In the 1870s, it was advocated that a successful fernery should be positioned facing between north and west and if possible never facing south. If facing away from the sun then ferns required almost no ventilation, although double glazing with Belgium green glass was recommended.


Fernery, The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 29 March 1873

Between 1868 and 1874, Thomas Messenger was involved with around 20 ferneries, varying from building new ones, providing heating to existing (1872 for Thomas Wilson, a cutlery manufacturer, of Oakholme, Sheffield), roofing (1870 for James Pulman) to widening (1872 for Abraham Briggs Foster of Northowram Hall, Northowram).

In 1871, Thomas Messenger built a fernery for William Henry Michael of Cholmeley Park, Highgate, London. Of unknown size, it had a porch with ornamental ironwork, 17 iron spandrels and a finial. There were 55 square feet of 6in. by 5in. plate glass and 317 square feet of glazing to the front. The building of the fernery was estimated at 56 days for a joiner and 20 for a labourer. This must have been a custom made fernery involving an unusual design and appears to have been built on-site, rather than simply re-erecting on site. Thomas Messenger also provided heating, using a No. 5 boiler, 88 yards of 4-inch, 23 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 60 cement joints. Fitting was estimated at 14 man-days, split evenly between a fitter and labourer. The heated fernery was priced at £189, including £10 2s. 8d. for carriage and cartage; £6 6s. for installing the heating system and £16 19s. for erecting the fernery.

In 1872, Mr. Alfred Cox, of Osbaston Hall, Osbaston, Leicestershire ordered a 14ft. long ¾-span roof ernery, which was probably built attached to another building. At the same time, he purchased an orchard and forcing houses as well as making good an existing house. The latter must have been a trivial piece of work as the price was only £1.