By the following year, Thomas Messenger had moved on from displaying vineries and started exhibiting his conservatories, as well as his standard heating apparatus[1].

Advertisement – The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 31 August 1866

British Association for the Advancement of Science Floral Fete

In August 1866, he attended the floral fete held in Nottingham, on a visit by the British Association for the Advancement of Science[2]. This fete was jointly organised by the Executive Committee of the British Association and the Committee of the Midland Floral Society. It comprised of over twenty tents, occupying a five-acre site in the Park Bottom, to the west of the Castle, towards the suburb of Lenton[3]. The fete was originally only intended to last two days, but due to external pressure was, with the agreement of some of the exhibitors, extended to three days, with committee agreeing to the exhibitors’ demands on receiving 50 per cent of the third day profits. The show was significant in that it attracted over 30,000 visitors over the three days. However, the first two days returned a loss, whilst the third returned a modest profit, allowing about half of it to be distributed amongst the exhibitors. The main exhibitors Messrs Frettingham and Sons and Mr. Barron, were expecting to receive between £5 and £10 each. In the event Messrs Frettingham and Sons of Stapleford, who displayed a large quantity of hardy trees and shrubs received only four shillings and Mr. Barron only £1; with Thomas Messenger and Mr. Wheeler receiving nothing at all. According to reports at the time[4], this was particularly hard on Thomas Messenger, not only for the distance he had to travel but also because he erected a number of greenhouses for the use of the Society, including one for an orchid display.

Interestingly a later and more comprehensive report[5] of the fete described the structure, in which the orchids were exhibited[6], as “light and elegant house, with steep span”. It also refers to it having ventilation both the top and sides, using “Mr Messenger’s peculiar process[7], with the system opening the entire upright sashes upwards and outwards[8]. He was not alone in exhibiting a conservatory or greenhouse for a Mr. B. Wheeler, a horticultural builder of Derby Road and Albert Street, Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, exhibited one that connected two of the large circular exhibition tents[9].

One of the other exhibitors was William Barron of Elvaston Nurseries, Borrowash, who at the time was gaining a reputation as a plant seller and landscape gardener to a large range of clients. William Barron subsequently became a long-standing customer of Messenger’s from as early as 1866 up to the mid 1940’s, both for their own use and for their clients. Whether Thomas Messenger and William Barron met at this show and started their relationship is obviously pure speculation. The first recorded order from William Barron is dated 22nd October 1866, only a few months after the Nottingham show. The order was for a new ventilation apparatus to be installed in an existing 100ft. long span roof greenhouse at Barron’s new nurseries in Borrowash. Messenger not only supplied the equipment they also installed it, at a total cost £6 5s.

To coincide with the fete, Messenger took the opportunity to place a series of advertisements in the Nottinghamshire Guardian newspaper[10]. By this time his High Street works was known as ‘The Midlands Steam Power Horticultural Works’ and he was actively promoting three aspects of his varied business, namely horticultural buildings and related products, hot water apparatus and his valve manufacturing business. The advertisement also mentioned his recent awards, an honourable mention at the 1862 International Exhibition, the 1865 Dublin Exhibition and his first class certificate issued by the Royal Horticultural Society. Regarding the horticultural side of his business, he noted that he had already undertaken hundreds of works and “pre-eminently answering the purpose for which they were constructed”. He was offering both single and double glazed greenhouses and forcing houses, with or without using putty and his own patented ventilation system. This apparatus apparently allowed opening of both the roof and sides such that the glass “as though the glass were entirely removed at once, placing the plants in the external atmosphere”. He was also promoting his triangular tubular boiler, which had hollow furnace bars and required a very shallow stokehole, and of which, he had sold in excess of 500, since its introduction ten years earlier.


Workload and Customers

Messenger’s horticultural business must have been on the rise because he took out several advertisements in the local newspaper[11] looking for several joiners.

Country County Town/Village Customer
England Bedfordshire Aspley Guise Mr. Walker
  Buckinghamshire Iver John Mitchell
  Cheshire Hoylake Holy Trinity Church
  Derbyshire Borrowash William Barron
    Chellaston The Chellaston Mining Co.
  Durham Staindrop Mr. Stobbert
  Lancashire Manchester Mr. Pain
  Leicestershire Barrow upon Soar Frederick Lockwood
    Barrow upon Soar John Crossley
    Barrow upon Soar Mr. Newbolt
    Castle Donington Marquis of Hastings
    Hinckley Thomas Goadby
    Loughborough ??? Church
    Loughborough Cartwright & Warner’s
    Loughborough Charles Sutton
    Loughborough Francis & William Edward White
    Loughborough Joseph Crosher
    Loughborough Samuel Jackson
    Loughborough Thomas Pickworth
    Loughborough William Chapman
    Quorn Quorn Church
    Thurcaston Rev. John Fuller
    Woodhouse Eaves Samuel William Clowes
  Lincolnshire Grimsby Thomas Oates
    Gunness Rev. Walter Allcroft
    Lincoln Charles Pratt
  Middlesex Mill Hill Mrs. Emma Nicholl
  Northamptonshire Welton William Halliday
  Nottinghamshire Clipstone J. Woods
    Mansfield W. Hollins
    Ollerton H. Saville
  Surrey London William Haigh
  Warwickshire Birmingham St. Barnabas’ Church
    Birmingham Trustees of Aston Villa Chapel
  Worcestershire Birmingham John Cartland
    Birmingham King’s Heath Church
  Unknown Unknown Mr. Baker
    Unknown Mr. Caunt
Ireland County Sligo Ballydoogan Christopher Carleton L’Estrange


In the last three months of 1866, Messenger received 47 requests for estimates and orders, of which almost three-quarters were for his horticultural and heating products, with the remainder for his other products and services, such as pumps, gas fittings, plumbing and glazing. The latter not surprisingly were mainly for customers within a five-mile radius of his Loughborough works. This contrasts with the horticultural and heating businesses where less than a third were for customers residing in the neighbouring counties (Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire). The vast majority were spread across the country from Durham in the north to Surrey in the south and from Lincolnshire in the east to County Sligo in the west. Thus as early as 1866 there is an obvious split in Thomas Messenger’s business operations with his horticultural and heating enterprises being nationwide, whilst his gas fittings, plumbing and glazing businesses were very much centred upon Loughborough and its immediate vicinities.

The range of horticultural buildings that Messenger provided was diverse and included conservatories, greenhouses, plant houses, vineries, frames, both stand-alone and lean-to. As most horticultural buildings, required heating his two businesses obviously complimented each other. He was well positioned to provide the customer a complete service, able to provide all the related paraphernalia, including staging, curbing, vine wires, cisterns, pumps, etc. Add to this the fact that Messenger could also provide a complete installation service, something that he was used to providing from his various other businesses, then he was set-up to offer a ‘one stop shop’.


Rev. Walter Allcroft

The largest structure quoted for or built by Messenger, during the last quarter of 1866, was 51ft. long for the Reverend Walter Allcroft, of Gunness Rectory[12], Gunness[13], Lincolnshire.


Gunness Rectory – 1887 OS Map

There is no evidence that the structure was ever built and it does not appear on the 1887 Ordnance Survey of the area. The rectory, completed in 1866, in a gothic revival style, designed by the diocesan architect, James Fowler of Louth[14]. It originally stood isolated, a little south of the main part of the village and its church[15], on land bequeathed by Sir Robert Sheffield. The 2-storey building, which is still extant, is Grade II listed, being described as “rock-faced limestone with ashlar dressings, plain tiled roof with lead copings and wrought iron finials[16]. At some point, it was converted into a nursing home, known as Stoneleigh Care Home and in 2011 was on the market for £300,000; the nursing home having relocated.

The 51ft. by 12ft. 6in. heated, partitioned ¾-span structure, priced at £72 4s. was to be built against a brick or stone wall. The heating system included a boiler “to heat same”, 110 yards of 4-inch heating pipe, 8 yards of 3-inch, 6 yards of 2-inch, 80 cement joints, with 30-man-days allowed for installation. Also included in the estimate were 12 slide doors and frames, priced at 6 shillings each. The complete price of £134 10s. was almost equivalent of a year’s income for the incumbent. In 1868[17] the living, which was united with Burringham, known as the Rectory of Gunness-cum-Burringham[18], a gift of the Bishop of Norwich, was valued at either £130 or £170 per year[19]. Presumably like others in his position the Reverend Walter Allcroft, who was the first Rector of Gunness-with-Burringham, had a private income. His son Arthur Hadrian Allcroft, who was born the previous year in Ashby, Lincolnshire, graduated from Christ College, Oxford and went onto become both a classic scholar and a successful author.


Charles Pratt

Two estimates for a 50ft. by 20ft. span-roof structure, was given to Charles Pratt. He was a wine merchant, and one time city treasurer and mayor of Lincoln, who at the time was living at the Stonebow, No. 297, High Street, Lincoln.

Advertisement – Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire, 1868

The first estimate of £96 5s., which included £4 carriage, was for a structure to a standard Messenger design. The second estimate of £85 10s., which included erection, was for the same sized structure but built using wood muntins and iron pillars.

Charles Pratt engaged Thomas Messenger on two further occasions, both in 1869. These were regarding various forms of vinery, which included the only recorded instance of Thomas Messenger supplying ground vinery. It is unlikely the vineries were intended to be built at the Stonebow, more likely to be at Skellingthorpe, a village several miles west of Lincoln, where he was living by 1871[20].


John and George John Mitchell

During the year, Thomas Messenger fabricated at a number of conservatories, two of which were for father and son John and George John Mitchell.


George John Mitchell


The first conservatory was for George John Mitchell of Newton Mount House, Newton Solney, Derbyshire, about 20 miles west of Loughborough. The residence consisted of an entrance hall, dining, drawing and breakfast rooms, seven bedrooms, cellars, located in about twenty acres, with stabling, coach house, pleasure and gardens, orchards, etc.[21]. George John Mitchell appears to have lived there from around the early 1860s until 1873. In April 1866[22], he married Miss Alice Geraldine Faulkner, the daughter of John Falkner, land agent to the Earl of Chesterfield. At this time, Thomas Messenger fitted his conservatory, which was probably rectangular in plan and attached to the south side of the house. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the conservatory still appears to have been there but removed prior to 1923[23]. When George John Mitchell left Newton Mount House in 1873, it was offered for let[24], being briefly described as “Newton Mount House, Gardens, Pleasure Grounds, Conservatory, &c, with 22 Acres of very good Turf Land”.

Newton Mount, 1881 OS Map

George John Mitchell moved to Lessness Lodge, Abbey Wood in Kent, where, in 1879, Messenger & Co., installed another conservatory, costing £460.


John Mitchell

George John Mitchell’s father, John Mitchell was a well-known and well-connected theatrical agent. His London properties were No. 33, Old Bond Street, from where he ran his business and No. 10, Bolton Street, Piccadilly.

Iver Lodge

At the time, his country residence was Iver Lodge, Iver in Buckinghamshire. Shortly after his son purchased a conservatory, John Mitchell purchased an almost identical one, with Thomas Messenger describing it as a “New Conservatory to be similar to the one built as Newton Mount except to be one foot wider and two ft. longer”. The price excluding brickwork amounted to £163.

Iver Lodge – 1876 OS Map

At about this time John Mitchell moved from Iver Lodge to a new property ‘Bangors’ (later known as Bangors Park), which was less than a mile away to the north of Iver Lodge. Not only did Thomas Messenger install the new conservatory at Bangors but also dismantled an existing vinery at Iver Lodge; re-erecting it at Bangors, for which he received the following testimonial, dated 30th August 1866[25]:

Sir — I beg to enclose you a cheque for the balance of your account for Vinery and Conservatory erected by you at my new Building. The entire work has been admirably executed, and I should have much pleasure in recommending you and your system to any party requiring similar Buildings.—Believe me, your faithful Servant, JOHN MITCHELL.


It is possible that Thomas Messenger was responsible for erecting the vineries at Iver Lodge. Thomas Messenger charged John Mitchell charged £90 for re-locating the vinery, which was probably a range of vineries as the record book refers to them in the plural.

Bangors – 1876 OS Map

Either later in the year or early the following year Thomas Messenger submitted an estimate for twin-partitioned 43ft. by 16ft. heated almost span-roof structure (one roof was 15ft. wide and the other 16ft.) to be installed at Bangors. One half was to be used as an early vinery and the other as peach house. The estimate included two iron walks, one measuring 22ft. by 2ft. 9in. and the other 2oft. by 2ft. 9in. and 44ft. of cresting. The heating system comprised of an extra size boiler, 105 yards of 4-inch, 6 yards of 2- and 3-inch hot-water pipe together with 90 cement joints. The brickwork, by a Mr. Hardy, together with a trench and associated brickwork for the boiler were included in the price. The original estimate amounted to £224 10s 11d. although an allowance of £8 10s. was allowed against a small reduction in the amount of hot water pipes required, bring the final estimate down to £216. It is possible that this new structure was an extension the original vinery moved from Iver Lodge, as the list of components only include two ends, instead of three which would be required if it was standalone.

It appears that John Mitchell commissioned a second conservatory costing £300, either for one of his London properties or country residence. This time it was to a William King design, 22ft.wide, but modified to suite Thomas Messenger’s moulding irons and the columns and arches were dispensed with. There was also a plain covered way with an external door, along with “other little alterations”.

This was followed by two estimates, the first of £225 for a peach wall and pine pit and the second £263 10s. if the pit was replaced with a pine house. The peach house was possibly to be L-shaped, as it included two roofs, one 32ft. 6in long by 8ft. wide and the other 21ft. 7in. long by 8ft. Each wall was to have a 2ft. 3in wide iron walkway, running the entire length. There was to be a single 72ft. by 9ft. mono-slope roof to the pine pit. The first estimate included four sets of ventilation apparatus. One or both structures were to be heated, using 200 yards of 4-inch, 66 yards of 3-inch, 66 yards of 2-inch hot-water pipes and 250 cement joints. To help increase the humidity 18 lengths of 4-inch vapour trough pipes were included at 10s. each. The peach wall appears more sophisticated than a standard wall, as it was to have 350 superficial feet of peach trellis along the front and 477 superficial feet of wire along the back wall. The second estimate, which replaced the pine pit with a pine house, included additional framing, 15 slide ventilators, top ventilator rods and 4 doors.

The next quotation was for heating a picture gallery and corridor, with 70 yards of 4-inch, 16 yards of 3-inch hot-water pipes, 45 cement joints and a 102ft. by 1ft. iron grate. This may have been for one of his London properties, possibly No. 10 Bolton Street, Piccadilly.

There is no indication that the estimate for the peach wall or pine pit/house was either accepted or acted upon as in October 1867, another estimate or order is recorded. On this occasion for a heated pine pit, with a single 32ft. by 8ft. 6in roof, 62 yards of 4-inch, 26 yards of 2-inch hot-water pipes and 66 cement joints.

There appears to have been a break of several years before John Mitchell engaged Thomas Messenger for the final time. In August 1869, an estimate or order is recorded for a 40ft. by 12ft. heated lean-to structure partitioned into two houses. Also included were two stages, each 2oft. long, one 3ft. wide flat stage and the other 5ft. 6in. stepped. There was also work to fix 40ft.length of lintels to a pit, with six iron pillars, 2 ventilators and a complete 40ft. long run of slate fronts. Heating was provided by a No. 2 boiler, 60 yards of 4-inch, 50 cement joints and 4 vapour trough pipes.

Messenger & Co., was engaged  at Bangors, on at least one other occasion; in 1897 by Tonman Mosley, the then owner, who was later made first Baron Anslow.

Three horticultural buildings, together with a possible conservatory appear on the 1876 Ordnance Survey map and were still extant as late as 1932, although the possible conservatory had been lost.


Sometime after 1872, John Mitchell moved to another new property, also in Iver, known as Coppins, back towards Iver Lodge. Following John Mitchell’s death in December 1874, Coppins was put up for sale where it was described as having both an elegant conservatory and greenhouse[26]. Coppins was later owned by members of the Royal Family, although there is no record of either Thomas Messenger or Messenger & Co, being approached regarding work at the property, unless the work in 1869 was related to Coppins and not Bangors.

Coppins – 1876 OS Map


Christopher L’Estrange

During 1866, there were several exchanges with Christopher L’Estrange, a land agent, of Kevinsfort, County Sligo, regarding a new greenhouse.

The first was for a 20ft. by 12ft. structure with two glass ends, one door, glass front and heating using two rows of 4in. pipes along the front and one end. The price of £54 included carriage to Liverpool only, but excluding installation. The second was for a 2oft. by 15ft. lean-to house, complete with heating but excluding brickwork. The price of £63 10s. included both freightage to Kevinsfort and installation (with return travelling expenses from Liverpool).


Emma Nicholl, Copt Hall, Mill Hill, North London


Another large estimate prepared by Thomas Messenger during the period was one for £220 for Mrs. Emma Nicholl, the widow of Thomas Nicholl of Copt Hall[27], Mill Hill, North London.

Copt Hall – 1872-1883 OS Map

The estimate was for a series of structures and fixtures,. These included a 25ft. by 13ft. plant house, a new 25ft. long forcing house, 42ft. of new curbing around an existing pit, six slide doors to hot chamber, a total of 50ft. by 4ft. 6in. staging, a tank with brickwork, a new pump and lastly a heating system for the proposed two new houses together with an existing vinery. The heating system included a boiler, 151 yards of 4-inch, 7 yards of 3-inch, 25 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 100 joints.

All the brickwork for the new houses was subcontracted to Mr. Austee, to whose estimate of £46 10s. Thomas Messenger added £2, as profit.

Copt Hall was situated on the corner of Bunn’s Lane and Page Street, on a site now occupied by Randall Court. The Hall and accompanying estate had been owned by the Nicholl family from around the late sixteenth century[28]. The structures were probably built just north-west of the Hall, probably in a walled garden; by 1883[29], several greenhouses appear adjacent to the Hall. By the mid-1890s, these had all been removed and replaced by larger structures. The Hall and surrounding estate was sold off in 1925 and by the mid-1930s the grounds to the west of the Hall had been built on. The site of the gardens is now occupied by a cul-de-sac, known as Copthall Gardens. The Hall was subsequently converted into flats before finally being demolished in 1959[30].

Copt Hall – 1868

An Azalea House for Messrs. William Rollison and Sons

Earlier in the year, it appears that Thomas Messengers installed an Azalea House for well-known nurseryman, Messrs. William Rollison and Sons, at their Springfield nursery in Upper Tooting, south London. This is only known because Thomas Messenger included a testimonial from the firm in his 1870 catalogue.

William Rollison and Sons was a long established firm even in 1868 and well used to greenhouse growing. The Horticultural Register of 1831 reported that the firm, who normally specialised in Heaths and Orchids, had taken to growing Fuchsia microphylla in their greenhouses. As early as 1840 the firm was using a 70ft. long by 15ft. wide and 10ft. 2in. high span-roofed orchid house, heated by Kewley’s hot-water system, which employed a single fire and two sets of twin pipes, one set along each side of the house[31]. Thus, the firm obviously had a good understanding of what they required in a greenhouse and clearly thought that Thomas Messenger’s structure met their requirements.


Non-Horticultural Related Heating Systems

Thomas Messenger was not only marketing his heating apparatus for horticultural use, he was also offering it as a more generic solution for churches, warehouses and factories and was a theme that prevailed throughout the firm’s existence.

During the last quarter of 1866, he received orders or gave estimates for heating three churches in the Birmingham area, including St. Barnabas’ Church, Erdington (£95), Aston Villa Chapel (£89) and King’s Heath Church (£58).

As well as installing new heating systems, the firm also had to maintain and repair their existing installations. One such occasion occurred in November when a fitter was dispatched to Grimsby, Lincolnshire to replace a part in an existing boiler, for Thomas Oates, who at the time was mayor of Great Grimsby[32] Corporation and a magistrate. Thomas Oates was a partner with Stephen Oates operating as Thomas and Stephen Oates, shipbrokers, rope and sail makers of Victoria Street. As Thomas also lived on Victoria Street, it is uncertain as to whether the boiler was installed in the firm’s premises or in Thomas Oates’ home. The price for the repair totalled 10 guineas, which appears to be very high brand new boiler as sold to Emma Nicholl of Copt Hall only cost eight guineas.

Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 21 April 1866

Local Clients

Locally, Thomas Messenger undertook two installations for customers in nearby Barrow upon Soar[33]:

Firstly, gas fitting for John Crossley (£5 2s.), which included eight man-days installation time for a fitter and a labourer.

Secondly, plumbing pipe work for Mr. Newbolt (£4 18s.) which included 34 yards of excavations.

Also in Barrow upon Soar, he provided Frederick Lockwood with three estimates for various mechanisms for pumping water from a 42ft. deep well. One of these estimates was for a patented pump with brass cylinders and valves, presumably one of his 1858-patented pumps.

In Loughborough, he undertook repairs (£4 2s.) to a pump for Charles Sutton, of Burleigh Hall. Installed steam heating pipes and a 493 gallon galvanised cistern for Messrs Cartwright and Warners Ltd., (Spinners and Hosiery Manufacturers), Nottingham Road (£96). Installed a new heating system in Messrs Francis & William Edward White’s warehouse (£48), in Wood Gate. He also acted as glazier to a number of insurance companies. In December, on behalf of The London and General Insurance[34], he installed an 8ft. 6in., by 1ft. 9in. plate glass window at William Chapman’s (currier) shop in Church Gate. At almost the same time, for the Norwich and London Accident Insurance Association[35], he installed an 8ft. 8in by 3ft. 3in. plate glass window at Thomas Pickworth’s (draper) premises in the Market Place. Unsurprisingly Thomas Messenger was also the purveyor of odd items such supplying a number of red deal boards to Mr. Samuel Jackson, an auctioneer, in Baxter Gate.



  1. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th August 1866.

  2. Formed in 1831, it was subsequently known as the British Association for the Advancement of Science and today as the British Science Association.

  3. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 17th August 1866.

  4. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 30th November 1866.

  5. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 31st August 1866.

  6. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, Vol. XI (New Series) 1866, page 162.

  7. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 31st August 1866.

  8. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, Vol. XI (New Series) 1866, page 162.

  9. The Nottinghamshire Guardian 17th August 1866.

  10. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 31st August 1866.

  11. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 16th June 1866.

  12. Gunness stands on the east bank of the River Trent just west of Scunthorpe

  13. Also referred to as Gunhouse.

  14. The Buildings of England, Lincolnshire, page 352.

  15. The current church, St. Barnabas, was built in 1952 on a new site. The original church was slightly further north, just off Old Village Street.

  16. http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-165796-the-old-rectory-gunness

  17. Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire 1868.

  18. The post was created in 1861 when the ecclesiastical parish was formed.

  19. Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire 1868.

  20. Census.

  21. The Derby Mercury, 27th March 1850.

  22. The Derby Mercury, 11th April 1866.

  23. Ordnance Survey Maps.

  24. The Derby Mercury, 19th February 1873.

  25. Printed in Thomas Messenger’s 1870 catalogue.

  26. The Times, 19th April 1875.

  27. The residence was demolished around 1959.

  28. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5: Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham; 1976, page 23-25.

  29. Ordnance Survey Map.

  30. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5: Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham; 1976, page 23-25.

  31. The Greenhouse, Hot House and Stove; Charles McIntosh; 1838; published in London by William S. Orr & Co.

  32. The town was previously known as “Great Grimsby” to distinguish it from Little Grimsby, a village about 14 miles to the south, near Louth.

  33. Barrow upon Soar lies 3 miles south-east of Loughborough.

  34. Acquired by The Prudential in 1928.

  35. Existed between 1856 – 1909 incorporated into Aviva Insurance UK Ltd.