Industrial and Retail

Thomas Messenger did not manage to make significant inroads into either the manufacturing or retail outlet markets. Indeed, only a relatively small number of examples are known from the existing records.

He was not averse to taking on relatively small jobs, some no doubt resulted through relationships developed whilst working on personal orders for a particular partner in a firm. One possible example is Messrs Robbins & Powers of City Flour Mills, Wheatley Street, Coventry. In March 1867 John Powers, a partner in the firm requested several estimates which included a heated 64ft. by 15ft. lean-to house; 2ft. 6in. and 16ft. x 4ft. plant stages; 54ft. x 2ft. iron walkway. In June the following year the firm orders 69 yards of 5-inch pipe and 69 yards of 4-inch to be delivered to Coventry railway station.


Messrs Francis & William Edward White, Wood Gate, Loughborough

Messrs Francis and William Edward White were hosiery manufacturers based in Wood Gate, Loughborough and they engaged Thomas Messenger on a number of occasions regarding their factory and warehouse heating systems.

In 1866, it appears that the existing heating system only heated part of the firm’s warehouse[1], so they engaged Thomas Messenger to extend it to the rest of the building. The installation appears to have been fairly complex, taking about 36 man-days to install and requiring the services of both Messenger’s own joiners and that of a local builder, Richard Mains, of Barrow Street, Loughborough. He undertook the all excavations and accompanying brickwork at a cost to Thomas Messenger of £5 17s. 6d. to which he added 2s. 6d., charging the client £6. The existing boiler and furnace front were replaced with a new boiler priced at £12, capable of heating the whole warehouse. In addition, an additional 142 yards of heating pipe and 150 joints[2] were fitted, comprising of 43 yards of 4-inch pipe, 48 yards of 3-inch pipe, 51 yards of 2-inch pipe, 100 4-inch and 3-inch joints and 50 2-inch joints. Thomas Messenger charged Messrs White a total of £50 for the new system, allowing them £2 for the old boiler and furnace front.

In October the following year Thomas Messenger undertook more alterations. On this occasion in their factory, installing 60ft. of ¾-inch pipes from the steam boiler and 30ft. of ½-inch condensing pipe, costing £7 17s., which included 16 man-days labour. This is only one of two known references of Thomas Messenger being involved in heating systems using steam.

In late 1874, just before he sold the business, Thomas Messenger undertook a third set of alterations to the heating system. In this instance taking 8 man-days to install 42 yards of 3-inch and 24 cement joints at price of £11 5s.

Following the purchase of business, Messenger & Co., undertook further work for Messrs Francis & William Edward White on at least three other occasions. The earliest, only a few weeks after taking over the business, was to install steam heating into Messrs White’s factory in Wood Gate. The second occasion was later the same year, again involved steam heating in the factory. The third occasion was in 1896[3], when they installed a small amount of pipe work.


Messrs Thomas Turner & Co., Wolverhampton

Thomas Messenger provided Thomas Turner & Co., of Phoenix Works, Great Brickkiln Street, Wolverhampton, a rough estimate of £50 for heating their workshops. The estimate included a boiler which was to be placed at the back of an existing furnace, 33 yards of 3-inch pipe, 36 yards of 3-inch pipe, 87 yards of 2-inch pipe, 100 cement joints and allowed for 50-man-days installation time. Around 25 per cent of the £50 estimate was contingency in one form or another. On this occasion, it appears that Thomas Messenger did not win the order.


Messrs Platt, Dobell & Co., Manchester

In October 1867, a Mr. Miller, on behalf of his clients Messrs Platt, Dobell & Co., cheese factors of Todd Street and Corporation Street, Manchester, requested Thomas Messenger to quote for heating their warehouse. Thomas Messenger responded with two estimates, the first significantly higher than the second. Presumably the client rejected the first because of the price, which was £55 compared with £32 10s. for the second. The first estimate included an un-sized boiler at £9 10s., 156 yards of 4-inch pipe, 9 yards of 3-inch pipe, 150 cement joints, 30 days fixing with a 2o per cent surcharge on all the pipes. The second estimate, presumably for a much reduced scope, included another un-sized boiler this time priced at only £5, only 66 yards of 4-inch pipe, 27 yards of 2-inch, 46 cement joints, 18 days for installation and only a 15 per cent surcharge on the pipes. The second estimate also included £5 for brickwork which interestingly did not appear in the first estimate. The contract was duly awarded to Thomas Messenger, who in 1868 returned to undertake a small amount of alterations, taking 2 man-days and costing £2 11s.


Mathew Attwood, Castle Donington

In early 1868, Thomas Messenger gave Mathew Attwood, a draper, of London House, Clapgun Street, Castle Donington two estimates. The first of £39 10s., was to provide both heating and hot water to both the shop and the residence at the rear, using a No. 4 boiler, 59 yards of 4-inch pipe, 16 yards of 3-inch, 30 yards of 1¼-inch pipe, 20 yards of 1-inch pipe and 60 cement joints. The second of £24 5s. was to provide hot water to both the shop and residence but heating the shop only. The boiler was downsized to a No. 2, with only 36 yards of 4-inch pipe, no 3-inch pipe, 76ft. of 1¼-inch, 27ft. of 1-inch and 30 cement joints. The installation time was also reduced but by less than fifty per cent down from 3o to 18 man-days. The introduction appears to have been made by an unnamed architect, who was to receive 5 per cent, if the order was placed.


London House, Clapgun Street, Castle Donington


Mansfield Cooperative Society Ltd.

In 1868, the Committee of Mansfield Cooperative Society Ltd., requested two estimates from Thomas Messenger regarding the heating of their new Queen Street store. The Society had purchased the site that was originally occupied by three dwelling houses, for £300. Building work for the new store began in 1867 with the foundation stone being laid on 31st August. The stone building was three storeys high with cellar; the ground floor was occupied by a 36ft. by 33ft. grocery, and provision shop and a 39ft. by 33ft. warehouse; the first floor contained the secretary’s office, committee rooms, drapery department and storage room; the top floor contained a reading room, a member’s library and a 600-person capacity lecture theatre[4].

Thomas Messenger’s first estimate of £59 10s., was for heating the whole building and included a boiler, 92 yards of 4-inch pipe, 160 yards of 2-inch, 130 feet of 1-inch wrought iron pipe and 166 joints. The second estimate of £15, to heat just the shop, included 46 yards of 4-inch pipe, 18ft. of 1¼-inch, 58ft. of 1-inch and 30 joints. Both estimates included 5 per cent commission to an un-named builder.

Thomas Messenger did not win the contract, losing out to Messrs Richardson & Swinton, which with hindsight may have been fortunate. The new store, which cost about £2,500, opened at the end of December, 1868[5]. To celebrate the opening the Society held a ‘social tea’, for which there were upwards of 600 guests. However, on the morning of the celebrations, disaster was narrowly avoided, when preparations for the opening were in progress someone threw a quantity of loose gunpowder through the cellar onto the pile of coal being used to feed the boiler. Luckily, the subsequent explosion only damaged the boiler door, which was forced open. The committee very quickly made the necessary precautions to ensure that the same could not be repeated[6].


Messrs Jones & Co., Stamford Works, Manchester

In December 1871 or early January 1872 Messrs Jones & Co., sewing machine manufacturers, approached Thomas Messenger, with a design probably for heating part, if not all, of their factory near Audenshaw, on the outskirts of Manchester.

Messrs Jones & Co., was originally set-up by William Jones, an American, together with his brother following the failure in 1864 of his partnership with Thomas Chadwick, as Chadwick and Jones Co. In 1869 the new company probably on the back of a contract with Burtons the tailors to supply them with heavy-duty industrial machines, built a new factory in Shepley Street, Guide Bridge, later known as Stamford Works, employing thousands of workmen.

An advertisement of theirs for 1892 described the factory as the “Largest Factory in England Exclusively Making First Class Sewing Machines”[7]. The site which still exists no longer manufactures sewing machines but used as the headquarters of Brother UK, who took over the Jones sewing machine factory in 1968 adapting the site to manufacture knitting machines and typewriters[8].

Thomas Messenger responded to Messrs Jones & Co., enquiry with an alternative design, priced at £60 15s., which included a No. 7 boiler (£10 10s.), 102 yard of 4-inch pipe (£11 1s.), 24 yards of 3-inch pipe (£2 2s.), 62 yards of 2-inch pipe (£3 13s. 4sd.), 112 cement joints (£1 17s. 4d) and, importantly, it allowed for future expansion. The estimate included a couple of options, which appear almost price neutral, including one covering “if the 2-inch return pipe under the ceiling of the Mezzanine floor go round the room instead of straight up the upright pipe”.

Two months later, they again engaged Thomas Messenger, this time to provide 12 coil case gratings. As with other similar orders, Thomas Messenger bought the grating directly from Rice & Co., adding around 20 per cent mark-up. In this particular case the grating, measuring 3ft. 6in. by 1ft. 9in, and weighing 4cwt, (203.2kg.) cost Thomas Messenger 16s. per cwt., which allowing for the mark-up amounted to £3 17s. giving a profit margin of almost 17 per cent. However, he appeared to have charged Messrs Jones & Co., £4 7s. 6d., which resulted in a profit margin of almost 27 per cent.

In May 1874, Messrs Jones & Co., engaged Thomas Messenger for a third and final time to provide a roof over the factory yard. This involved four glass roofs totalling 1,386 superficial feet and four glazed uprights totalling 441 superficial feet. The roof of the structure which had a lantern was glazed using rough plate with a small portion of slate. The price of £394 included £21 6s. 8d. to Mr. Moss, for plastering 256 square yards of wall.



  1. The warehouse site, which was close to Messenger’s own factory, is now occupied a multi-storey car park.

  2. 43 yards of 4-inch pipe; 48 yards of3-inch pipe; 51 yards of 2-inch pipe; 100 4-inch and 3-inch joins; 50 2-inch joints.

  3. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/64.

  4. The Mansfield Reporter, 1st January 1869.

  5. The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 30th December 1868.

  6. Cheshire Observer and Chester, Birkenhead, Crewe and North Wales Times, 9th January 1869.

  7. Sewalot

  8. Brother UK Ltd. – /s_page/204660/s_name/companyhistory2