Public Buildings

Over the years, Thomas Messenger installed heating systems into a number of public buildings, across the country.

In August and September 1867, he provided a Mr. Miller of Manchester with three estimates to heat a concert room, probably in Manchester. In December, he provided Mr. Tyson, an iron-founder, of Ousegate, Selby with an estimate for providing heating to a public hall.

In September 1868, Ernest Bates, an architect of N0, 26, Cooper Street, Manchester approached Thomas Messenger for an estimate to heat a District School. Although the specific school is not recorded, it must have been sizable as the estimate came to an impressive £215 with 140 man-days installation. The noticeable feature of the estimate was the particularly high amount of 2-inch pipe compared with the standard 4-inch and 3-inch pipes and is more reminiscent of a steam heating system than a hot water system; 1,163 yards against 63 and 30 respectively. This was matched by the number of joints, seven hundred and eighty 2-inch, thirty-six 4-inch and twenty 3-inch.


Floral Hall, Covent Garden, London

In late 1868, a Mr. J.R. Lloyd engaged Thomas Messenger to install a complete heating system into the Floral Hall, Covent Garden, London. Like the famous Opera House next door, the Floral Hall was designed by the architect E.M. Barry and was an elegant glass and iron structure. The main entrance was from Bow Street, where it had a 75ft. frontage and was 280ft. long. Internally it was divided with two aisles each 12ft. 6in. wide and a central avenue 50ft. wide, with a large semi-circular headed glass and iron arch. The building possessed a large basement with over 16ft. headroom[1]. The entire structure from basement to roof was about 70ft. tall. It opened on 7th March 1860 with a Grand Rifle Volunteer Ball under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Victoria[2]. It was for a time used for seasonal promenade concerts, later becoming a fruit market[3]. It became redundant in 1973 following the relocation the Covent Garden Market to Battersea, eventually falling into disrepair and threatened with demolition. However, it was eventually saved when included into the major rebuilding of the Royal Opera House undertaken in the 1990s being incorporated into the Opera House, forming its main foyer.


Floral Hall, Covent Garden, c.1870

This was probably Thomas Messenger’s largest heating system undertaking to-date and was priced accordingly at a hefty £465. The component list included two “large” boilers priced £30 each; 42 yards of 5-inch pipe[4] at £7 7s.; 1,970 yards of 4-inch pipe at £213 8d. 4d.; 39 yards of 3-inch pipe at £3 1s. 9d.; 24 yards of 2-inch pipe at £1 8s.; 1,300 cement joints at £21 13s. 4d.; 200 man-days installation at £45; carriage at £20. Surprisingly contingency was a significantly small at £4 9s. 11d. probably partly to bring the total up to a neat round £465. Thomas Messenger also included £15 to cover altering the ventilators and connecting them to his own ventilation apparatus so as they could be “controlled from each side”.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no evidence to suggest one way or another as to whether Thomas Messenger actually won the order and installed his heating system.


Corn Exchange, Wellingborough

In 1871, Thomas Messenger installed a hot water heating system into the Corn Exchange in Wellingborough, Leicestershire. The Exchange located on the Market Square, was an elegant two-storey building designed by architects Messrs Bellamy and Hardy of Lincoln and built by Mr. John Walkin of Northampton[5]. The Exchange was converted into the Electric Theatre , later becoming the Regal Cinema, before being demolished in 1958.


Free Library, Coventry

In 1872, Thomas Messenger was asked by, the London-based architect, Edward Burgess[6] to design the heating system for Coventry’s planned new Free Library, to be built on a site donated by the former Mayor, John Gulson, adjacent to Holy Trinity church. The site covered an area of 1,640 square feet and the library built of red brick with Bath stone dressings cost over £4,000. The ground floor had lending and reference libraries, together with a borrower’s waiting room. Upstairs were a committee and other rooms together with “commodious and beautiful” 62ft. by 32ft. reading room[7].

Thomas Messenger’s estimate for heating the whole building was £108 10s., which included a No. 9 boiler, 300 yards of 4-inch pipe, 24 yards of 2-inch pipe and 165 cement joints. He was asked to provide a second estimate for placing all the pipes under floor, which surprisingly reduced the price by £13 7s. It appears that Thomas Messenger won the contract for in May 1873, he received a further order, this time to alter a coil radiator.

The library, which was damaged during the raids of Work War II, stood for almost a century, before being demolished and replaced by a shopping centre.


Winter Gardens, Southport

In 1873, Thomas Messenger won the contract to install the heating system for the Southport pavilion, winter gardens and aquarium complex built close to the centre of Southport, on a nine-acre site, bounded on the north-east side by Coronation Walk, on the south-east by Lord Street, on the south-west side eventually by the Lord Street railway station. The site had about a 1,110 feet sea frontage on the north-west side with the same onto Lord Street. The gardens, which were laid out on the seaward side, had a sunken croquet green, archery lawns, caves, grottoes and a rustic fountain. The main buildings, which occupied the centre of the site, consisted of a pavilion, capable of seating 2,000, on the north-east side; whilst on the south-west side was a 176ft. long, 76ft. wide and 65 ft. high iron framed conservatory, described, at the time, as the largest conservatory in England. When opened the conservatory was filled with camellias, myrtles, oranges, lemons, citrons, pomegranates, rare palms, tree ferns and aloes[8]. The pavilion and conservatory were connected by a 170ft. long, 44ft. wide enclosed promenade constructed of pitch pine, with an open timber roof, which also provided the main entrance, consisting of a carriage porch and 15ft. wide grand staircase. At the Coronation Walk end of the pavilion was a combined bay and oriel window overlooking both the gardens and Coronation Walk, with a reading room and chess-room on the floor above.. An aquarium, which later became a zoo at the beginning on the twentieth century, was located in the basement beneath the enclosed promenade and accessed by stairs either side of the main entrance. A refreshment room was also located in the basement.


Southport Winter Gardens – 1890 Town Plan

The design of the buildings was the responsibility of architects Messrs Maxwell and Tuke[9] of Bury, Lancashire, who also oversaw their construction[10]. One of the more unusual aspects of the buildings was the immense amount of cement used, throughout the building, especially all the basement walls, aquarium tanks[11] and the outside rockery[12]. The major items were subcontracted out to numerous specialist firms, with Messrs Smith & Fawke, of Birkdale, being responsible for the cement work[13]. Messrs R. & J. Rankin[14], of Union Foundry, No 22, Manchester Street, Liverpool, for all the ironwork along with the heating system, which they subcontracted out to Thomas Messenger.

The contract came with a several constraints; firstly, the work had to be completed by end of March 1874; secondly, on only part of pipe-work could have Messenger’s name stamped on them. The resulting heating system design contained the only known example of Thomas Messenger using 6-inch hot water pipes. The heating system, which cost over £800, initially contained two of the largest (size 14) boilers but was altered later to include 3. Besides the boilers, which cost £115, there were 606 yards of 6-inch pipes, 238 yards of 4-inch pipes, 1,014 yards of 3-inch pipes, 340 expansion rollers for holding the pipes, 650 feet of 12-inch wide iron grating and 770 joints. The use of patent joints at an additional cost of £32 was rejected in favour of using all cement joints. Installation was estimated at 100 man-days priced at £45, with carriage costing only one pound less. The overall price was inflated with the addition of a 15 per cent surcharge on everything and two sets of contingencies, both at 2.5 per cent.


Cambridge Pavilion at Southport Winter Gardens – Artist drawing from 1874

The Winter Gardens which cost £90,000[15] was opened on 16th September 1874. The pavilion was eventually converted in to the Scale cinema and demolished in 1962; whilst the conservatory became a ballroom and roller-skating rink and was demolished as early as 1932, with the winter garden going a year later.



  1. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 17th April 1859.

  2. The Morning Post, 10th February 1860.

  3. City of Westminster Archives.

  4. The first recorded instance of 5-inch pipe being detailed.

  5. The Building News, Volume 7, 4th January 1861, page 14.

  6. No. 108, Stanhope Street, London.

  7. Birmingham Daily Post, 8th October 8 1873.

  8. The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 17th September 1874.

  9. Messrs Maxwell and Tuke was a partnership, which lasted 26 years between James Maxwell (1838-1893) and William Charles Tuke (1841-1893).

  10. The Liverpool Mercury, 7th September 1874.

  11. The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 17th September 1874.

  12. The Liverpool Mercury, 7th September 1874.

  13. Ibid.

  14. They were responsible for the ironwork in the dome of Devonshire Hospital in Buxton; for two easternmost roof barrels in 1866 at Manchester’s Piccadilly Railway Station, as well as rebuilding the roof in 1880-3.

  15. The Graphic, 19th September 1874.