Mushroom houses, in the Victorian period, tended to be lean-to structures placed up against the north side of a garden wall, although span roof structures were also occasionally used. The general layout was to have three sets of slate based shelves resting on iron or brick pillars on either side of a central pathway. It was normal for the sloping roof to be tiled or slated and for there to be an inner horizontal insulated roof stretching across from the junction of the roof and the front wall. Heating was normally provided by placing a single heating pipe near the floor on the outside of the path close to the lower shelf.
There are only ten recorded instances of Thomas Messenger involvement with mushroom houses. Only one of these was for actually building a mushroom house and that was in 1873, when Colonel John Wilson-Patten of Winmarleigh Hall, near Preston, Lancashire requested an estimate that included a mushroom house, probably 40ft. long.
There are several occurrences of his involvement with mushroom beds, presumably to a standard design as two in 1872 are almost identical apart from the actual dimensions. The first for Colonel George Hussey Packe of Prestwold Hall, near Loughborough, which included 120ft. of ¾in. slate fronts, 360 superficial feet of slate bottoms to shelves, iron uprights, 3in. by 3in. L-shaped bearers and T-shaped cross bearers. The second for Albert Brassey of Heythrop Hall, Oxfordshire included 240ft. of ¾in. slate fronts, 694 superficial feet of slate bottoms to shelves, 6ft. high iron uprights, 3in. by 3in. L-shaped bearers and T-shaped cross bearers.
This standard design continued up to when Thomas Messenger sold the business. In July 1874, at the behest of architect Thomas Chatfield Clarke of No. 63, Bishopsgate, London, he complete an estimate totalling almost £800 for work, including a new range, conservatory staging, stove house fittings, iron walks, mushroom house beds and heating (using 2 boilers), for John Warren of Handcross Park, Crawley, Hampshire. The mushroom house beds consisted of 98ft. of slate fronts, 216 superficial feet of slate bottoms to shelves, 7ft. high iron uprights, 2in. by 1in. L-shaped bearers and 1½in. by 1in. T-shaped cross bearers.