Churches, Chapels and Vicarages

Thomas Messenger is known to have installed heating systems into about twenty-seven chapels or churches up to the end of 1874. With a few exceptions, all these were located around the Midlands, centred on the counties of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire. The furthest south was a chapel in Cassington, Oxfordshire and the furthest north was Cumberland, with All Saints’ Church, Scaleby and Congregational Church & Schools, Whitehaven[1].

Another interesting aspect is that he undertook work for a significant number of clergymen, mainly installing heated greenhouses and conservatories into vicarages, parsonages and rectories.


Thurcaston Rectory, Thurcaston

The earliest recorded order was in late September, 1866, from Revd. John Fuller of Thurcaston Rectory, Thurcaston, Leicestershire, who ordered a 21ft. long heated lean-to structure with a gabled entrance and staging. The rectory which still stands, although now known as Thurcaston Grange[2], lies on the southern edge of the village to the southeast of the parish church. The lean-to structure, which was actually a conservatory, was built into a corner of the rectory on the southeast side. In 2010, the property still had a conservatory type structure on a very similar, if not identical, footprint as the original. The original lean-to was rebuilt by Messenger & Co. Ltd., in September 1951 for the then owner Mr. D. Byford, although it was ordered through architects, Messrs Bryan, Harding & Cooper of No. 8 New Street, Leicester. The rebuild, which they referred to as a lean-to greenhouse, used hardwood framing and the existing folding door and at 21ft. by 12ft. was exactly the same size as the 1866 original.



The 1866 heating system comprised of a boiler “to heat the whole”, 20 yards of 4-inch, 5 yards of 3-inch, 37 yards of 2-inch, 2ft. of 1-inch heating pipe, 133 cement joints (a surprisingly large number), 17 superficial feet of iron grating and a coil radiator, consisting of 28 yards of 2-inch coil pipe. The price of a little over £30 allowed 20 man-days installation time (12 for a fitter and 8 for a labourer) and included a 20 per cent surcharge on the heating pipes, etc.


Annesley Vicarage

Annesley village lies on the A611 between Hucknall and Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. The original vicarage stood just south of the All Saints Church that was consecrated in May 1874[3]. This new church was in New Annesley, a little north of the old centre, although near to the housing development built for the workers at nearby Annesley Colliery[4].



The Revd. Clement Howard Prance became vicar at Annelsey in 1871, moving into the vicarage several years prior to the new church being built. In November 1871, Thomas Messenger submitted an estimate for a small heated conservatory. The heating system included a No. 6 boiler, 43 yards of 4-inch, 23 yards of 3-inch, 83 yards of 2-inch heating pipe, 51 cement joints and 7 superficial feet of iron grating over the pipes. The boiler was sized to be capable of heating an additional 200ft. of 4-inch pipes. The whole estimate was £100, of which £36 was for the heating system, with an additional £44 for Thomas Messenger’s builder Mr. Moss of Loughborough for the brickwork. This estimate was not accepted as the following March, Thomas Messenger submitted two further estimates; the first for £490 10s. that included £1116 16s. 6d. to cover Mr. Moss’s masonry work[5]; the second for £83 18s., that included £16 11s. for Mr. Moss’ brickwork. The first estimate including a slightly modified conservatory design, a heated partitioned vinery and stove house with 52ft. of cresting, 3 finials and furnished with various staging. The heating system was consequently redesigned to incorporate the conservatory, vinery and stove house and part of the vicarage itself. The components included two No. 6 boilers, 163 yards of 4-inch, 24 yards of 3-inch, 95 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 190 cement joints. The vicarage heating included a large twenty-seven 2-inch pipe coil radiator in the hall with a marble-topped coil case and a much smaller six 2-inch pipe coil radiator in the pantry. The second estimate was for a heated plant house and potting shed. The plan for the heating system was to utilise one of the boilers included in the first estimate, along with an additional 29 yards of 4-inch, 6 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 20 cement joints. There is no definitive record of either of these estimates being accepted, although the Ordnance Survey map for 1879 shows a conservatory having been built on the south side of the vicarage and a large rectangular lean-to glass structure on the north-west side a small distance away from the vicarage. Both of these are probably Thomas Messenger’s, as he was engaged on two separate occasions to make various modifications. The first included the removal and replacement of a panel in the front door and an additional small 3ft. long coil radiator composed of four 3-inch pipes. The second and last occasion was in February 1873, when the work involved alterations to the stokery roof, including a sky light and Brosely roof tiles.


Annesley Vicarage – 1879 OS Map

The Revd. Clement Howard Prance remained at the vicarage until his death in 1890. By 1915[6] the vicarage then known as ‘The Larches’, retained its conservatory and lean-to glass structure. By 1938[7], it had been renamed yet again, this time to ‘Forest House’, by which it is still known[8]. However, both the conservatory and lean-to glass structure had been dismantled and removed prior to 1938. Interestingly by 1961, The Vicarage had moved to what was previously known as “The Firs”, a hundred yards or so to the north of the original vicarage. In 2012, this ‘new’ vicarage is no longer in use as a vicarage and is now somewhat confusingly known as ‘The Old Vicarage’.


Monkleigh Vicarage

Monkleigh is a village in Devon, lying south of Bideford and 3 miles W.N.W. of Great Torrington.



Charles Saltren Willett was the rector at Monkleigh as early as 1853[9]. In 1874, he approached Thomas Messenger regarding a 42ft. long heated partitioned ¾-span lean-to structure with a raised entrance. This was to be built at the Vicarage, which lay on the northern edge of the village and appears to have been a small estate with a lodge entrance. The ¾-span lean-to structure, was to be used at least in part as a vinery, was built a small distance northeast of the vicarage, facing almost due south. The heating system was modest, consisting of a No. 3 boiler, 63 yards of 4-inch, 22 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 66 cement joints. The whole system priced at £46 5s., allowed 10 man-days installation time and included several surcharges totalling £10 12s. 8d.

In April 1875, a few months after Thomas Messenger sold the business, the Revd. Willett purchased a 42ft, by 10ft. blind for the front roof, together with a loose water trough, from the new firm of Messenger & Co.[10].

The greenhouse was still in place in 1959[11], although by this time the residence was known as ‘Monkleigh House’. By 2012, whilst the greenhouse had been removed, the residence is still known as Monkleigh House.


Guilsborough Vicarage

In April 1871. the Revd. Thomas S. Hichens, the vicar of St. Etheldreda’s Church, Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, purchased a 42ft. by 13ft. heated ¾-span plant house. The southeast facing structure was built as two houses, lodged in against a back wall with the end wall of another building at the south-west end. A structure with the same footprint was still in existence in 1973[12], although removed sometime later. The original heating system, which appears to have an oversized No. 5 boiler, included 56 yards of 4-inch 32 yards of 3-inch, 19 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 60 cement joints. The initial estimate for the heated non-partitioned plant house was £130, with both parties finally agreeing a price of £142 for the two-house configuration.



The following year Thomas Messenger was re-engaged by the Revd. Hichens, this time to build a heated conservatory, with a rough plate glass roof, attached to the southeast corner of the vicarage. It was heated using a more appropriately sized No. 2 boiler with 59 yards of 4-inch, 36-inch 2-inch heating pipes and 60 cement joints. Although not detailed, there appears to have been at least one coil radiator, as the estimates included an option for coil case, priced at £6. The conservatory was still in existence in 1900[13] although demolished sometime later.


Guilsborough Vicarage – 1885 OS Map

In August 1904[14], the Revd. Canon Hichens who was still in residence, engaged Messenger & Co. Ltd., to install a new Quorn boiler and provide additional heating into the greenhouses. Presumably, this new boiler replaced the No. 5 boiler installed by Thomas Messenger over 3o years earlier.


Unitarian Chapel, Victoria Street, Loughborough



The first known instance of Thomas Messenger providing heating into a place of worship is in 1864, when he was responsible for fitting both the glazing and heating system for a new Unitarian Chapel and attached Sunday school located on the corner of Victoria Street and Princess Street, Loughborough. Interestingly he was not responsible for the gas fittings, which were provided by a Mr. Rhodes, of Nottingham[15]. No other information is available as to the type of heating apparatus Thomas Messenger installed, although it was probably of significant size, as the chapel was capable of seating 170 and had a 42ft. 6in. by 26ft. nave. The school that adjoined and sat behind the chapel in Princess Street measured 42ft. by 32ft. and had three schoolrooms. Messenger’s boiler was located in the basement of the school servicing both the school and chapel. Just over five years later in early January 1874, he undertook further work, providing alterations and additional to heating pipes in the Chapel. The alterations involved the replacement of 9 yards of 3-inch pipes with of 52 yards of 3-inch pipes and 42 cement joints, taking a fitter and labourer 7 days to install. In addition, a new tank, furnace front and bars were installed, as well as resetting the boiler. The work was ordered through the original architect, Mr. J.S. Norris, of Nottingham, cost £22 17s. 3d., which was rounded up to £23. Interestingly Thomas Messenger made allowances for the old material, which was higher than the cost of new material e.g. the allowance on 9 yards of 3-inch was 1s. 11d. per yard, whereas the price of new 3-inch pipes was only 1s. 9d. per yard.


Unitarian Chapel & Sunday School – 1884 Town Plan


In March 1929, Messenger & Co. Ltd., undertook further alterations and additions to the heating in the Chapel, this time ordered through Mr. A. Swindall of No. 92, Herrick Road, Loughborough.

In August 1951, the firm installed a new boiler, ordered through Mr. H.J. Arnold of Westfield Avenue, Loughborough. No record exists of what boiler it replaced but it almost certain that it was not the one installed in 1864.

Former Unitarian Chapel

The Unitarian Chapel was in use up to 1960s but when it fell out of use and was subsequently converted to residential apartments. The Sunday School, which has also been converted into residential use, is built of red brick with bands of blue brick and is architecturally a complete contrast to the Chapel, which is built of undressed Charnwood Forest stone in an adaptation of a thirteenth century style[16].

Former Unitarian Chapel & Sunday School


Holy Trinity Church, Hoylake

The earliest record containing a list of heating components exists from November 1866, when architects William & James Murdoch Hay of Delta Chambers, No 15, Cable Street, Liverpool, requested an estimate for a new heating system to be installed at Holy Trinity Church, Hoylake, Cheshire. The estimate which amounted to £78 10s. contained all the standard items expected for a hot water heating system, including a boiler (of unknown size), 189 yards of 4-inch heating pipes, fourteen 4-inch bends, one 4-inch tee, two 4-inch straight through siphons, three 4-inch branched siphons, four 4-inch collars; 18 yards of 3-inch pipes, four 3-inch bends, six 3-inch siphons, 100 joints (probably cement), one air tap, one cistern, 24ft. of air pipe and an undisclosed quantity of nipples, etc. Also included was a 50 yards of 18-inch wide iron grating, for those parts of the heating system that need covering. The components themselves were priced at little over £56, although subject to an additional 20 per cent surcharge; pipe painting at £1; carriage at £8; installation at £7 13s. for two men over an eighteen days period.

Holy Trinity Church built in 1833 to a design by Sir James Allanson Picton, was paid for by public subscription and became the parish church in 1860[17]. Therefore, the work in late 1860s was probably a refurbishment which was popular at the time. It originally stood on Trinity Road (formerly Church Road) but was demolished in 1976 having been found to have become structurally unsound[18].


Tettenhall Wood, Wolverhampton

Most of the other installations and estimates follow the standard hot water heating solutions, although several interesting exceptions exist.

In March, 1868, Thomas Messenger undertook alterations to the heating system at a church in Tettenhall Wood, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, which included the replacement of several coil radiators. One contained 16 yards of 1½-inch pipes and another, located in the vestry, contained 7 yards of 2-inch pipes. In November 1869, the firm was re-engaged by the churchwardens to make further alterations, including installing 52 yards of 2-inch pipe and removing one of the coil radiators.


Emmanuel Church, Bestwood Lodge

In 1869, his wife Sybil persuaded the 10th Duke of St. Albans, to build a new church as they had outgrown the chapel within the Lodge. The Duke employed the architect Samuel Sanders Teulon, who had previously worked for the Duke on the new Bestwood Lodge, to design the new church, subsequently known as Emmanuel Church, Bestwood or Emmanuel Church, Arnold[19].



The site chosen was on the Bulwell side of Bestwood Park, with the foundation stone being laid on the 17th May 1869 by a Mrs. Challand, the wife of the eldest estate tenant, and was opened a year later[20]. It was a simple structure, built of stone, without aisles, with a central passageway up the middle with seating on either side; it could accommodate 200 worshippers. It cost £1,000 to build and was jointly funded by the Duke and the local inhabitants.


Emmanuel Church – 1882 OS Map

The Duke chose Thomas Messenger to install the heating apparatus, probably because he had successfully undertaken work for the Duke during the previous few years. Thomas Messenger submitted three estimates. The first on 11th September was for £27 10s., which included a No. 3 boiler and 88 yards of 3-inch pipe instead of the normal 4-inch. The second on 15th November, was for £38, included the same sized boiler, three 4ft. long coils consisting of 26 tubes and 60 yards of 2-inch pipe instead of the 3-inch pipe. The third estimate, submitted two days later for £34 10s., reverted back to a standard configuration, again keeping the No. 3 size boiler, but using 96 yards of 4-inch pipe and 13 yards of 2-inch pipe, with some of the pipe being installed into the floor with grating above.


Christ Church, Ilkeston Road, New Radford, Nottingham

Probably the most complex church-related heating system that Thomas Messenger installed was on behalf of the churchwardens at Christ Church, Ilkeston Road, New Radford, Nottingham[21].

In December 1872, Thomas Messenger quoted £214 15s. for a completely new heating system to replace an earlier one. The new system included a very large No. 11 boiler costing £23; 421 yards of 4-inch heating pipe at £45 12s. 2d.; 86 yards of 3-inch pipe at £7 10s. 6d.; 46 yards of 2-inch pipe at £2 13s. 8d.; 345 cement joints at £7 3s. 9d. The complexity was such that the price included 96 man-days for installation costing £24. At the time, Thomas Messenger was including significant surcharges to both materials and labour, which in this particular case amounted to a little over £60.

The church stood bounded on three sides by Ilkeston Road, Ronald Street and Grant Street and after falling out of use, it was closed in 1943 as part of the war effort; never to re-open, it was demolished in 1951.



  1. The Congregational Church which stood Scotch Street was erected in 1874 at a cost of £10,500, with schoolrooms, classrooms and lecture rooms erected at the rear of the building. It was demolished in 1980 and replaced by the present Whitehaven police station.

  2. The name changed occurred between 1903 and 1929.

  3. Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th April 1874.

  4. Annesley Colliery was sunk between 1865 and 1867.

  5. Thomas Messenger added 5 per cent commission to both of Mr. Moss’s quotes, noting that it covered supervising, plans, etc.

  6. Ordnance Survey Map.

  7. Ibid

  8. In 2017 it was occupied by a nursery school, known as Brooklyn Day Nursery.

  9. West of England Pocket Book with Almanac, 1853.

  10. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/43.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/46.

  15. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 17th December 1864.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Futher Information.

  18. Photograph and information of Hoylake Parish Church.

  19. The actual address is Emmanuel Church, Church View Close, Warren Hill, Arnold, Nottingham.

  20. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th June 1870.

  21. The church was built in 1847 to the design of Derby-based architect Henry Isaac Stevens.

    Brief History of Christ Church.