a revised plan for two 20ft. long heated structures, one to be used as a succession house and the other as a fruiting house. Remedial work on some of the existing houses was also included. The heating system for the two new houses, which was to be connected indirectly to an existing boiler, included 120 yards of 4-inch 26 yards of 3-inch, 15 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 106 cement joints.

No further work is recorded for almost another four years until July 1874, when Thomas Messenger installed a replacement boiler. By this time the amount of heating pipes installed by Thomas Messenger at the Priory, must have been significant because he replaces a No. 11 boiler with a No. 13, which was almost the largest boiler that he manufactured. Presumably, the size 11 boiler was incapable of providing sufficient hot water. It appears that the No. 11 boiler must have been new, because Thomas Messenger allowed Mr. Cartland £20 credit, even allowing for wear and tear. At the time a new No. 11 boiler was only £23 5s. Thomas Messenger obtained some compensation by increasing the price of the No. 13 boiler by 35 per cent, from £26 10s. to £35 16s.

Interestingly John Cartland, who died in 1888, never engaged Messenger & Co., following their purchase of the business in 1875. Whether this was coincidence or deliberate is unclear.

The Ordnance Survey map for the area for 1884 shows 5 or 6 greenhouses and a conservatory at The Priory, most of which were probably built by Thomas Messenger. The house and some of the greenhouses stood until after World War II, but by 1956, it had been demolished to make way for the King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys[8].


King Edward VI Camp Hill School



E. H. Watts, Devonhurst, Duke’s Avenue, Chiswick, London

Edmund Hannay Watts was born in 1830 in Blyth, Northumberland and died in 1902. He was a coal proprietor and ship-owner, starting as a ship and insurance broker at Blyth before moving to London. He became a Director of the Barry Docks and Railway Company, who were responsible for the building of Barry Docks and the railway connection to the Rhondda Valley[9]. Here he owned several coalmines, including the National (Cwtch) Colliery[10], in Wattstown, which is named after him.


Duke’s Avenue, Chiswick, London – 1850 OS Map

In the early 1870s, he obtained a small estate of about 10 acres in Chiswick from the Duke of Devonshire. The estate on Duke’s Avenue had been part of the Royal Horticultural Society’s 32-acre gardens leased from the Duke of Devonshire. By early 1870, the Society was considering leaving the site for three reasons. Firstly, the encroachment of the London suburbs, the atmosphere and particularly the smoke meant that the Chiswick site becoming less conducive to both the growing and welfare of the plants. Secondly, finances were tight. Thirdly, the end of the lease was in sight and it was not clear whether it would be renewed[11].

However, by March 1870, they had made a decision to retain about 12 acres of 32-acre gardens, which included the areas occupied by glasshouses, large vinery and fruit-room[12], with the intention of using them as experimental gardens. The remaining 20 acres that has been used for ornamental purposes, including the arboretum were to be released back to the Duke[13]. The Duke of Devonshire subsequently agreed to the Society request to reduce the size of the gardens from thirty-two acres down to less than twelve and both parties entered into a new lease agreement[14].

This agreement released about 20 acres of land, about 10 of which, fronting Duke’s Avenue, was acquired Edmund Watts. The site had originally been used by the RHS as part of their arboretum and it appears that Edmund Watts retained most of the trees when in 1872 he built a large residence known as Devonhurst, on the northern end of the site. An integral part of this building work was the building of a number of horticultural structures, for which Edmund Watts engaged Thomas Messenger on several occasions.

The first instance was in September 1871, when he ordered a heated 80ft. by 18ft. partitioned vinery and plant house together with a heated 50ft. by 12ft. partitioned forcing house. The heating system for the vinery and plant house included a No. 10 boiler that was also used to heat the forcing house, 160 yards of 4-inch, 35 yards of 3-inch, 40 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 66 cement joints. The heating pipes for the forcing house consisted of 133 yards of 4-inch, 34 yards 2-inch and 109 cement joints. The two houses were built in an east-west alignment west of the residence, towards the RHS gardens.

The next two orders were in January 1872 to provide heating into a coach house and mushroom house. Both systems utilised the already installed No. 10 boiler, with the coach house using 12 yards of 4-inch, 8 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 10 cement joints. The mushroom house, which Thomas Messenger does not appear to have been responsible for, used 36 yards of 4-inch heating pipe delivered in 9ft. lengths.

This was followed in February by supplying blinds to the front roof (32ft. x 14ft.) of the plant house and to both roofs (50ft. x 7ft.) of the forcing house.


Duke’s Avenue, Chiswick, London – 1894 Town Plan

When originally installed the partitioned forcing house heating system was a single unit, in that there was no method of altering the heat levels to only one of the houses. This was rectified in 1872, when the system was modified to allow the heating in both partitions to be controlled independently. This appears to have been a significant piece of re-engineering as it cost £10 10s., with 6 man-days being allowed for the alterations

In mid-1874, Edward Watts purchased a conservatory for his Chiswick residence, costing £196. The accompanying heating system costing £114 was designed to heat both his residence and new conservatory. This resulted in completely separate heating system being installed to that used to heat the horticultural structures. The new boiler, a medium sized No. 6, with 78 yards of 4-inch pipe, 176-inch of 2-inch, 3 yards of 1¼-inch, 14ft. of 1-inch heating pipes and 194 cement joints. A number of coil radiators were also installed including 2 with oak cases and marble tops for the nursery and another for the back bedroom. A later addition was a coil case with a marble top, known as Rice’s No. 13.

The estate was put up for sale in 1892 described as both a residence and building estate. The plan was to release most of the ten acres as building land, whilst retaining the residence[15]: –

“The Mansion is of handsome, modern design, contains ample accommodation for a gentlemen’s establishment; stabling for five-horses, coach-house, gardener’s cottage, glass-houses, &c.; charmingly-timbered grounds, comprising flower and kitchen gardens, tennis lawn and park-like land beyond, the whole of which has been judiciously arranged and contains exceedingly fine specimens of forest trees and rare shrubs. The bulk of the property could be most advantageously utilized for building purposes, in the erection of superior class of residences, leaving the house in tact”.

A little over ten years later the property was demolished and gave way to middle-class houses. The fate of the rest of the RHS gardens eventually went the same way.


Site of Devonhurst, Duke’s Avenue, Chiswick, London



Lady Carbery, Laxton Hall, Northamptonshire



Laxton Hall is a 17th Century Grade II listed building, situated in Northamptonshire, 7 miles from Uppingham and lying just west of the A43 between Corby and Stamford. It is now a residential care home, run by the P.C.M Housing Association[16] but in 1872 was the residence of Lord and Lady George Carbery.

In 1872, Lady Harriet Carbery ordered a new heating system for at least three existing horticultural structures, probably forming the range of three houses that existed to the south-west of the stable block. The order included removing several old boilers along with 96 yards of 5-inch and 28 yards of 4-inch pipe, for which Lady Carbery received £1 10s. credit, although Thomas messenger charged £2 to remove the boilers and pipes. The new heating system included a No. 6 boiler, 26 yards of 4-inch pipe. 8 yards of 3-inch, 6 yards of 2-inch heating pip0es and 107 cement joints. The total price of £46 included 15 man-days installation. An option costing an additional £12 14s. involving 3 man-days work, 38 yards of 5-inch pipe and 28 cement joints was offered, if the pipes in centre house returned at the end and an additional pipe was to be added in end house.


Laxton Hall – 1886 OS Map


It appears that the No 6 boiler was not sufficient to provide all the hot water required. Several months later, Lady Carbery re-engaged Thomas Messenger to replace the No. 6 boiler with a No. 10, costing an additional cost of £9. This upgrade was required to meet the additional requirement to provide additional heating into the conservatory, which included 112 yards of 3-inch pipe, 33 cement joints and 18 man-days to install, at a total price of £42 15s., inclusive of the boiler.


T.W. Evans, Allestree Hall, Derbyshire



Allestree Hall, about 2 miles north of Derby city centre, is a 19th century former country house now standing in a 300-acre park, both owned by Derby City Council. The Hall is essentially unoccupied and on both the Buildings at Risk Register and the Heritage at Risk Register. A large part of the original park was sold off for housing, whilst the remaining 3oo acres are used as a public park and golf course.

In 1874, Thomas William Evans was living at the Hall with his wife Mary. He was a Liberal Member of Parliament representing South Derbyshire from 1857 to 1868 and again from 1874 to 1885. He was made a baronet in 1887 and chaired the first meeting of the Derbyshire County Council in 1889. The family made their fortune through lead mining at Bonsall[17], iron mills in Derby and a large and important cotton mill at Darley Abbey a few miles away.


Allestree Hall – 1881 OS Map

In October 1874, Thomas Evans engaged Thomas Messenger to replace the existing boilers used to heat the horticultural buildings, which included vineries and pineries, located in the walled garden that stood behind the stables, to the west of the Hall. Thomas Messenger installed two new No. 10 boilers as well as a small amount of new pipes and connections to link up with the existing pipe-work. The complete installation cost £101 14s. included an additional 19s. for using patent joints instead of cement joints. There was also a surcharge on the boiler and pipes amounting to £25 7s. 8d. It appears that an unknown third party made the initial contact because the price included 3¾ per cent commission. In the event the old boilers were never removed for which Thomas Messenger sought additional payment because the price of £101 14s. included Thomas Messenger taking ownership of these old boilers, probably with the idea of trying to utilise them elsewhere.


E. Armfield, Chad Lodge, Chad Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham


Site of Chad Lodge


In 1868, Thomas Messenger provided several estimates to Edward Armfield who lived in Chad Lodge, Chad Road, Birmingham. The Lodge was situated on the east side of Chad Road at its junction with Harborne Road, in the Edgbaston district of Birmingham, close to where Birmingham Botanic Gardens were to be built.

The first three estimates, in late July, were for a heated 50ft. by 22ft. partitioned span plant house with slate beds and table staging. The first of £149 was for a ‘first class’ plant house; the second of £50 10s. for the heating system; the third, of £32 16., for the slate beds and stages. The heating system, using an existing boiler, included 128 yards of 4-inch pipe, 8 yards of 3-inch, 24 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 80 cement joints.

Presumably, these estimates did not meet with the clients’ approval because within a few days Thomas Messenger had submitted three new estimates, this time for a slightly narrower partitioned structure measuring 50ft. by 20ft. Again, it was to be heated and fitted out with staging, this time much simplified with slate on wood bearers. The estimate for the structure, presumably not ‘first class’ was £127 5s.; that for the heating system which was designed to a pencil drawing, possible by the client, was reduced by £13. The amount of 4-inch pipe was reduced by 16 yards and the joints by 20, although there was no reduction in either the 3-inch or 2-inch pipes. The estimate for the staging was almost halved, down to £17 16s.

There is no indication of whether these estimates were accepted and there is no further evidence of any estimate or orders in subsequent years. On the map of 1887, there are five horticultural structures in the garden to the east of the Lodge, none appears to be of the appropriate dimensions.


Chad Lodge - 1904 OS Map
Chad Lodge – 1904 OS Map


R.G. Coke, Tapton Grove, Brimington




Tapton Grove, 1½ miles northeast of Chesterfield, is a large handsome late eighteenth century Grade II* listed mansion with a Grade 2 listed stable block, originally sitting in its’ own park. The house that still exists was, in 2012, being used nursing home caring for people with a mental disability and dementia.

In 1867, it was occupied by Richard George Coke, who had lived there since 1862. Richard Coke was born in 1813 and aged 21 went out to Australia, remaining there for about ten years before returning and taking on the management of Pinxton collieries, close to the Nottinghamshire boundary. He initially lived at Langton Hall, Alfreton before going to work for the Duke of Rutland and moving to Ankerbold, near Old Tupton, Derbyshire[18]. Following his move to Tapton Grove, he opened offices in Holywell Street, Chesterfield with Mr. M.H. Mills, trading as Messrs Coke & Mills, civil and mining engineers. He moved out of Tapton Grange prior to 1878, to live in Brimington Hall[19], where he died on 23rd February 1889.

In 1867, Richard Coke ordered a heating system for an existing set of horticultural buildings, including several vineries, which formed a small range to the southeast of the residence. The estimate, which amounted to £33 5s., comprised of a No. 3 boiler, 48 yards of 4-inch, 21 yards of 3-inch, 24 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 60 cement joints. However, before installation there were additions to the boiler, probably an increase in size, extra heating pipes and joints amounting to £4.

In April the following year, Thomas Messenger submitted an estimate for a heated conservatory with staging. The estimate amounted £194 included a No. 3 boiler, 66 yards of 4-inch, 6 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 40 cement joints and 14 superficial yards of iron grating to cover the underground pipes. There is no indication as to whether Richard Cole went ahead and ordered the conservatory.


Tapton Grove – 1898 OS Map


Park View, No. 276, Marton Road, Middlesbrough

In September 1868, George Neesham engaged Thomas Messenger to provide a price for a heated span roof conservatory and ¾-span partitioned vinery and peach house.


Park View, Marton Road, Middlesbrough – 1915 OS Map

At the time, George Neesham was living at Park View, No. 276, Marton Road, Middlesbrough and a manager at the Clay Lane and South Bank Ironworks, Middlesbrough. The ironworks belonged to Thomas Vaughan[20], who may have been responsible building both Park View and the identical brick built house next door,[21] originally known as Beresford House, now known as Newhaven. The two houses were built about 1867, so in September 1868, Park View was still new and occupied a narrowing plot, backing onto Nut Lane, in which it still resides. George Neesham was still in residence in 1894 having just fallen into bankruptcy when operating as a metal broker and commission agent[22].

It is unclear whether the heated 17ft. long span roof conservatory and 28ft. long ¾-span partitioned vinery and peach house were intended to be two separate structures or in some way connected. The estimate of £112 10s., included 200 superficial feet of vine wire, five stages (three flat and two stepped) along with a 28ft. by 2ft. 6in. iron walkway for the partitioned vinery/peach house. The proposed heating system, presumably for both structures included a No. 3 boiler, 54 yards of 4-inch, 48 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 72 cement joints. Two later options were proposed. Firstly, using 26oz glass on the roof and 21oz. on the uprights adding £8 18s. to the price. Secondly, increasing the width of the vinery and peach house to 17ft. 6in. adding £3 18s.

It is uncertain as to whether George Neesham went ahead with either the conservatory or vinery. A contemporary map[23], shows what appears to be a small conservatory of similar proportions to that contained in Thomas Messenger’s estimate; however, nothing of a partitioned vinery and peach house exists. The conservatory type structure existed in one form or another, although with differing footprints, up to recent times. Park View became a medical centre in 1932 and is now (2017) known as the Park View Medical Clinic. It still has a single storey span roof structure on the site of the original presumed conservatory.


Park View Medical Clinic, Marton Road, Middlesbrough


Erdely Villa, No. 404, Marton Road, Middlesbrough


Fifteen months later and 500 yards further south along Marton Road is Erdely (Villa), which still stands and today is known as No. 404, Marton Road. The property and grounds was sufficiently large to be capable of accommodating both a lodge and at least two cottages, one for a gardener and the other for a coachman[24]. It was reputedly built in 1860 for John Peter Hornung who lived there until around the time of his death in November 1886[25]. Although he was born in Hungary, he became a naturalised British Subject,

In the 1850s, he was in partnership with Oscar Lindberg operating as Lindberg and Hornung, merchants, brokers, coal owners and commission agents in Middlesbrough, Newcastle on Tyne and Hartlepool[26]. They had been in partnership as early as 1853, importing butter from Kiel, Germany[27]. In 1858, they appear to have run into financial problems and by December, the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent with John Hornung apparently taking on the business in his own right[28].

In October 1869, John Hornung approached Thomas Messenger to provide a couple of estimates; firstly for heating a range and secondly for an 117ft. long ¾-span partitioned structure, with two front entrances, although with no staging or other furnishings. The estimate for the heating system of £71 included a No. 6 boiler, 160 yards of 4-inch, 10 yards of 3-inch, 55 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 45ft. of open troughs and 100 cement joints. The estimate for the structure, which had two finials was £171 10s. There is no indication as to whether the heating system was intended to be installed in the proposed 117 ft. long structure or into a pre-existing range, or whether the plan was to replace the existing range with the new building of similar size, hence there being no requirements for stages, etc.


Erdely, Manton Road, Middlesbrough – 1894 OS Map

The 1897 Ordnance Survey map of the area shows a structure of the correct proportions to the north of the site facing ENE, although it appears to have been divided into two separate structures. Within the garden adjoining the house is what appears to be a conservatory adjoining what is presumably a range of differing widths with a possible gabled entrance. The total length of the structure was about 170ft. which would exclude it being by Thomas Messenger, unless it was erected prior to when records began in September, 1867.

It appears that John Hornung moved from Erdely. Just a few days prior to his death the property was being advertised[29] to nurserymen, gardeners and others “To Let with immediate possession, the Vineries, Peach, Cucumber, and other Glass Houses, also a kitchen garden, at Erdely Villa (lately occupied by Mr. Hornung), Grove Hill, Middlesbrough; vines and fruit trees in excellent order; rent moderate…”.

The property was subsequently occupied from 1924 until 1979 by the Holy Rood Convent, but is probably best known as the birthplace of John Hornung’s son Ernest William Hornung[30] (1866-1921), the creator of Raffles – The Gentleman Thief.

Whilst Erdely Villa still stands (2017), the grounds have given way to a small residential housing development and all the horticultural buildings have long disappeared.



The nature of the Grove Hill area around the end of the 19th century was such that most of the properties, at one time or another had conservatories, ranges, or glasshouses. None of which appear to have been built by Thomas Messenger, unless prior to September 1867. It raises the question as to why two individuals living within 500 yards of one another should engage Thomas Messenger for estimates particularly when it is more than 120 miles between Middlesbrough and Loughborough.


J.W. Pease, Hutton Hall, Guisborough

Hutton Hall, about 1½ miles south-west of Guisborough, was built for Joseph Whitwell Pease between 1866-7, to the design of architect, Alfred Waterhouse. Joseph Pease was a Liberal party politician, being a Member of Parliament between 1865 and 1903[31]. In 1882, he was created a baronet of Hutton Lowcross and Pinchinthorpe. His business interests included coal and ironstone mines in Durham and Yorkshire, as well as being a director of North Eastern Railway.



Thomas Messenger undertook several estimates for Joseph Pease; the first of which was in late 1869 and probably the result of an introduction by Alfred Waterhouse. It is possible that Thomas Messenger provided equipment for Hutton Hall prior to 1869 as he dealt directly with Alfred Waterhouse on numerous occasions on behalf unknown and un-named clients.

On the first known occasion in 1869, the order included several heated forcing houses totalling 1,875 superficial feet of framing, a propagating frame and lights totalling 175 superficial feet of framing and 106 superficial feet of slatted stages. Also included was 166 linear feet of 7-inch by 3-inch lintels, 35 linear feet of 4½-inch by 3-inch curbs, 131 linear feet of slate fronts to the beds, 34 pillars and 46 brackets. The heating system, which utilised an existing boiler, included 210 yards of 4-inch, 40 yards of 3-inch, 40 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 170 cement joints, with 48-man-days being allowed for installation. The total price of the houses, pits, heating with fixtures and fittings was £289. These houses were presumably to be erected in the walled garden, about 100 yards northeast of the Hall and to the south of Hutton Gate Station, a private station built for the Pease family.

The following February Thomas Messenger received an enquiry regarding, regarding unheated 8ft. and 10ft.wide peach walls with trellis.

The next occasion was in August 1871 when he provided a couple of estimates for heating a conservatory. The first for £121 15s. included a large No. 11 boiler, 330 yards of 4-inch, 94 yards of 3-inch pipe, 12 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 200 cement joints, with 60 man-days allowed for installation. The second increased the price by £49 and allowed for two No. 10 boilers instead of one No. 11, as well as increasing the 4-inch pipes by 24 yards to allow it to run under a platform, along with an additional 10 yards of 2-inch pipes. It appears that the scope was further increased to provide hot water to the baths within the house. Accordingly, the installation time was increased by 24 man-days.


Hutton Hall and Walled Garden – 1894 OS Map

At the time, the Hall contained two structures that could have been described as conservatories. One a small but standard looking span roof building attached to the Hall on the south-west corner. The second a larger structure more reminiscent of an orangery with brick walls, large windows and a multi-span low profile glass roof adjoined the south-east side of the Hall. The smaller structure measured about 17ft. square whilst the orangery like building, described in 1875[32] as follows: –

…Stepping in to the conservatory from the main terrace walk we find it, although as usual moulded to suit the whims of architects, nevertheless, a light and airy structure. Its extent, 90 by60 feet, will give some indication of its capacity for containing plant life, although we ought to add that great scope is very probably given for passages so that two(a lady and gentleman)can walk abreast without having any fear of rubbing against the plants. What pleased us greatly was the complete absence of pots above the surface, which have always a very formal appearance; and we think Mrs. Pease, who, we understand, gave orders to this effect, is initiating a practice which many others would do well to follow….”.

The listing for the Hall, which dates from 24th April 1984[33], describes the larger structure as “Large dilapidated, split-level conservatory adjoins the E. Side of Hutton Hall. Brick with stone dressings, glazed roof has largely collapsed. Contemporary with Hall. Asymmetrical with segmental-arched openings and pinnacles to pierced parapet. Internal double arcade of semi-circular arches on twisted fluted columns.” No mention is made of the smaller structure. Presumably, Thomas Messenger’s estimate relates to the larger structure.

The last estimate was in 1872 when Thomas Messenger quoted £188 15s. to Mr. Robinson, on behalf of Joseph Pease, for an amended design for a 72ft. by 14ft. 9in. heated lean-to peach house with strawberry shelving along the whole length of the peach house, new frames along with making good an existing house. The heating system, estimated at £32 15s., was to use an existing boiler but the estimate barely contains sufficient lengths of pipe to heat the whole structure. The estimate only included 60 yards of 4-inch pipe, 18 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and no joints.

Strawberries appear to have been an important item at the Hall. In 1875, the head gardener, J. Mclndoe, writing to The Gardeners’ Chronicle Magazine[34], stated that they were forcing 5,000 per year – “On our shelves, made of wire, we place thin sods, grassy side downwards, then put the plants on, and in a few days they are rooted through the bottom of the pots in to the soil. When watering we sprinkle some over the sod to keep it damp, and, as the grass grows through the shelf downwards, it has both an ornamental and a beneficial effect”.

There appears not to have been any more orders or queries after 1872. The most likely explanation was that Joseph Pease found a different supplier and that may well have been Messrs J. Weeks & Co., of King’s Road, Chelsea, horticultural engineers and hot-water apparatus manufacturers. In an advertisement of theirs in 1875[35], they list Hutton Hall, which they mistaken state as being at Gainsborough, instead of Guisborough. The advertisement contains a list detailing 100 of their 3,000 heating installations, two of which were at Hutton Hall; the first containing 7,500 ft. of heating pipe and the second 6,700ft.

Head gardeners could yield enormous influence over the employers regarding both the garden set-up and suppliers. In this event it is probably unlikely that Mr. J. Mclndoe, the head gardener at Hutton Hall for almost 30 years, had any influence as he did not join the garden until the winter of 1874, having previously worked for the then Archbishop of York at Bishopsthorpe, near York[36].

The walled gardens appeared to be still work in progress in 1876 when the following description of the gardens appeared in the Gardeners’ Chronicle[37]

……..Turning from this by way of a well-filled shrubbery border, we come upon the kitchen garden, or rather, the fruit garden as it will eventually become after the grounds adjacent have been enclosed. In this there are the usual occupants of a first-class establishment, which need not be detailed here. On the boundary wall of this garden area set of lean-to fruit-houses 260 feet in length; then springing from these northwards area set of span roof houses 156 feet long, which run up to a corridor 270 feet long by 10 feet wide. From this corridor again we have two Span roof houses for Vines, one on the right hand of the centre, and one on the left, each40 feet by 34 feet; beyond these another one on either side, 60 feet by 20 feet; and further on still another one on either side, 60 feet by 12 feet; and at the extreme end eastwards a range 90 feet by 12 feet. These taken together, with pits for Pines outside of this arrangement altogether, will give the reader some notion of the extent of glass at Hutton Hall, its capacity for rearing fruit and flowers, and we shall now go back upon them somewhat in detail, because of the interesting features of many things that are within them.

First, then, take the first-built range of lean-to houses running, as usual, east and west, and we find Nos. 1, 2, and3, from the west early Peach-house, early Hamburgh, and early Muscat-house, all used up before our visit, and the wood ripening for next year’s crop. Passing eastward from the centre, we inspect a most interesting house of Grapes, 66 feet by 17 feet, feet approaching towards maturity, or, rather more accurately, towards the colouring point……………………..

The span roof houses leading into the corridor from the central walk contain Peaches, Ferns, planted upon fine Matlock tufa, with the usual water dripping down among gold fishes ; then the late Peach- house and a vinery 60x 34 feet, full of fine strong canes, but recently planted, of Muscats, with the usual auxiliaries for cutting out as the permanent ones become established. The east centre, also 60 x 34 feet, is a vinery with miscellaneous sorts; not the least striking was the comparatively new Waltham White, quite as good in size of bunch and berry as represented in the plate, and promising well. The Barbarossa, or rather Gros Guillaume, were fine in bunch, and so was the Duke of Buccleuch—quite ripe and standing in quite An unexceptional way. The corresponding house on the West side of the central range, of corresponding dimension, was intended to be a Black Hamburgh one, but among the Vines the Duke and the Golden Champion were growing and doing well The fruit of the Hamburgh’s were of fine size of berry, and about the very best in point of colour—in fact, I look upon the produce from these promising Vines with high hope, feeling certain that they have a future before them. As it is for finish, if not for size, the whole sorts in cultivation are about as good as any that have come under our observation this season. Alongside of this, westwards, is the plant stove, with centre bed, and slate tables round the house full of excellent decorative material full of youth and vigour, as all such plants ought to be.


Hutton Hall Walled Garden- 1894 OS Map

The corresponding house on the east side, 60 feet by 20 feet as well, was likewise devoted to decorative plants, and on the west of it also the corridor at right angles is the Melon and Cucumber-house, with a corresponding one of same size westwards, filled with fruiting Pines.

The 90-feet range on the extreme east is devoted to hot and cool Orchids, Ferns, Dracaenas, and Heaths, of which, like all the other departments, there is a good collection. The Orchids look well, especially the Dendrobiums, some Laelias, Sobralias, Vandas, Aerides, and Saccolabiums, the fleshy roots of the latter species growing out profusely, and taking hold of the back wall of brick—a material which does not seem unsuited to them. The Maidenhair Ferns are here very numerous and in fine order, and the Dracaenas are the finest-grown lot for table decoration we have had the pleasure of seeing in any private establishment. The whole workmanship is of the best description, whether we notice the construction of the houses, both external and internal, the tabling where tabling is, the paths—broad, beautifully finished, and quite a pleasure to promenade upon ; everything is scrupulously clean, and from the design must almost of necessity be so. The heating, too, carried out under the Messrs Weeks’ system, Mr. Mclndoe looks upon as all that can be desired. Two boilers heat the one range, and two the other, so fitted up that one can do the work at the option of the superintendent.

We nearly omitted to mention one very important feature in this very long corridor. It will be about 10 feet high, and suspended from the top is a wire shelf 9 inches wide, capable of holding 2000 pots of Strawberries.

From the description of the gardens, it is difficult to reconcile any of the houses with those of Thomas Messenger. The assumption has to be made that nearly all if not all the structures were probably constructed by Messrs J. Weeks & Co.


Hutton Hall – 1894 OS Map

It appears that almost all the horticultural; structures had been built by 1876, as in 1894[38] the walled garden appears to have a similar number and arrangement of structures; mostly aligned on a NNW/SSE axis, with others at 90 degrees, totalling around 1,100 feet in length all within and just outside the walled garden.

The Pease family sold the estate to Warley Pickering, a wealthy ship proprietor in 1903. By 1928, some of the structures appear to be in disrepair. The Hall was sold off in 1948 and part of it was turned into flats. By 1977, following the sell-off and conversion of the stables and other outbuildings for residential use, most of the horticultural structures had disappeared, although some of the outline of the walled garden is still visible.


Lord Hotham, Dalton Hall, South Dalton

South Dalton lies a few miles north-west of Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It is an estate village set-up in the late 19th early and early 20th century by the Hotham family, owners of Dalton Hall which itself lies to the west of the village.



In 1872, following about fifty years of lying empty, the fifth Lord Hotham[39] employed Birmingham-based architects, Messrs Payne and Talbot, to remodel the Hall both internally and externally. All the subsequent building work was sub-contracted to Mr. John Briley, of Birmingham. This remodelling involved enlarging and landscaping the grounds with parterres and terraces, for the west and south fronts of the Hall, by William Broderick Thomas[40], a landscape gardener. The walled garden, which in 1822 had been moved south of the Hall and laid out by J.N. Sleed of Kensington[41], was also in-line for a make-over, which included, Messrs Payne and Talbot, building amongst others an Italianate gardener’s cottage[42]. They also engaged Thomas Messenger to erect “an extensive range of conservatories, vineries, and other horticultural houses[43] in the walled garden. The main structure was a 167ft. long south-facing ¾-span partitioned range with central span roof projecting porch, along with a vestibule to the rear. It was built against the northern boundary of the formal garden, forming the main structural feature of the walled garden. Elements of this range appear to remain to the present day (2012). The exact layout of the range is undocumented, although part of it was used as a vineries with 1,584 superficial feet of vine wire being attached to the back wall and to both sides of the roof along the complete length of both wings. In 1907, the range described as “still in good condition”, with two still in use 40ft. long vineries, on either side of the central area[44].


Dalton Hall and Walled Garden – 1910 OS Map

There was also three 40ft. by 12ft. span houses, probably forcing houses, built to the north on the outside of the main walled garden, in what appears to have been a separate small walled areas, probably working spaces, rather than formal display areas. Similar to the main range, elements of these structures are still extant, if not the original building then occupying the same footprint.

On the north facing side of the wall from the range were a series of sheds, including a mushroom house, which Thomas Messenger fitted out with slate shelving and underground heating pipes together with an iron walkway. It appears that some of the sheds were built in 1822 when the walled garden was moved. However, more were required and John Briley was engaged to make the alterations, presumably also renovating the existing buildings and garden walls. The effort involved must have been extensive because he charged Thomas Messenger £635 for is described as “sheds and brickwork”. Presumably, Thomas Messenger was charged because the work was deemed to be outside the scope of Briley’s existing contract but within Thomas Messenger’s, who added 2½ per cent to Mr. Briley’s price to cover the costs of plans, etc.

Dalton Hall Walled Garden – 1910 OS Map

The range, forcing houses and presumably some of the sheds were all heated using two No. 13 boilers, 980 yards of 4-inch, 90 yards of 3-inch, 82 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, fixed with 700 patent joints. The installation of the heating system alone, was estimated at 100 man–days .

Thomas Messenger’s total price for all the structures, heating and John Briley’s building work was £2,285. The heating system accounting for almost 25 per cent of this figure and included a 10 per cent surcharge on the manpower costs, 80 per cent on the pipes and £55 2s. 9½d. for carriage and contingency.

Dalton Hall and Walled Garden – 1910 OS Map

Thomas Messenger returned in 1874 to install a new heating system into the Hall and conservatory, which was located on southern end of the Hall. John Briley having reached a suitable stage of the refurbishment presumably contracted out the heating system, receiving a commission. Thomas Messenger quoted for the work in late 1873, only receiving verbal acceptance around nine months later. Consequently, the work was still in progress when he sold the business appearing in the schedule of contracts[45] and was completed by the new Company.. The heating system, priced around £450 included a No 11 boiler, 486 yards of 4-inch heating pipes, 100 yards of 3-inch heating pipes, 77 yards of 1-inch wrought-iron pipes, 260 yards of 1¼-inch wrought-iron pipes, all fixed using 336 patent joints. The heating system was extended into the billiard room where a coil radiator with case was installed under the table, with another coil radiator located at the end of the corridor.

The change of ownership appears not to have had any effect on business relations as Messenger & Co., were engaged by John Briley in March 1876 to provide a 12 specially sized hit and miss ventilators. The following January they were re-engaged to extend the Hall heating system into some of the corridors and lavatory, which included a number of coil radiators. In 1906, John Allsop, the then head gardener, ordered a replacement for one of the two No. 11 triangular boilers installed by Thomas Messenger, over thirty years earlier. The old boiler presumably, broken beyond repair, was replaced by one of Messenger & Co. Ltd.’s patent No. 60 Quorn boilers. A description of the gardens the following year[46] indicated that the other boiler was still operational, some thirty-four years after originally installed.

Carnation House, Dalton Hall – The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24 August, 1907

Messenger & Co. Ltd., were engaged on several other occasions. In July and August 1945 by Messrs King & Co., of Hull, who ordered various boiler parts including firebars[47]. Presumably the boiler was causing problems because was on 10th May 1948, R.G. Wells, the secretary, ordered a new boiler for the garden with Messenger & Co. Ltd., delivering a new No. 510 Quorn boiler for £213 4s. 3d.[48]. In September 1953, another set of boiler parts were ordered[49].


Duke of St. Albans, Bestwood Estate



Site of Bestwood Lodge walled garden


The Bestwood Estate, located 4 or 5 miles north of Nottingham city centre, was originally part of the southern end of the larger Sherwood Forest. The first Duke of St. Albans acquired the land from his father King Charles II in 1683. Used mainly as a hunting estate it appears to have been first cultivated about 1770 when the whole estate was reputedly leased to a gentleman from Norfolk; however the lease was surrendered ten years later. In 1820, the estate was divided into 12 farms and in 1860, Bestwood Park formed a separate parish, having previously been part of the parish of Lenton[50].


Bestwood Lodge – The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 12 October 1876


1862-5 Rebuild and Beyond

The current residence known as Bestwood Lodge was built between 1862 and 1865 by William Amelius Aubrey De Vere Beauclerk, the tenth Duke of St. Albans, on the site of the medieval hunting lodge demolished in 1860. The architect Samuel Sanders Teulon[51] designed a high Victorian mansion of modest size with Gothic style red brick and white stone facings. The Duke also took the opportunity to landscape the gardens, the work overseen by Teulon and Thomas Church. A new walled garden was built about 600 yards to the north of the Lodge, to which it was originally connected by a gravel walk[52].

Thomas Messenger was engaged by the tenth Duke on about eighteen separate occasions between 1867 and 1874. After he sold the business in 1875, the new Company of Messenger & Co. were also engaged on a number of occasions.

The first known engagement was in July 1867 when Thomas Messenger provided the Duke with four estimates. The first of £59 for 2 large boilers with fittings. The second of £840 for a heated 204ft. long partitioned range with a central span roof projecting porch and ¾-span ‘wings’, each of which was to be divided into three houses, each 32ft. long and 17ft. 6in wide. One of the houses was to be used as a peach house, four as vineries and the sixth as a plant house. The heating system, utilising the boilers specified in the first estimate, included 466 yards of 4-inch, 44 yards of 3-inch, 56 yards of 2-inch heating pipes fixed using 350 cement joints with 110 man-days allowed for installation. The third estimate was as per the second with the exclusion of the plant house, which reduced the price to £721. The heating apparatus was reduced accordingly by 51 yards of 4-inch, 4 yards of 2-inch pipes, 40 cement joints and 8 man-days installation time. The fourth estimate was as per the second with the exclusion of both the plant house and peach house, which reduced the price to £608. The heating system was again reduced compared with the 3rd estimate by 51 yards of 4-inch 4 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 30 cement joints and 10 man-days for installation.


Bestwood Lodge with walled garden to north – 1882 OS Map

In early August, a further estimate of £259 was submitted. This time, for a 64ft. by 17ft. 6in. heated partitioned ¾-span vinery divided into two equal 32ft. houses. The heating system, which was again designed to utilise the boilers specified in the July estimate, included 150 yards of 4-inch, 24 yards of 3-inch, 4 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, fixed using 100 cement joints with 36 man-days allowed for installation.

The next set of estimates, sent out about two weeks later, was for a 66ft. long conservatory to be built at the Lodge. Three estimates were presented, the most expensive with a fancy gable was £218, the second with a simple gable was £192 and the third of £165 was for a plain conservatory without a cornice. All three estimates included flat and stepped stages, ventilation apparatus and heating. The latter utilised an existing boiler, 47 yards of 4-inch heating pipes fixed using 32 cement joints with 12 man-days allowed for installation.

It appears that the kitchen garden already possessed a heated plant house, for which Thomas Messenger was prepared to make an allowance of £1 10s. for the old boiler and £10 for connecting the plant house to the new heating system and making allowance for a forcing house. The estimate of £217, for a 60ft. by 13ft. heated partitioned forcing house was submitted in June 1868. The heating system comprised of 144 yards of 4-inch, 46 yards of 3-inch, 36 yards of 2-inch heating pipes connected using 120 cement joints with 40 man-days allowed for installation. Two weeks later, another estimate was submitted, this time for a slightly modified version for the forcing house, priced at £25 less, with an almost identical heating system.

In September, Thomas Messenger quoted £16 10s. to provide heating to the coach house, using a No. 2 boiler, 36 yards of 4-inch, 8 yards of 2-inch heating pipes connected using 24 cement joints and 9 man-days allowed for installation. He also quoted £5 6s. for the provision of a cold water supply to the coachman’s house.

By May 1868, discussions were still on-going regarding building the two vineries, peach house and a plant house. If all three were to be built at once, the total price was £492 (£260, £113 and £119 respectively), otherwise the price would have increased by an unspecified amount. Presumably, this was Thomas Messenger, trying to assert any pressure that he could, both for a decision to be made and to try to ensure that he received all the work.

In late October, Thomas Messenger supplied a 60ft. by 4ft. roof to a pit installed alongside a set of forcing house lights. He also quoted about £25 for the removal of the existing boiler used to heat the Hall, replacing it with a new one, along with installing a new coil radiator into an existing coil case.

A decision on whether to build the vineries, peach house and forcing house had still not been made by the end of May 1869, when Thomas Messenger submitted another set of alternatives. This time for a vinery, second forcing house and peach house with four rows of heating pipes and the back wall completely wired, priced at £247 10s, with another for two heated vineries of unknown dimensions priced at £260.

In September 1869, the Duke purchased four 32ft. long by 1ft wide shelves, supported using 36 iron brackets. The prices of £6 5s. included 5 man-days for fixing.

The next significant estimate, for a 32ft. long heated stove house with ornamental iron and slate stages, being submitted in January 1870. The heating system without a boiler comprised of 88 yards of 4-inch, 2 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 60 cement joints with 18 man-days allowed for installation. The price including ornamental iron and slate stages was £155; with a reduction of £5, if wood, slate and sand stages were ordered.

In February, he undertook further work on the Lodges’ heating system, this time installing several new coil radiators, each consisting of fifteen 3-inch tubes with deal tops.

No further work materialised for a further year when in April 1871 he was engaged to paint the outside of the large range and forcing house, along with cleaning all the glass. This was quickly followed in May, by an order for a heated pit, divided into several compartments, with 60ft. by 7ft. lights. The heating system required a new No. 7 boiler together with 50 yards of 4-inch, 18 yards of 3-inch, 20 yards of 2-inch heating pipes connected using 16 cement joints with 10 man-days allowed for installation. One of the compartments had a bottom heat system installed requiring an additional 30 yards of 4-inch, 2 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, 20 cement joints and 3 man-days allowed for installation.

Another long gap followed where nothing appears to have happened until 1873 when a decision was finally made on building the conservatory. This enormous structure, attached to the west wing, was 102ft. long and 26ft. wide. It had a 40ft. high central dome, described by Thomas Messenger as a clerestory[53]. At £981 15s. it appears that little expense was spared; it had a number of folding doors, 96ft. of cresting, 2 finials, a porch entrance, 218ft. of McFarlane’s No. 42 4½-inch by 3-inch gutters; an extraordinary six coats of paint was applied to the ironwork, as demanded by the architect, along with the highlighting of some of the architectural detailing. A new heating system was installed specifically for the conservatory. Priced at £215 it consisted of a No. 11 boiler, 523 yards of 4-inch, 87 yards of 3-inch heating pipes, 260 patent joints with 30 man-days allowed for installation. Interestingly there is no mention of fitting out the conservatory with staging, etc. This was because the plants were laid out in beds with paths in between as described in the autumn of 1876, following a visit to the gardens[54]:

Most of the plants in the interior (of the conservatory) are planted out in beds, and the best of the specimens consist of Musas of the ensete species, two enormous-sized plants, having only been turned out of their pots while quite small last year; Dicksonias in splendid condition. Camelias, Palms of the Seaforthia, Latania, and Areca sorts, Phormiums, Ficuses, Dracoenas, &c. Most of these are planted back from the centre path, and the front along the edges is kept gay with dwarf flowering plants. The roof is well draped with ornamental climbers, the Tasconia, the old Cohcea scandens variegate, Plumbago capensis, Bougainvilleas and Lapagerias being few of the finest.”

There was no mention of iron walkways, so presumably the conservatory heating pipes were above ground running around the walls.

Bestwood Lodge, The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 12 October 1876, page 328

Whilst there is reference made to an architect demanding six coats of paint and a 2½ per cent commission listed for both the conservatory and heating systems, presumably for the architect, there is no evidence as to who the architect was. It could have been Messrs Medland Taylor & Henry Taylor[55], of No. 2, St. Ann’s Churchyard, Manchester, for in October 1874 they engaged Thomas Messenger to make a number of alterations and additions to the conservatory. These included a new 29ft. 4in. long corridor roof, connecting the conservatory at the eastern end; this involved cutting into the conservatory roof and providing additional supports. The corridor ran north from the eastern end of the conservatory to the main entrance of the Lodge. The price of £79 10s. included a 5 per cent commission to the architects. At the same time as installing the corridor, the architects, on behalf of the Duke, ordered 108 superficial feet of best sheet glass and iron sash bars for the front lights.

After Thomas Messenger sold the business in 1875, the new company of Messenger & Co., undertook additional work for the Duke,. In February 1875, under the instructions of Mr. Marston, they installed additional heating into the plant house, providing four rows of pipes to the back and two to the front.

The same 1876[56] article that described the interior of the conservatory they also visited Thomas Messengers’ structures built in the 7-acre kitchen garden, describing in some detail, both their use and the plants grown in them.

There is a front range of glass houses along the whole width of the kitchen garden. The width of the range is 16ft. and is divided into a number of 33-feet lengths, and the style of the roof is three-quarters span. Beginning at the west end, the first house in the range is planted with Royal George Peaches and Elruge Nectarines. The second division is also planted with the same fruits, with the addition of the Noblesse Peach. The trees are planted in the front and trained against a half circular trellis, and there are others against the back wall. The Noblesse is found to be in fine flavour but rather uncertain of bearing good crops annually. There is a variety named Chancellor in the first house, which must not be forgotten. Mr. Edmonds, the gardener, says it is the most certain bearer he has ever seen, as it never misses a splendid crop of superb fruit. This is a Peach seldom met with, indeed I am of opinion that few know it. I find it described in Dr Hogg’s “Fruit Manual” as follows: —Fruit large, oval, pale yellow, dark crimson next the sun. Flesh free, pale yellow, very deep red at the stone, sugary, rich, and vinous.

The borders are made with the natural soil of the locality, which is a very light sandy loam, with the addition of little manure. There was a splendid crop on every one of the trees this season, and this is the case every year, the fruit being much above the average in size. During the time it is swelling the borders are supplied with large quantities of cow-dung water, and just after the fruit is formed the entire surface of the border is sprinkled over with a good dose of salt, which is watered into the soil, and Mr. Edmonds says he finds it to be one of the best manures that can be applied to Peaches, and the enormous size of the fruit proves his assertion to be comet.

The next division is planted as a vinery with Lady Downe’s, Black Alicante, and Trebbiano. The latter is considered to be a superior late white Grape when well ripened, but it is found to take a great deal of heat to accomplish this properly. There was a fine crop in this house. The next house in the range is the centre one, and it is erected in the form of span roof greenhouse, running north and south, and therefore projecting from the others. It was well filled with Geraniums, Liliums, and other soft.wooded plants, which render the greenhouse attractive in summer. The north end of the house is a stone wall with climbers growing against it, Heliotropes being amongst the principal, as yielding sweetly-scented flowers nearly all the year round when planted out, and the flowers are much valued in a cut state. Acacia lophantha is another plant grown as a climber, here its graceful leaves being found to form an excellent substitute for Fern fronds in the flower vases. Proceeding onwards through the greenhouse we come to an early Hamburgh house. The fruit being nearly all cut I can only remark on the highly promising wood for next year’s crop; but more can be said of the next division, which is planted with Muscat of Alexandria. The bunches here were models in form, their average weight running from 3lbs. to 5lbs., and the colour of the berries was an exquisite golden amber. I have not seen finer Muscat fruit this season, the finish being exceedingly perfect in every respect. The end division is planted with Black Alicante, Lady Downe’s, Mrs. Pince, and Barbarossa, all bearing excellent crops. Complaints are not unfrequently heard of Barbarossa being shy in showing fruit. It was the same here for the first two years after it was planted, but ever since it became what may be termed established it has never failed to show anymore bunches than were wanted. The Alicantes in this house were particularly fine, both berries and bunches being above the average in size, and the colour and bloom very perfect.

Crossing a walk from this house there is a lean-to stove against the opposite wall. This structure is filled with every choice and healthy lot of Ferns, fine-foliaged plants, and all other subjects generally found in a well-managed stove. As in most places of any great extent, there are ranges of forcing houses and pits on the outside of the garden wall. Pines are well grown in one of these houses, the old Queen being the variety chiefly cultivated. Cucumbers are also grown both summer and winter. Telegraph is the favourite variety at all seasons. A large quantity of small stove and other plants for the house or room decoration are also grown here. Melons are cultivated in low pits, Colston Basset being preferred before any other sort. In the reserve ground there were large quantities of plants growing for winter decoration, such as Chrysanthemums, Salvias, &c. There were also many Solanums planted out in a border. These are raised from seed in spring, and they bear abundance of their ornamental berries in autumn. Strawberries are forced in considerable numbers. Keen’s Seedling is the variety used for supplying the earliest fruit in March, and President follows further on.

The Lodge was subsequently enlarged in 1896, when the conservatory was partially or entirely replaced by an orangery. An additional four greenhouses were built between 1882 and 1900[57]. These were located at the north end of the kitchen garden close to Messenger’s 60ft. long forcing house and pit.

The Lodge was subsequently let to Sir Frank Bowden, founder and Director of the Raleigh Cycle Co. Following his death in 1921, the tenancy was taken over by his son Sir Harold Bowden.




1940 Sale

In 1938 the 12th Duke of St. Albans through Bestwood Park Ltd., decided to put the whole 3,485-acre estate up for sale. Comprising of the Lodge, 14 mixed farms with 500 acres of building land[58], it had a total annual income of almost £1 per acre, with a quarter of the estate then residing within the Nottingham Borough boundary.

The contents of the Lodge were sold-off separately over three days in March 1939[59]. However, having failed to find a private buyer, the whole estate was placed up for auction, on 10th June 1940.

The intention was to try to find a purchaser for the whole estate and only if that failed would the estate be broken down and offered in around 100 lots. The sale catalogue listed 92 lots and auctioneers, Messrs John D. Wood & Co. of No. 23 Berkeley Street, London, obviously assumed that a single buyer for the whole estate was unobtainable, particularly as they had failed to find a private buyer. The auction began with the whole estate being offered as a single lot, only one bid of £100,000 by Mr. Ernest Terah Hooley[60], a financier, was received and that was rejected. The sale then proceeded with five blocks of growing timber being offered being comprised of a group of lots. This was then followed by various other blocks of land, again comprising of various groups of lots. If any of the above lots remained unsold, the whole lots therein were to be withdrawn, with the remainder of the estate then being offered separately or in blocks as set out in the sale catalogue.

The Lodge, described as “eminently suitable if desired for a fine country club, nursing home or institution[61], together with 61 acres including the kitchen garden, a nearby building site of 16 acres and 43 acres of Bestwood Park, was offered together as a single lot, but having received only one bid of £3,000, it too was withdrawn.

At the time the Lodge, grounds, garages and parkland, excluding the kitchen garden, had been requisitioned by the military authorities, as part of the war effort. The kitchen gardens, glasshouses and head gardener’s house was being let on a yearly tenancy[62] to Mr. A. Miles at an annual rent of £25.

The sale was only partially successful with a number of lots remaining unsold, at which point the auctioneers offered the remaining unsold lots for sale privately either immediately or “when the political position was more certain[63].


1943 Sale

Following the 1940 sale, several lots were subsequently sold privately. However, approximately 850 acres of the original 3,485-acre estate remained unsold and offered for sale by auction divided into 77 lots.

The Lodge, together with the surround land divided into 55 residential building plots[64], all owned by the Holborn Trust Co. Ltd. were included in the sale. As it site was still being requisitioned by the War Department, any successful purchaser would have been unable to take possession until such time as de-requisition had taken place. The kitchen garden, 5 farms and various other holdings were all owned by the Bestwood Park Ltd. were also included in the sale.

The auction, undertaken by Messrs Turner, Fletcher and Essex, was held on 22nd September 1943 at the Black Boy Hotel, Nottingham[65].

The Lodge, together with the garage, stable block, 8 acres of land and the 55 building plots (lots 21 to 75), were offered for sale as a single lot but no bids were received. The Lodge, garage, stable block, and 8 acres of land was then offered for sale but failed to reach the reserve, being withdrawn at £3,100[66]. It was recognised that the 36-bedroom mansion was probably too large and so, Mr. Thomas Cecil Howitt, the estate architect, had prepared plans for converting the mansion into flats, thus opening it up to developers[67].

One of lots that failed to sale in 1940 was the kitchen garden, which included all of Thomas Messenger’s original structures as well as the four other greenhouses built between 1877 and 1900. This time the kitchen garden lot of just over 5 acres included the head gardener’s house, the walled garden, all the horticultural structures, and an inhabitable one-bedroom bothy along with various other buildings[68]. The large range sitting against the north wall of the walled garden was described in the catalogue as “….a range of heated Glasshouses, consisting of Vineries, Peach and Nectarine Houses, extending to a length of nearly 230 feet….” Interestingly the structures were still apparently being used for the same purpose that they were originally built for over seventy years previously. By this time, the vineries were being heated using a Robin Hood boiler, produced by The Beeston Boiler Co. Ltd., and one of Messenger & Co. Ltd.’s main rivals. Six houses at the north end of the kitchen garden are specifically mentioned in the catalogue, a 60ft. by 12ft. span carnation house, a 60ft. by 15ft. span early vinery, a 60ft. by 12ft. span store (stove?) house, a 60ft. by 18ft. tomato house, a 60ft. by 9ft. early peach house and a 45ft. x 15ft. lean-to fig house. The latter two houses were joined, forming a single south facing range. Only one of these can be attributed to Thomas Messenger, and that is either the carnation or store (stove?) house. There was no mention of Thomas Messenger’s 60ft. long pit in the northern part of the garden that still existed and is clearly visible in the one of the photographs that accompanied the catalogue. Neither is there any mention of the lean-to stove house on the eastern wall of the walled garden, which again is clearly visible on the maps in the catalogue. Perhaps the stove house was in a state of disrepair at the time. The bidding the kitchen garden began at £3,000 and having reached the reserved price of £4,500, was sold to Messrs Turner, Barrows and Moss, solicitors, of No. 1 Oxford Street, Nottingham[69]. They were probably acting on behalf of H.L. Holiwell, who owned the property in 1946[70].

Today (2012) nothing remains of the greenhouses, although most of the main kitchen garden walling exists, as does the 3-bedroom residence and some of the buildings around the bothy but all appear to have been severely altered.

The 1943 sale catalogue describes the Lodge as having a heated conservatory and presumably refers to the orangery erected in 1896, rather than any remnant of the conservatory built by Thomas Messenger.


Subsequent History

In 1952, the Lodge became the headquarters of the Army North Midland District for 49 (W.R. & N.M.) Division District[71]. In the mid-1970s it was eventually purchased by Gedling Borough Council and became a hotel leased to Roy Turner who it is believed invested in excess of £100,000 into the enterprise[72]. In April 1981, Roy Turner ran into financial trouble, because of low occupancy rate at the hotel. Bass Charrington Brewery[73] acted as caretaker managers until a new leaseholder was found[74]. The leasehold was then taken on by Mr. John Lowe, a Nottingham hotelier. In 1988, he retired offering the leasehold for sale at £1.25million[75]. It was purchased by a business consortium with the hotel being run by Aldens (Hotel Management) Ltd., headed by Nazir Hussain[76]. At the time, the hotel had 35 en-suite bedrooms, restaurant for 120, banqueting suite for 180, four conference rooms and lounge bar, etc. Today (2012) the hotel is part of the Best Western chain, with 40 en-suite bedrooms, bar, restaurant, 7 meeting rooms and conference facilities, capable of catering for up to 200 delegates[77].



  1. The estimate contained an option for converting the pine pit into a pine house, with additional framing, 16 slide ventilators and doors.

  2. A founding partner in Messrs Yates, Haywood and Co., iron founders, at Effingham Works, Rotherham.

  3. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/257.

  4. King’s Heath is a suburb of Birmingham lying about four miles south of the city centre.

  5. The London Gazette, 5th February 1833.

  6. With headquarters in Armoury Close, Bordesley Green, Birmingham. They were describing themselves as engineers and general brass founders.

  7. The London Gazette, 16th July, 1954.

  8. The original school opened at Camp Hill, close to the city centre, in 1883 but outgrew the site and moved to King’s Heath in 1956.

  9. The Standard, 1st October 1884.

  10. Wattstown

  11. Royal Horticultural Society’s Annual General Meeting held on 8th February 1870 – The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 10th February 1870, page 103.

  12. The Pall Mall Gazette, 4th April 1870.

  13. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 24th March 1870, page 224.

  14. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 16th February 1871, page 119.

  15. The Times, 7th May 1892.

  16. Previously known as The Polish Benevolent Fund Housing Association.

  17. Bonsall lies on the edge of the Peak District, about 18 miles north of Derby.

  18. Derbyshire Times, 2nd March 1889.

  19. Demolished in 1931.

  20. The Birmingham Daily Post, 3rd July 1871.

  21. Draft.Middlesbrough Local List, January 2010.

  22. The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 5th July 1893.

  23. Ordnance Survey Map

  24. 1881 Census.

  25. He died in Twickenham, on 11th November 1886.

  26. The London Gazette, 8th October 1858.

  27. The York Herald, and General Advertiser, 10th September 1853.

  28. The London Gazette, 14th December 1858.

  29. The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 8th November 1886.

  30. John Peter Hornung and his wife had eight children, of which Ernest William Hornung was the youngest.

  31. In 1865 he was elected MP for South Durham, which he held until the reorganisation of 1885; following which he was elected for Barnard Castle.

  32. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 26th August 1876, page 271.

  33. http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-59960-hutton-hall-conservatory-kitchen-courtyar

  34. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 15th May 1875, page 632.

  35. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 20th November 1875, page 668.

  36. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 10th October, 1903, page 257.

  37. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 26th August 1876, page 271-2.

  38. Ordnance Survey Map.

  39. John Hotham (1838–1907).

  40. The Building News, 5th September 1873, page 265.

  41. The Buildings of England – Yorkshire: York and the East Riding; N. Pevsner and D. Neave; 1995; Penguin Books.

  42. Ibid.

  43. The Building News, 5th September 1873, page 265.

  44. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24th August, 1907, page 142.

  45. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/257.

  46. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24th August, 1907, page 142.

  47. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/62.

  48. Ibid.

  49. Ibid.

  50. Sale Catalogue.

  51. Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812–1873) was a notable 19th century English gothic revival architect. He was particularly known for his Gothic Revival churches, but also designed several country houses and even complete villages. His first large-scale commission came in 1848 from the 7th Duke of Bedford to design cottages for the Thorney estate. Other clients included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Albert. (from Wikipedia).

  52. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 12th October 1876, page 328.

  53. An architectural term that historically denoted an upper level of a Roman basilica or of the nave of a Romanesque or Gothic church, the walls of which rise above the rooflines of the lower aisles and are pierced with windows. In modern usage, clerestory refers to any high windows above eye level. In either case, the purpose is to bring outside light, fresh air, or both into the inner space. (From Wikipedia).

  54. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 12th October 1876, page 328.

  55. James Medland Taylor (1834-1909) and Henry Medland Taylor (1837 -1916) were brothers and probably best known for their Anglican churches in and around Greater Manchester.James Medland Taylor worked for a time in S.S. Teulon’s office and that is probably how they came to work to be involved at Bestwood Lodge.

  56. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, 12th October 1876, page 329-330.

  57. Ordnance Survey Map.

  58. The Times, 6th July, 1938.

  59. The Times, 14th March, 1939.

  60. (1859–1947). He was a financier and developer of the Trafford Park industrial estate in the outskirts of Manchester. He was a local person, having been born in Sneinton, Nottinghamshire, but moved away, briefly returning to live in the area on several occasions. He was made bankrupt on four separate occasions. (From Wikipedia).

  61. The Nottingham Journal, 11th June 1940.

  62. Renewable on 25th March, subject to six-months’ notice on either side.

  63. The Nottingham Evening Post, 10th June 1940.

  64. The lots varied in size from 2,110 up to 8,460 square yards and arranged by Mr. T. Cecil Howitt, the estate architect.

  65. The Times, 6th September, 1943.

  66. The Nottingham Evening Post, 23rd September, 1943.

  67. Ibid.

  68. Sale Catalogue, Nottingham Local Studies Library.

  69. The Nottingham Journal, 23rd September, 1943.

  70. Nottinghamshire Archives ref: CA/TC/10/142/43.

  71. The Bulwell Dispatch, 26th March 1965.

  72. The Nottingham News, 24th April 1981.

  73. Ibid.

  74. Ibid.

  75. The Nottingham Evening Post, 21st June 1988.

  76. Ibid.

  77. Bestwood Lodge