Thomas Messenger’s attempts to cultivate a relationship with architects and related professions resulted in about ten per cent of the 90 or so conservatories that he quoted for building or altering.

As seen previously (see page 66), Alfred Waterhouse ordered, on behalf of Thomas Hodgkin, the ironwork components for a conservatory, although Thomas Messenger was not responsible for erecting the structure a fitter was sent to Newcastle to “superintend the fixing”.

In 1873, Ewan Christian[1], on behalf of the Fifth Marquis of Downshire[2], engaged Messenger to build a conservatory at Easthampstead Park[3], near Wokingham. The iron- and wood-framed conservatory had a clerestory[4]. It was glazed with a mixture of 21oz. clear glass, flat and bent rough plate, several large sheets of plate glass, two measuring 7ft. by 1ft. 9in. and two measuring 7ft. by 1ft. 3in. Wrought-iron was used for the sashes, purlins, arches (external and internal) and spandrels[5], whilst the rest of the frame was of wood construction. Messenger allowed 420 man-days (300 for a fitter and 120 for a labourer) for the preparation and fitting of all the ironwork, some of which may have been supplied by Mr. Cooke, of The Star Foundry Co. Ltd. The total price, excluding heating that Messenger also installed, was £1,937, including £100 for carriage, train fares, cartage and a ten per cent mark-up on all materials.

In 1873, Messrs Hadfield and Son, a Sheffield-based firm of architects, engaged Messenger to undertake several pieces of work on behalf of their client Frederick Thorpe Mappin[6], who lived at Thornbury, Fulwood Road, Sheffield. The first was an 85ft. by 11ft. 9in. heated conservatory and stove house, which unsurprisingly appears to have been a rather elaborate, with 27 internal iron columns, ten finials, numerous mouldings and rough plate glass. Internally it was fitted out with twelve slate and iron stages totalling 430 superficial feet. Heating was provided by a No. 12 boiler, 300 yards of 4-inch, 35 yards of 3-inch, 37 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 300 cement joints. It appears that there was already an existing heating system with boiler, to which the new heating system was connected. The total price of £1,087 included varying surcharges placed on all the materials and heating system components. A Mr. Butler, whose estimate of £270 was accepted by Thomas Messenger, undertook the masonry work. A figure of £300 for the masonry work appears in the component list, to which an additional five per cent was added, presumably as commission. Also included in the price was a small amount (£2 10s.) for “making good an existing plant house”, whether this was to be attached to the conservatory or located elsewhere in the gardens is unknown. Predictably, numerous modifications were made to the original design, including additional staging using ¾-inch slate and iron, together with increasing the overall superficial footage by over 50 per cent. Alterations were also made to the heating system with the addition of two extra pipes and they were all to be placed side by side. The change to the heating system required an additional 66 yards of 4-inch heating pipes and 30 cement joints. Modifications were also made to the conservatory layout with the addition of three 13ft. long iron columns with cast bases and pedestals. The total price for these modification amounted to £111 5s. This was not the end of the changes, a month or two later a 27ft. by 7ft. lean-to fernery was built, requiring further changes to the conservatory including “removing columns and shafts over at side of existing conservatory, making good to same, and diminishing cornice forming new upright in partition, and making good sashes &c., to the same”. The fernery had 2ft. wide slate and iron staging down the whole of one side and was heated using the existing boiler, 27 yards of 4-inch hot water pipes and 18 cement joints. The total price for this additional work amounted to £161, including £86 15s. for the structure, £6 15s. for the stages, £13 10s. for the additional heating and £53 for Mr. Butler’s masonry work. At the same time, Thomas Messenger installed heating to the room at the back of the fernery. This involved a 5ft. long coil radiator comprised of twenty-seven 2-inch pipes, 13-yards of 2-inch pipes and 14 cement joints.



  1. Ewan Christian (1814–95), with offices at of 8a Whitehall Place, London, in 1873. He was architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from 1851 and to the Charity Commissioners from 1887. One of his best known works is the extension to the National Gallery that created the National Portrait Gallery.

  2. Arthur Wills Blundell Trumbull Sandys Roden Hill (1844-1874).

  3. The fourth Marquis of Downshire demolished the old house around 1860 and built the present house, which was completed around 1864.

  4. A clerestory is a high wall with a band of narrow windows along the very top. The clerestory wall usually rises above adjoining roofs

  5. A spandrel is the space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure.

  6. Frederick Thorpe Mappin, (1821-1910), was owner of Thomas Turton and Son, steel manufacturer and William Greaves and Co., file and edge toolmakers.