1857

Having obtained his patent he lost no time in displaying his triangular boiler at a number of exhibitions across the country including the 1857 ninth Annual Exhibition of Inventions, held in connection with the Society of Arts, at John Street, London. This boiler which was described in The Morning Post on 3rd April, 1857, as a “most remarkable invention” but then went on to be less than enthusiastic, noting “It is not very apparent how this important advantage[1] would be gained by such an arrangement, and we apprehend it would be attended with practical inconveniences that more than counterbalance the theoretical gain”.

He also attended The Horticultural Society’s “Great Garden Exhibition” held on 3rd and 4th June, at the Horticultural Society’s Chiswick Garden. The exhibition included for the first time a section for horticultural equipment, of which there were 20 classes with one[2] dedicated to heating apparatus including boilers, hot-water pipes, furnaces, etc. There were a number of other boiler exhibitors, some of whom, including Messrs John Weeks and Co., King’s Road, Chelsea, London, who went to great lengths to promote their products. In a series of letters sent to the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette Magazine, they were almost begging the Horticultural Society to set-up a competition to test the heating power and economy of their respectively hot-water boilers. With each letter the terms of the competition because ever more extreme and biased towards their own products, ending with one from Messrs John Weeks and Co., suggesting that the trial should be conducted by heating the large Palm House at Kew Gardens, that had about 15,000 feet of 4-inch pipes[3]. Interestingly Thomas Messenger does not appear to have entered the exchange, whether this was due to him wishing to distance himself from the increasingly absurdity of the correspondence or simply unwilling to engage with his competitors in case he lost, is not recorded. The Horticultural Society ignored such pleas and the exhibition went ahead without any competition. A woodcut representation of Thomas Messenger’s triangular tubular boiler appeared in the Horticultural Society’s Catalogue of Implements that accompanied the show[4]. Following the exhibition his boiler received at least one favourable write-up[5]

A triangular tubular boiler came from Mr. Messenger, of Loughborough. The ordinary fault of boilers of this description is their liability to collect soot; in this case however the latter might easily be removed by taking away the ends of the boiler, which are movable; the fire bars also form water spaces, and thus become a working part of the apparatus.

Attending exhibitions was not only a method of advertising ones products and services, but an opportunity to obtain feedback from both potential and existing customers. The Chiswick Exhibition was no exception with Thomas Messenger writing to the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette Magazine[6] exclaiming that he had received only one objection and that was regarding “the small space allowed for the fire”. The correspondence continued stating, “I have altered that part of the boiler, whereby I can allow any amount of space that may be required. I also make them now, that if an additional house be erected I can add to the boiler first fixed, to make it adequate to the extra heating that would be wanted. Further, it may not be generally known that I make a provision for cleaning the whole of the space from soot”. This correspondence shows that Thomas Messenger was obviously astute enough to recognize an additional marketing opportunity, as well as demonstrating his capability for making improvements quickly.

The first known advertisement for Messenger’s triangular tubular boiler appeared in The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette on 20th June, several weeks after the Horticultural Society meeting and several months after the ninth Annual Exhibition of Inventions.

Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 20 June 1857

Whilst attempting to build up a larger and more geographically diverse clientele, he continued with his more prosaic local business. In August 1857[7], he was attempting to win a tender from the Local Board of Health, in Loughborough, for a twelve-month contract, for “lighting, extinguishing, cleaning, repairing and painting the public lamps”. Intriguingly whilst Thomas Messenger submitted a tender of £75, he lost to one of £78 from a Mr. Fisher, a fellow plumber, of Church Gate, Loughborough. At the time Thomas Messenger already had one or more contracts with the Board for other works. In September, he was paid £40 by them in relation to one of the contracts[8]. This may have been for providing new lamps to the Board, for in May 1858[9], he was being paid £40 14s., as part of his contract with them. When the contracts came up for renewal in August, he submitted tenders, one for lighting, extinguishing, etc., and another one for installing 14 new lamps. Again he lost out to Mr. Fisher, who won the lighting, extinguishing, etc., contract despite submitting a slightly higher bid (£80 8s. against Messenger’s £78); however, Thomas Messenger did win a contract for supplying new lamps with a bid of £48 against Mr. Fisher’s £51 and Mr. Tebbutt’s[10] £48 15s[11].

References:

  1. The arrangement of the horizontal tubular pipes

  2. Class A.

  3. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 23rd May 1857, page 366.

  4. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 13th June 1857, page 438.

  5. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 13th June 1857, page 422.

  6. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 20th June 1857, page 438.

  7. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 8th August. 1857.

  8. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertise, 12th September 1857.

  9. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 15th May 1858.

  10. This was either John Tebbutt of High Street, or Thomas Tebbutt of Mill Street, both plumbers.

  11. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 14th August 1858.