Wasted Opportunities

During 1862, two ideal opportunities presented themselves for Thomas Messenger to exhibit his horticultural buildings to a large audience.

First was The International Exhibition, which was intended to be the successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851. This exhibition was held over a six-month period between 1st May and 1st November, on a site beside the Royal Horticultural Society gardens, South Kensington, which now houses the Natural History and the Science Museums. The exhibition was sponsored by the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Trade, and featured over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries and attracted over 6 million visitors.

Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 23 August 1862

Here he displayed he displayed his triangular tubular boiler, for which he received a commendation[1], together with his hinged valve and indicator[2]:


Messenger, Thomas Goode, Loughborough.—Patent triangular tubular boiler, hinged valve and indicator.

The advantage of this patented boiler is an immense surface exposed to the direct action of the fire by entirely surrounding it, the greater part being placed over the fire; it is exceedingly economical in fuel, and very quick in action, and the whole surface can be cleaned at any he superiority of this patented hinged valve for steam, water, or gas, consists in its great simplicity, impossibility of becoming fast, its thorough efficiency, great durability, and unparalleled cheapness.

References and prices for these and general horticultural building will be supplied upon application.

Such was the impression made by the boiler, even six years after its original introduction, that it drew the following praise in the Civil Engineer and Architects Journal[3]: –

By far the best of the horizontal tubular boilers were that shown by T. G. Messenger, of Loughborough, – Class IX, No. 2151. This boiler is composed of triangular tubes set near together in horizontal beds, and so disposed that nearly 5/6 of the whole pipe exposed is effective as recipient surface. The horizontal beds of pipe terminate at each end in water-spaces which connect one bed with another. The furnace-bars are hollow, as is usual in the Chelsea boilers, but triangular in section, and therefore better disposed for the retention of the fuel, and for feeding it with air. The return-pipes are connected to the water-box at the back end of the furnace-bars, from which the ascending current moves simultaneously through tiers of pipes at the sides and top of the furnace back, returning by a second bed of pipes overlaying the fire to the flow-pipe, which comes out in the front. The only objection to this boiler seems to be the retardation of the circulation in passing through so many turns in the pipes, and the consequent tendency to the generation of steam, a serious inconvenience in hot-water boilers.

However, Thomas Messenger appears not to have taken the opportunity to display any of his horticultural buildings, in the ‘conservatories and glass erections’ class of the show. Such an opportunity was not lost by some of his closest competitors[4]:

2105. Mr. T. H. P. Dennis of Chelmsford, exhibited a model of a metallic conservatory. It has a curvilinear span roof, and is ventilated by means of machinery which opens the upright sashes of the sides simultaneously. The improvement claimed in this erection lies in the mode of ventilation, and consists “in the ratchet and paul lever, which is self-acting, and at once secures the casement in any required position.” The sashes are connected with a rod extending the length of the house, having at one end a cogwheel with stops, and moved by a small hand-lever. The model house exhibited does not correspond with the figure given in the official Illustrated Catalogue.

2119. Mr. Gray, of Danvers Street, Chelsea. This exhibition consists of a small neat conservatory of wood. It has rather high upright sides, and a span-roof, the sashes of which let down simultaneously by means of a small windlass for the purpose of ventilating the interior. The lower part of the upright sashes is also made to open for the same purpose by means of neat brass racks. The glass around the doorways is stained and prettily ornamented. Altogether this is a convenient-looking structure of the useful class, such as might properly be attached to any suburban villa.

2217. Mr. S. Hereman, of Pall Mall East, has erected an example of Sir Joseph Paxton’s patent hothouses for the million, the chief advantages of which are their reasonable cost, and the facility with which they may be erected, and again removed if desired on the expiration of a short tenure or when required for some other use. The sample exhibited is span-roofed, in which form these houses are adapted for orchard houses. Vineries, Pineries, and indeed every horticultural purpose; but they may be erected in the form of lean-to houses, and may thus be made extremely useful in covering walls already occupied by fruit trees, &c. They are rather of the useful than of the ornamental class, and it is stated of them that “their moderate cost places them within the reach of all.” The ventilation, as is now pretty well known, is effected by means of long narrow wooden flaps, alternating with the roof sashes, (there are however no upright sides, so that the glazed portion is all roof,) consequently the airing takes place by means of crosswise instead of lengthwise openings, which are more usual. This plan of ventilating seems to be an effectual and satisfactory one, while by a little mechanical contrivance it is very readily worked.

2160. Mr. Ormson, King’s Road, Chelsea, has set up the very elegant curvilinear-roofed Conservatory of which an interior view is shown at p. 441, and an external view at p. 393. This is a light and graceful building, and is constructed of wood and iron, with a good deal of light ornamentation. The merits claimed for it are novelty and beauty of outline, chasteness and elegance in detail, and strength and lightness of construction, and these qualities it seems to possess.

2176, The St. Pancras Iron Work Company exhibit a small octagon Conservatory framed of Mahogany, and having a double-tier curvilinear roof. They have also what is called a glass wall, but which is more properly a glass front, forming in reality a narrow almost upright lean-to house. It appears to be a useful contrivance applicable to the same purposes as the lean-to forms of the Paxton house already mentioned. The structure consists of short iron standards fixed to a wooden plate, which is supported at the ground level or charred stakes driven into the earth. The standards support an iron plate which serves as a gutter. To this plate are fixed iron rafters, which reach to the top of the wall, where they are held by iron clips. The rafters are grooved for the reception of the glass, which is secured, the top plate by brass screws, the others by fixed stops and cork wedges. The space next the ground between the wooden and iron plates is closed by moveable wooden shutters about a foot in depth, which assist in the ventilation of the enclosed space. When these screens are not in use, the glass, which is in the form of large panes of sheet or rolled plate about three feet across, can be taken out and stored in boxes, while the framework being of light construction and durable material can be allowed to remain for future use, or may be removed at pleasure. It is stated that two men may take down or put up 200 to 300 feet run of this “wall” in a day. Ten-feet lights are said to cost about 15s. 6d., and 12 feet one, 18s. 6d. per foot run.

2188. J. M. Stanley and Co. of Sheffield. A small octagonal iron Conservatory with dome-shaped roof.

2191. Messrs. J. Taylor & Sons, of Kensal Green have put up a small span-roofed Conservatory, which has a good deal of ornamentation in the form of iron castings. The upright sashes are opened for ventilation by means of a mechanical contrivance of easy application. It is a smaller building and of simpler form than that represented in the Illustrated Catalogue as being shown by this firm.

2201. Messrs. J. Weeks & Co, of King’s Road, Chelsea, exhibit a small model of a curvilinear-roofed Conservatory with nave and transept, not having however any very peculiar features. Also a model plan of a series of numerous plain-looking working houses, such as would be suitable for an extensive or commercial plant establishment.

Advertisement – The Daily News, 26 July 1862

Thomas Messenger obviously recognised the need for flexibility because in the Daily News advertisement he was offering a variety of horticultural buildings; from plain to very elaborate; from stand-alone to lean-to; from permanently positioned to portable. This makes it even more surprising that he appears not to have exhibited any of his horticultural buildings. Even at this early stage, he had produced an illustrated catalogue or even catalogues. These not only contained a range of horticultural buildings and boilers but valves, garden engines and pumps, etc.[5].

Advertisement – The Loughborough News, 9 January 1862

The second, in June was the Royal Horticultural Society’s Second Great Show, held at their new conservatory and adjoining arcades. It appears that Thomas Messenger did not attend the show, even though a number of his closest rivals did avail themselves of the opportunity, including Messrs J. Weeks & Co., Mr. Ormson, John Jones, Mr. Cranston, Birmingham; and Mr. Thomson, Dalkeith[6].



  1. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 12th July 1862.

  2. International Exhibition, Official Catalogue, Industrial Department, page 35.

  3. The Civil Engineer and Architects Journal, Volume 25 1862.

  4. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 17th May 1862.

  5. The Daily News, 26th July 1862.

  6. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14th June 1862, page 551.