Customer Feedback

Very little documentary evidence exists regarding customer feedback for any of Thomas Messenger’s products and services outside those that occasionally adorned his advertisements. A number of testimonials appeared in his 1870 but, as was often the case, these might well have been solicited.

Two apparently unsolicited examples were published in Volume 4 of ‘The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Garden and Country Gentleman’. In response to an article on boilers a Mr. F. Chitty, of Stamford Hill, North London, a regular contributor, described his thoughts and experiences of using Messenger’s triangular tubular boiler.

The first appeared on 3rd March:-

……I believe this is possible, and what I have seen of different kinds of pipe-boilers convinces me that they are most efficient, where a large body of water is to be heated. I do not pretend to say that one kind is better than another; whether Weeks’, Ormson’s, or Clarke’s are most effective. The pipes of these being upright, or nearly so, they are, doubtless, less likely to clog with soot than Messenger’s boilers, the tubes of which are arranged horizontally, and are triangular, and fitted so as to leave three quarters of an inch space between. They are made on the principle of presenting a maximum surface of water to the fire; and although this gives a large surface to clog with soot, and, moreover, these boilers require constant cleaning, still I believe they are the most efficient I know of, for heating a large space. But one thing is necessary—there ought to be a good draught, or the many intricate passages the flames have to pass through, damp the fire, causing a waste of fuel. In order to keep the fire going, much has to be raked out that would be otherwise consumed, and however strongly a fire may burn at times, it ought to be so arranged as to be under control, with damper and ash-pit door. Where this is the case, it is not only safer, as when extremely sharp frosts occur, but it is economical in all respects. It would be the reverse of economy to find that the frost had got in, merely because it was found impossible to maintain sufficient heat to keep it out. I firmly believe that hot water is the best, cleanest, and cheapest means of keeping up a permanent heat; but I believe there is still room for great improvement in its application. In fact, there should be no loss of heat from the boiler being placed too far from its work, or other causes, and it should be perfectly under control. —F. Chitty.

The second appeared five months later on 25th August: –

…….I would rather give my experience of what has been done than merely endeavour to explain what might be done; and so I will, take this opportunity of stating what I know of a boiler, concerning which, as far as I have seen, others nave had but little to say—that invented by Mr. Messenger of Loughborough. One that I have the management of is, I believe, about 4 feet long, 3 feet high, and 2 feet wide outside, the whole being enclosed in brickwork. This is the nearest guess I can make, for I have no means of taking an accurate measurement. The boiler is composed of pipes which are three-sided and laid horizontally, three on each tide of the fire, and a layer of seven over it, and another layer of six or seven over that. This arrangement presents the whole, or nearly the whole, surface of water in the boiler to the direct action of the fire; and this surface of water is necessarily very large in proportion to the size of the boiler, the furnace-bars also being hollow and forming part of the boiler. The fire plays about and between these pipes, and is very much dispersed: consequently a large proportion of the heat is intercepted. The only fault I find with the arrangement is the constant attention required in keeping clean, for the space allowed between the pipes is very narrow, and a small accumulation of soot will stop the draught; but this cleaning is but the work of five minutes each day when the boiler is in full work. It will be seen that, supposing each triangular pipe is 4 feet long and 4 inches wide at the base, it follows that each pipe presents 4 feet of surface to the fire; and there being twenty of these, there will be 80 feet of surface exclusive of the furnace-bars. The fire is also perfectly under control; for with good fuel, a clear flue, and a rapid fall of water, it is possible to get up the heat in an incredibly short space of time; and by shutting up the ashpit-door and closing the damper a shovel-full of fuel will keep alight the whole day.

As near as I can understand there are two thousand feet of pipe attached to this boiler, nearly all of which is four-inch. Although the whole of it is not required to be heated except in case of frost, still the boiler will heat the whole and that effectively, and, as near as I can judge, at no greater consumption of fuel than I have used to heat 120 feet of pipe by means of a saddle boiler. By turning a valve the flow of hot water is stopped, but the return is still available, and the pressure of cold water is in no way diminished. This is no small matter for various reasons, but chiefly on account of economy in fuel and water.

In conclusion, I would say a word with regard to fuel. “While living in the neighbourhood of London, I seldom ever burned coals either in a boiler furnace, or in a common flue: I have mostly been in the habit of burning coke, and very often have burned nothing but cinders. The Newcastle coals which are burned in domestic grates turn to cinders, and these when sifted make an excellent fuel for the furnace. Those who burn coal in the furnace use what they call inland coals, and these burn to a white ash, which is unlike the ash of the sea coal. In Staffordshire people burn coal in the parlour grate, and slack in the furnace. This answers very well, but the soot and smoke it makes will soon clog up a flue, and render constant sweeping necessary.

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Further Development

In the meantime, Thomas Messenger was still developing his horticultural buildings.

He attended the local annual meeting of the Loughborough Floral and Horticultural Society Fete, held adjacent to the Loughborough Grammar School, Leicester Road in July[1]. To accompany his attendance he advertised a week before the event, stating that he “had in stock an experimental first-class VINERY, about 28ft.by 14ft.; 14ft.bat back and 6½ft. at front, built and ventilated upon his approved and patented methods[2]. He planned to exhibit the vinery for sale at the fete, having first sought the permission of the fete committee. Whether he succeeded in his desire to sell it is unknown but the fete attracted over 8,000 visitors[3], so even if it remained unsold, his continued progression into the horticultural field would have been noticed by a large number of potential future customers, if only relatively local.


Very little documentary evidence exists regarding either Thomas Messenger’s employees or how he moved his materials around. Normally any evidence that does exist comes from the abnormal rather than the normal. Two such incidents happened with several weeks of one another in October and November 1863.

The first, involved two of his employees, a John Tebbutt and a Mr. Bayfield, both charged with passing counterfeit half-sovereigns to James Diggle, a victualler[4]. The two were accused of ordering two glass of gin in Mr. Diggles’ ‘liquor vaults’, paying for them with a half sovereign. Mr. Bayfield then ordered two refills, again paying with a half sovereign. Mr. Diggle’s suspicions were aroused as he could “bend the coins with his teeth”, so he called the police, who immediately took the suspects into custody on a charge of “passing bad money”. When the case came to court, a local un-named banker pronounced the coins genuine; however, Mr. Diggle and some of the witnesses were not prepared to take his work for it, so the coins were duly weighed and found to be the correct weight. The prisoners were immediately released.

The second, a tragic accident occurred in mid-November, was reported in The Leicester Chronicle on 28th November. The followed an inquest held on ten days earlier the Saddle Inn, Twyford, which lies about four miles south of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Thomas Rossal, a haggler, who Thomas Messenger had employed to transport a cartload of timber to Oakham ran into trouble whilst descending the hill into Twyford. He was seen initially holding the head of one of the shaft-horses, which according to one witness appeared very agitated. Then a little further, Thomas Rossal was seen up on the shafts, when suddenly the horses started at a trot. It appeared that Thomas Rossal attempted to jump down and whilst doing so came in contact with a piece of timber projecting over the front of the waggon and fell into the path of both wheels of the waggon. He was immediately taken to Twyford but died before reaching the Saddle Inn. Mr. Barwis, a surgeon of Melton Mowbray, was sent for and on examining the body declared that he had sustained a fractured pelvis, with very serious injuries about the lower portion of the abdomen and attributed the cause of death to internal haemorrhaging.



  1. The Derby Mercury, 15th July 1863.

  2. The Derby Mercury, 15th July 1863.

  3. The Nottinghamshire Guardian 25th July 1862.

  4. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 7th November 1863.