How much of Thomas Messenger’s horticultural and heating components were bought in compared with being made at the factory is unclear. He obviously bought in glass, timber, probably some of the heating piping and maybe the boiler components as there is no record of there being a foundry at the High Street premises at the time. The firm made all the timber elements for their glasshouses, etc., for in April 1867[1], Thomas Messenger was advertising for four or five non-society[2] joiners. Whether he bought in pre-cut glass to exact sizes for each order or in standard sizes, cutting when and if required, is unclear. Certainly Messenger & Co. later adopted a standard practice of ordering the exact size and quantity of glass for a particular order direct from their glass supplier, who was also normally the manufacturer.

Up to 1867, Thomas Messenger had leased his High Street premises on a long building and repairing tenancy, for an annual rent of £35. Such was the length of the lease that it still had 19 years to run when the site, together with a number of other High Street properties[3], came up for auction on 4th June[4]. The premises, which occupied a yard behind properties fronting the High Street, comprised of approximately 2,403 square yards occupied by a cottage, offices, workshops and numerous rooms. It is thought that Thomas Messenger took this opportunity to purchase the site, as when he sold the business in 1875 he owned the site, leasing it to the new owners.

Advertisement – The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 1 June, 1867

Estimates, Orders and Customers

Country County Town/Village Customer
England Buckinghamshire Iver John Mitchell
  Cheshire Birkenhead Mr. Bullen
    Birkenhead Mr. Fletcher
    Claughton Samuel Machen
    West Kirby J. Wood
    Wilmslow George Fox
  Cumberland Botcherby T. Hamilton
    Stanwix John Stead
  Derbyshire Ashbourne Godwin & Sons
    Blackwall Rev. Charles Evans
    Butterley F.C. Hall
    Derby A. Smith
    Duffield A. Hardcastle
    Duffield John S. Tempest
    Stanton-in-Peak William Pole Thornhill
    Tapton Richard George Coke
    Whittington Moor William Taylor
  Gloucestershire Hillesley Thomas E. Partridge
  Hertfordshire Barnet John White Cater
    Little Gaddesden Lt. Col. Elliott
  Kent Deal Mr. Hoban
    Hawkhurst Edward George Hartnell
  Lancashire Manchester Mr. Miller
    Manchester Mr. Pain
    Prestolee Joseph Cedric Rivett
  Leicestershire Bardon O.L. Stephens
    Barrow upon Soar John Ellis & Sons
    Barrow upon Soar Thomas Lockwood
    Castle Donington Marquis of Hastings
    East Norton Edward Finch Dawson
    Enderby Charles Brook
    Hinckley Thomas Goadby
    Kegworth William Nall
    Kibworth Harcourt G.T. Dodson
    Leicester Archibald Turner
    Leicester Mr. Black
    Leicester R. Wingate
    Leicester Samuel Stone
    Loughborough Ambrose Lisle March-Phillipps de Lisle
    Loughborough Cooperative Stores
    Loughborough Edward Chatterton Middleton
    Loughborough Francis & William Edward White
    Loughborough George Braund
    Loughborough George Redrup
    Loughborough James Harding
    Loughborough Joseph Crosher
    Loughborough Mr. Goode
    Loughborough Mr. Howarth
    Loughborough Mr. Stevenson
    Loughborough Mrs. Kenney
    Loughborough Nottingham & Notts Banking Co.
    Loughborough Rev. Robert B. Stoney
    Loughborough Samuel Stubbs
    Loughborough Wesleyan Methodist Church
    Loughborough William Chester
    Loughborough William G. Palmer
    Loughborough William Main
    Loughborough William Mosely
    Loughborough William Moss
    Loughborough William Seward
    Loughborough William Taylor
    Loughborough William Tomlinson
    Quorn Mr. Cragg
    Quorn Richard Hole
    Quorn William Greaves
    Quorndon Mr. Harris
    Ratcliffe On The Wreake Glover & King
    Ratcliffe On The Wreake Ratcliffe College
    Ravenstone William Wood
    Rothley W. Staples
    Rothley William Dabbs
    Sileby W. Condon
    Wanlip Lady Palmer
    Woodhouse Henry Humphreys
    Woodhouse William Perry Herrick
    Woodhouse Eaves Rev. Thomas Short Millington
  Lincolnshire Woodhall Spa Mr. Hotchkin
  Middlesex London Mr. Campbell
  Northamptonshire Lower Weedon (near) John Judkins
    Oxendon W.H. Harrison
    Rushden Mr. Sartoris
  Nottinghamshire Arnold Duke of St. Albans
    Newstead William Frederick Webb
    Nottingham Thomas Forman
    Nottingham Trustees of Unitarian Chapel
    Nottingham William Port Ayres
    Oxton Henry Sherbrooke
  Rutland Manton G.S. Walters
    Uppingham Joseph Winn
  Shropshire Shifnal Mr. Barnett
  Shropshire Whitchurch J. Becket
  Staffordshire Tettenhall Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft
    Wolverhampton Arthur Briscoe
    Wolverhampton Thomas Turner & Co.
  Surrey London H. Simmonds
  Warwickshire Birmingham W. Perks, Jun & Co.
    Coventry J. Powers
    Harborough Magna Harborough Magna Church
    Kenilworth Mr. Robins
  Worcestershire Birmingham John Cartland
    Birmingham King’s Heath Church
  Yorkshire, West Riding Aldborough A.H. Croft
    Bingley William Busfeild Ferrand
    Leeds J. Hawgood
    Leeds Rev John Gott
    Lepton Abraham Brierley
    Selby Mr. Tyson
  Unknown Unknown Mr. Eaton
    Unknown D. Hulett
    Unknown J. Harrison
    Unknown Mr. Harrison
    Unknown Mr. Simpson
    Unknown The Prior
Ireland County Dublin Dublin Joseph Berry & Sons
  County Sligo Kevinsfort Christopher Carleton L’Estrange
New Zealand     Warwick Weston
Wales Merionethshire Bala R. J. Price


Thomas Messenger’s range of horticultural activities was all embracing, incorporating dismantling, altering, replacing parts, renewing, enlarging, painting and re-fixing existing houses; in addition to building and erecting new structures.

His horticultural products were, even by this time, extensive and included potting sheds, vineries, orchard houses, conservatories, plant houses, greenhouses, cucumber houses, pit frames, pine pits, ferneries, peach houses, peach walls, ranges, etc. Available in single span roof, ¾ span, double span roof, stand-alone, lean-to and even curvilinear, etc.

Even at this relatively early stage in the firm’s history, Thomas Messenger tried to subcontract all new building foundation work, including all preparatory brickwork and stonework. This usually involved him using local (to the client) builders, whilst this practice continued after he sold the business, the new Company tried to use Loughborough-based builders, wherever possible.

During 1867, Messenger received in excess of 160 estimates and orders. Similar to the last three months of 1866, almost three quarters were for his horticultural and heating products, with almost half of these incorporating both, i.e. heated horticultural structures. Not all the heating systems included boilers, for which he was now marketing a range of sizes (these were given numbers such as one, three, six, etc. – the larger the number the higher the heat output). Whilst relatively few heating estimates and orders were non-horticultural related, they were fairly diverse, including warehouses, picture gallery, concert rooms as well as a couple of churches.

The geographic spread of customers and potential customers reflects that seen during the last three months of 1866. There was a wide UK geographical spread for horticultural and heating products and an overwhelmingly local bias for his other products and services.


First Known Overseas Order

1867 was the year that the firm is known to have received their first truly overseas order, albeit from someone who was visiting the UK at the time.

Warwick Weston immigrated to New Zealand with his parents John James (a silk manufacturer) and Mary around 1850. In August 1867, whilst back in Europe on a two-year tour, he ordered a 30ft. by 18ft. greenhouse from Messenger to be sent flat packed, with glass (but excluding putty) back to New Zealand.

Messenger built the greenhouse, dismantled it, and packed it into shipping crates, delivering it to Loughborough for onward transportation, arranged by the customer. Mr. Weston paid £80, including £5 5s. 6d. for the packing cases and carriage to Loughborough railway station.


Newstead Abbey


Newstead Abbey, lies between Mansfield and Nottingham, just east of Newstead village. Originally it was a Augustinian Priory, before being converted into a residence by Sir John Byron, following the dissolution of the Monasteries. It is best known as the family home of the poet Lord Byron. After Byron’s death it was, in 1818, purchased by Colonel Thomas Wildman, a schoolfellow and apparent admirer of the poet. Colonel Wildman spent a vast sum restoring the Abbey and gardens, including a new kitchen garden[5]. F following his death in 1859, it was put up for auction the following year by his widow, Louisa. However, it failed to reach the reserve of £180,000 and was subsequently offered for sale privately[6] and purchased by William Frederick Webb, of Pepper Hallo, Northallerton, for a reputed £150,000[7].


Newstead Abbey, 1878-87 OS Map

William Webb continued Colonel Wildman’s work, installing electric lighting and developing both the grounds and gardens. In 1867 he engaged Thomas Messenger to work on the existing 47ft. long by 18ft. vinery, including cleaning and painting the outside (£14): build two heated half-span glass coverings for the “vine border”; one with a 62ft. long roof and the other 42ft. 2in., both with front lights with handles (£88): erect a partitioned 75ft. long heated span-roof forcing house, with cresting along the complete length and two finials (£179). The erection of the two new vinery covers coincided with an article on the gardens, by “A.P.W.”, which appeared in The Nottinghamshire Guardian, on 15th February 1867:-

………….….The Kitchen Garden, like everything else, is in a transition state, and hence large quantities of old trees have been grubbed out, and many more must follow, as fast as the young trees planted to take their place, come into a bearing. Some of these old tree are quite curiosities in formation, so gnarled and contorted are some of the branches, but they produce large quantities of good fruit. Some of the wall trees are very old indeed quite worn out, but Mr. Anderson is fast replacing them with younger plants, and the south sides of the walls, we doubt not, will soon be covered with glass. The south boundary wall would be an appropriate place for a glass case for Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, and other stone fruits, and the centre wall could be covered with forcing and plant houses. Indeed, a commencement has been made here by the erection of a Vinery and a small Fig House, and two other Vineries are about immediately put up by Mr. Messenger, of Loughborough. No doubt the entire wall will he covered in a short time. The Vinery was filled with a fine stock of bedding plants, among which some hundreds of Geranium Mrs. Pollock showed conspicuously. This house is commodious and of good size, but the roof is too heavy for our taste. The Vines are doing well, and Mr. Anderson had a quantity of young ones in pots, which for the age could scarcely be excelled as pot specimens. A range of forcing pits has also been erected, and this at the present time is used for Asparagus, &c., &c., while plants in large need for quantities are being brought forward for propagating, cut flowers, and drawing-room decoration. In one house we noticed a very large stock of Double Chinese Primula, one of the finest plants we have for cutting, Euphorbia jacquinflora, Poinsettia pulcherima and other plants of that class, and also bulbs, are in for forcing …………… There are two old Vineries, we should imagine of Byron’s building, but directly the new houses are built, those must give wat to contemplated improvements…………………

Newstead Abbey, 1878-87 OS Map

Another article on cultivating grapes in pots by Mr. John Anderson, the head gardener, appeared in The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette magazine, on 20th August 1870:-

In the autumn of last year you noticed the pot Grapes grown at this place. Since then various inquiries have been made respecting the treatment which the Vines received, and though I do not profess to have anything new to impart, perhaps a short dated of my system of management may not be without interest to some of your amateur readers if not to the practical ones. I must state, however, that part of my success may be attributed to the suitability of the houses in which the plants are grown. These were built by Mr. Messenger, of Loughborough, to whom I am indebted for the accompanying engraving (fig. 210), which shows the arrangement completely. It will be seen that the houses are span roof, with a path down the centre, on each side of which is a bed 4 feet 6 inches wide. The bottom of this bed is made of strong slate slabs, supported by brick ledges on each side of the bed and which may be raised or lowered as the cultivator may require. A bed of soil 2 feet deep may be had, or the slabs can be raised to the top ledges, and the house is ready for forcing Strawberries, or anything in pots that require to be near the glass. Under these beds are placed the whole of the hot-water pipes, four rows being under each, part of which are troughed for evaporation. Again, beneath the piping is an air drain supplied by shafts from the outside, and through these, in stormy weather, a copious supply of fresh air may be commanded, with the great advantage of its having had the “chill” taken off it before it comes in contact with the plants. This I find a great advantage in winter and spring forcing, and especially at night, when the ventilation of the house must be left to itself. Air is also admitted by the side perpendicular lights, and by the top ventilators.

This article was in response to one that appeared in the magazine on 9th October, the previous year, which gave a very favourable write-up of growing grapes in pots at Newstead Abbey. The article stating that “if the crop is not the finest we ever saw, it is certainly such a one as is rarely seen, and is well worthy of description”. The article went on to briefly describe the greenhouses, without identifying the builder:-

Span roof, and each is about 30 feet long by 11 feet wide. A walk runs through the centre, and on either side there is a bed, with a bottom of strong slate slabs, the latter resting upon pillars of dry brickwork, so that they may be raised or lowered, as no bed of soil, or a deep one, may be required by the exigencies of cultivation. The whole of the heating pipes are placed under the bed, and the heat is admitted to the atmosphere of the house through valves in the side walls, thus securing a constant circulation, as the cold air from its natural gravity sinks into the path, passes under the bed among the heated pipes, and forward up the valves to the atmosphere of the house

The span greenhouse featured in a further article, this time in the 1871 edition of Loudon’s The Horticulturalist, edited by William Robinson, in a chapter on the “culture of the grape vine”: –

Grapes in Pots. -This is a very convenient method of producing early grapes, and sometimes later crops are obtained in such quantities as to render their production in this manner really profitable. Of this a remarkable example came under our notice in the autumn of last year in the garden of Newstead Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, where a span-roofed house, twenty-five feet long by thirteen feet wide, produced from thirty vines growing in thirteen-inch pots the enormous quantity of three hundred bunches, the average weight of each bunch being one pound. The annexed engraving shows a section of the house in question, which was contrived and erected by Mr. G. Messenger, horticultural builder, of Loughborough. The section will almost speak for itself, but we may remark that over the hot-water pipes slate slabs are placed, supported by cross walls of dry bricks, so that the slates may be raised to the height of the inner retaining wall, or they may be lowered to the level of the heating pipes. This is a great convenience in working, as the gardener may stand his plants upon the slates, or he may have a bed two feet deep if he requires it.

In the case of the grapes in question the bed had been used the previous season for growing melons, and hence the soil was levelled down, and the vine pots were placed upon it. Of course the roots passed through into the bed, which was very material to the perfecting of the crop.

These three articles were obviously not describing the vineries per se, but the 75ft. long span-roofed forcing house, partitioned into three 25ft. long houses.


Messenger Vinery – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 20 August 1870

In 1869 Thomas Messenger submitted five estimates to William Webb. The first to install 11 17ft. long tension rods (£5 8s.) probably in the original vinery. the others were all for cleaning and painting the various horticultural structures; two coats on the outside of the two ‘new’ (1867) vineries and forcing houses (£13 17s.); re-puttying and painting the outside of the old vinery (£7 5s.); 2 coats on both sides of the 40ft. x 11ft. old pit (£5 14s.) and the 30ft. x 11ft. 6in new portion of the pit (£4 10s.)

Presumably not all of these estimates were accepted because two years later Thomas Messenger submitted a further set of estimates. The first for painting two coats on the outside of the two ‘new’ (1867) vineries and forcing houses (£13 17s.); painting 2 coats on the outside of the pits £6 2s.); 62ft. of cresting and 2 ornamental finials for the vineries (£3 12s); new moulded guttering along the front of the vineries (no price given). The last estimate was for overhauling the heating system in the Abbey, which included installing 6 new coil radiators, in addition to the existing 10 (£76 5s.).

A subsequent article on the gardens at Newstead Abbey appeared in The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, on 4th Jan 1877, which amongst a longer account of the gardens included a description of the kitchen gardens:-

…. Passing on to the kitchen gardens, we cross over a small ravine on a rustic bridge that brings us to the American garden. It is a large piece of ground, formerly the wilderness, but now planted with choice Rhododendrons. In the spring season they must be beautiful. The American garden is separated from the kitchen garden by a hedge of Thuja gigantea. The hedge is 16 or 18 feet high, and has been planted nine year. The kitchen garden is in all respects in character with this ancient and noble place. It is in two compartments, and covers 2½ acres. We first make our way to the vineries. The first block is 60 feet long and 17 feet wide, in two divisions. The first division had all Black Hamburghs in fine condition. The Grapes were well coloured, the berries of more than average size, and altogether they were most beautifully finished. One thing I noticed—the Vines at their winter dressing had never had any of the old bark rubbed off, and they were quite free from spider, mildew, and the other ills the Vine is heir to. The second division contained a mixed collection, including Trebbiano, Black, Muscat Hamburgh, Champion Hamburgh, Trentham Black, and Duchess of Buccleuch, the latter having very small berries; but Mr. Lawrence, the head gardener, informed me that they were intending to destroy it this winter. The next house was just erected. It was 50 feet by 17, and was for late Grapes, such as Lady Downe’e and Black Alicante. The border was being made, and from the quality of the material employed, and the skill Mr. Lawrence is able to bring to bear on their culture, superior Grapes may be predicted. Between this house and the before-named vineries there is space left for a range of Peach houses, which are to be erected shortly. We next enter a range of span-roofed houses 76 feet long, in three compartments. The first was used for Melons during the summer. The crop had been excellent, and the sorts grown were Golden Gem, Hybrid Cashmere, and Little Heath; the fruit of the latter weighed from 6 lbs. to 11 lbs. each, and three fruits to a plant. The second compartment was partly devoted to winter Cucumbers, Telegraph and Master’s Prolific being the most useful for the purpose. One half of the house was occupied with dinner-table plants. The third part contained a useful selection of plants required for the embellishment of the Abbey. I specially noticed as being worthy of mention a fine selection of Ferns, including Lomaria gibba, Pteris argyrea—a very fine batch, Crotona in great variety. Begonias, Dieffenbachias, Poinsettia pulcherrima plenissima, Dracaenas, Pandanus, and many other fine-foliage plants, every one useful for the purpose for which they are grown. There was also a good specimen of the curious Testudinaria elephantipes, a plant only met with occasionally.

Several lean-to pits are used for forcing flowers and Asparagus, but now filled with Alternantheras, Bouvardia jasminoides, and B. Vreelandii. A most useful plant for the dinner table, and also for cut flowers, is Abutilon Boule de Neige, which is grown here in large quantity. Several ranges of cold pits were filled with Echeverias, and cold frames were full of Lettuces for winter salads. Large breadths of winter vegetables bore the traces of superior culture and good management. There is a broad gravel walk down the centre of the garden. Ribbon borders were planted along each side during the summer, backed up with pyramid Apples and Pears. The gardener’s cottage stands at the east corner of the kitchen garden, the back part overlooking the garden, and the front a portion of the pleasure grounds. The walls were mantled with Roses and other climbing plants, and both internally and externally the appearance of comfort was manifest……..

Newstead Abbey, 1900 OS Map

William Webb died on 24th February 1899 as a result of a bout of severe laryngitis, whilst in Luxor, Egypt, where he had been travelling for several months. He was buried in Cairo with a simultaneous memorial service being held in the Abbey Chapel, Newstead[8].

Following William Webb’s death and after passing through various family members, the estate was eventually sold by his grandson Charles Ian Fraser, to Sir Julien Cahn who presented to the City of Nottingham in 1931.

The walled garden underwent a number of other changes during William Webb’s tenure. The pits and cold frames were relocated just outside to the west, together with a new almost north-south aligned lean-to structure. The two Messenger vineries were transformed into a single structure and another probably span structure was erected to the west of Messenger’s span forcing house. It appears that little changed until the mid-1960s when the remaining glasshouses were removed and the kitchen garden transformed into the current Rose Garden, which itself was redesigned in 1998.


Newstead Abbey, 1960 OS Map


Marquis and Marchioness of Hastings



Whilst Thomas Messenger was concentrating on building up his five departments (plumbing, glazing, gas fitting, heating and horticultural), he was not averse to accepting a range of other work, particularly from influential clients. One example was his undertaking of several commissions from the Marquis of Hastings at Donington Hall, Castle Donington, Leicestershire.

The first at the beginning of the year when he received an order totalling £108 for a gabled 14ft. by 12ft. heated plant house, with a curved roof, glazed with bent glass, 28ft. of cresting and 2 finials. Thomas Messenger subcontracted the associated stonework to a William Henry Hull, a stonemason, of Leicester Road, Loughborough.

Several months later, he secured a contract, valued at £70 for laying a ‘railway’; acquiring the ironwork from Samuel Frisby[9] of Loughborough for £10, but supplying the wood himself, including 150 oak posts.


Conservatory, Donington Hall, Castle Donington

At about the same time he undertook for £160 the fitting and painting of a number of cast iron ornaments supplied by Messrs March and Son, Iron and Brass Founders of St. Peter’s Lane, Leicester, together with 186ft. of 5-inch by 4-inch mouldings. This was obviously an extensive job because he estimated that it would take three of his workers (a fitter and a labourer) 80 man-days to fix the ironwork and 45 man-days for a joiner to fix the moulding. Messenger also charged £10 for fitting, drilling and painting the ornaments, which he bought in at £86 19s 9d. and sold to the customer for £100. This works obviously relates to a conservatory, of which Thomas Messenger, appears to have been very proud for in his 1870 catalogue of ‘Horticultural Buildings, Hot Water and Hydraulic Appliances’, he described the structure in some detail:

….This conservatory is of unusually large size, being upwards of 70 feet long, 40 feet wide and 30 feet high. The style of architecture adopted is in character with that of the Hall, which is a very extensive building in the domestic Gothic style. While, however, the exterior has been from this cause kept somewhat plain and regular in outline, although rich in detail, the interior has been fitted in the most profusely ornamental style. Traceried spandrels fill in between the pillars supporting the dome roof and cross again to the exterior framing, giving a very rich and elegant appearance The Pillars and the framework of the building are provided with wires, upon which are trained climbing plants. The whole of the interior is decorated in colours, and gold. A double tier of stages runs round the whole of the building, to plants in pots. The area of the building is arranged with wide stone walks, round a centre bed of soil, Planted with palms, ferns, and other tropical plants. At one end opposite the main entrance, is a raised terrace approached at either end by flights of steps, and screened by an ornamental iron balustrade. This communicates with the Library and Billiard Room and at the same time forms a pleasant lounge, being fitted, as also is the whole of the Conservatory; with settees and couches in convenient situations. Immediately under the terrace is an ornamental basin and fountain. At the apex of each arch formed by traceried spandrels, and from the principals supporting the roof, are suspended ornamental wire baskets filled with ferns and flowering plants. The whole forms one of the most luxurious, successful, and handsome conservatories in the Midland Counties.

The conservatory must have been built well before January 1868, when there are numerous reports of events being held in the conservatory, including a rather elaborate ball[10]:

On Thursday evening last the Marques and Marchioness of Hastings gave a grand ball at the Hail, Donington Park as a termination to the amusements which commenced with the races in the morning. Owing to the unpropitious state of the weather, and the consequent badness of the roads, many of the gentry of the neighbourhood, who had received invitations, were unable to attend. The company at dinner, in addition to the Marquis and Marchioness, included Lord Marsham, Lady Constance Marsham, Lord Charles Innes Kerr, Lady Kerr, Admiral Yelverton, Mr. Yelverton, the Prince de Chincay, Mr. Reginald and Mrs. Herbert, Sir Frederick Johnstone, Captain Johnstone, the Earl of Clonmell, Captain Probyn. Mr. Burton, Colonel Knox, Mr. Hawkesley, Mr. Wilkinson, Mr. Sumner, Captain Vyner, Captain Barlow, Mrs. Barlow, Lord Berkeley Paget, and Lord Graham. The general company included the Viscount Petersham (Elvaston Castle), Mr. J. B. Story, Mrs. Story. Miss Story, Mr. R. Story, Mr. H. Story (Lockington Hall), Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Paget Sutton Bonnington), Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Story. jun., Sir R. Wilmot, Miss. Wilmot, Mr. and Mrs. Boden (Hedneston), Mr. Davenport, etc., etc. The grand drawing-room was fitted up for the ball-room, and was beautifully decorated with the choicest flowers and brilliantly illuminated with plateaux of wax lights. The tea room was also elegantly fitted up, groups of flowering plants in endless variety being placed in every available space. The newly restored and furnished library (said to contain twenty thousand volumes) was the drawing-room for the evening. Leading from this magnificent room is the newly built billiard-room and also Lady Hastings’ conservatory, which contains many of the rare plants. We particularly noticed four very fine specimens of the tree fern, two of Dicksonia autartica, one of cyathea dealbata, and one of Alsophila excelsa. There were also two magnificent groups of Dracæna. ferrea, containing six plants in a group, near the fountain; and a little lower down were good plants Pandanus elegantissima, one of which was sax feet high. In addition to the rare and costly collection of plants recently placed in the conservatory by Mr. MacLean., her ladyship’s gardener, the building, which is highly effective of itself, was rendered still more so by the beauty of the decorations. These consisted of about 500 Chinese lanterns of all sizes and of e very conceivable colour, which were suspended from boughs of trees, and from the roof. Fountains were playing and birds flying about, and altogether the scene warn most enchanting, and must have afforded a very agreeable surprise to the numerous guests………………

It was used again a few weeks later, for another ball, this time for the estate servants, tenants and tradesmen. On this occasion, the conservatory was “brilliantly illuminated with about 300 Chinese lanterns, of all colours and every conceivable shape[11]. A few days later the Marchioness played host to around 400 local schoolchildren and again the new conservatory was on show, with fountains playing, birds flying around and the Chinese lanterns from the previous ball.[12].


Conservatory Interior, Donington Hall, Castle Donington – 1877 Messenger & Co., Catalogue

The Marquis and Marchioness were obviously pleased with both their conservatory and plant house, for in July 1868, their gardener Mr. Maclean wrote, Thomas Messenger, a glowing testimonial[13]:

Donington Park, Derby, July 4th, 1868.

DEAR Sir, —I have great pleasure in stating that the Conservatory and Plant house erected here for the Marquis of Hastings have given great satisfaction. The Conservatory is especially well designed and arranged, and has been very much admired by the visitors here. The mode of ventilation by hanging the large sashes upon pivots, and fitting them with your Patent Apparatus to open them all at once, is a very great acquisition to the working arrangements of the place, from the ease with which it can be ventilated to any desired degree I can with confidence recommend your workmanship and materials to any one who may refer to me. I can also bear testimony to the superior, working qualities of your Patent Triangular Tubular Boiler; with the least consumption of fuel the great amount of heat given off is highly commendable, and must prove a great boon to horticulturists.—I am, Sir, yours, &c., J. MACLEAN,

Gardener to The Most Noble the Marquis of Hastings.

However, the conservatory appears to have been short lived, reportedly dismantled around 1877[14].


Archibald Turner

Archibald Turner (1808-1876) was an elastic web manufacturer who, in 1867, owned Archibald Turner & Co., based at Bow Bridge Mills, Leicester. Born in Cheadle, Staffordshire, he came to live in Leicester in the early 1840s. By 1846, he was operating as a fancy hosiery manufacturer in Humberstone Gate, Leicester, before going into partnership with William Pegg, as India Rubber Manufacturers in Hill Street, Leicester.

By 1860, he was operating out of Bow Bridge Mills[15] and living in the adjacent Bow Bridge House. He might have purchased both these properties as early as 1856 when they were offered for sale. The site comprised of 8,219 square yards with nearly 500ft. frontage onto the River soar and a little less than 210ft. onto Watt’s Causeway. The factory was three storeys high, with eight rooms, engine house, bathrooms, warping and winding rooms, dye houses, warehouse, etc. The residence included an entrance hall, breakfast, dining and drawing rooms, six bedrooms, ale, wine and coal cellars, stable, coach-house, kitchen garden, lawns and pleasure grounds[16].


Bow Bridge Works and House, Leicester – 1902 OS Map

Archibald Turner was a keen horticulturalist, collecting rare plants from all over the world, often paying large sums for the best specimens[17]. He won (through his gardener Mr. Robert Bullen) a Large Gold Medal at the Royal Botanic Society’s exhibition of Plants, Flowers and Fruit, held in Regent’s Park, London on 13th May 1863, for his exhibit of 20 exotic orchids[18]. Later the same month he won first prize at the Crystal Palace Flower Show, again for his orchids[19] and on 27th May took third prize at the Royal Horticultural Society’s First Great Show[20]. The following year, he again won with his display of orchids; a Medium Gold Medal at the Royal Botanic Society Flower Show[21]; a £15 prize at the Crystal Palace Flower Show[22]; first prize at the Leeds Horticultural Society exhibition. At the Leicester Horticultural Show held in September, Mr. Turner had a display of plants occupying a space 40ft. long by 7ft. wide. At the centre was a 13ft, high Norfolk Island pine[23]. In 1865, he won an Extra Gold Medal for his orchids at the Royal Botanic Society’s second general exhibition, held in London on 14th June[24]. In 1867, he again won a Gold Medal at the Royal Botanic Society’s Show in London, for his collection of Orchids[25]. This time exhibited by Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Turner’s new gardener.

In 1867, Archibald Turner purchased a property, on the Narborough Road, Leicester, about half a mile to the south of his Bow Bridge factory, from Richard Harris, of West Cotes. Leicester. West Cottage as it was then known, although later renamed West Leigh, was built prior to 1827, when it was offered for sale or let being described as a “Hunting Box”, containing dining and drawing rooms, small library, four bed-rooms, servants’ rooms, kitchen, scullery, gook kitchen garden, large forcing pits, ice house and standing in nine acres of land. The property was probably built in the late 1810s or early 1820s as it was described as “nearly new[26]. The site was bounded on one side by the Narborough Road and on the other by Fosse Road. The entrance to the property was through a set of gates off the Narborough Road, past a granite-built ornamental lodge, occupied by the coachman. Here Archibald Turner appears to have built a new house in the gothic style, faced entirely in white bricks, with stone dressings to both the doors and windows. The ground floor included a spacious hall, three reception rooms and a billiard room; whilst on the first floor were nine bedrooms, three dressing rooms, a linen room and bathroom. There was also a cellar and various domestic offices. In the grounds there was stabling for three horses, a loosebox, two coach houses, a cow house, attached piggeries and a separate gardener’s cottage[27].

Some of the horticultural buildings that eventually occupied the estate appear to have been brought from Archibald Turner’s previous property, Bow Bridge House. These were moved by Thomas Messenger, who may have been responsible for building them originally.

Firstly in early 1867, Thomas Messenger undertook the removal, renovation, enlargement and rebuilding of a conservatory. This work included re-glazing the roof in ground glass, whilst the remainder was glazed using 1,060 square ft. of ‘good’ 21oz. glass and 600 square ft. of bent glass. There were new ornamental pilasters, carved by Messrs Rawlins, which included 63ft. of 2½-inch diameter columns and 36ft. length of 4½-inch by 2½-inch pilasters. The total estimated price was £224, which included £196 for removing, enlarging and re-erecting the conservatory, £4 for the ground glass for the roof, £8 5s. for Messrs Rawlins carving (for which Rawlins charge Thomas Messenger £7 4s.) and £15 15s. for the columns, pilasters, erection, painting, etc. The conservatory was elliptical in form, connected to the bay window of the Drawing Room via a small covered way. It had a lantern that was supported by two pillars, with ornamental bracket heads with bent glass running from the top of the sash windows up to the lantern, which also had bent glass to the top, on which was mounted two finials, with a row of cresting between them. Cresting also ran around the top the whole conservatory at the junction of the sash windows and roof. Ventilation was achieved by opening part of the upright sashes, together with the lantern sashes; both being operated by a single action by means of specially designed light cord and pulley system. The conservatory had a double door opening to garden, at the opposite end to the Dining Room[28] and was connected to the residence by a corridor.

A few months later, Archibald Turner received an estimate for a new plant house, which appears to have to be integrated into several orchid houses, which Messenger also relocated from the Bow Bridge House. The total estimate was £218 which included £14 for taking down and removing the orchid houses (40 days of a joiners time); £10 to “make good the orchid houses”; £5 5s. 11d. to cover replacing broken glass (this is obviously a contrived figure so to enable the estimate to come to a whole number of pounds); £16 for painting the orchid houses (two coats and 500 yards). The resulting structure was obviously more than a simple span shaped structure as the new components included eight uprights, two 14ft. 6in. by 7ft. 6in., two 7ft. 6in. by 7ft. 6in., two 3ft. 9in. by 7ft. 6in. and two 6ft. by 7ft. 6in. There were four sides of roof, two 23ft. by 10ft. and two 9ft. 6in. by 10ft. Five sides of an octagonal roof, three measuring 4ft. 9in. by 10ft., two measuring 3ft. 6in. by 10ft. There was also 3 finials, 22ft. of cresting, 1 set of ventilation apparatus, 170 superficial feet of flat staging and 85 superficial feet of stepped staging.

Several weeks later another estimate, this time for £318, dated 10th July, for an “entrance to Orchid Houses, Fernery, Potting House, &c.” Whether this was in addition to some of the components listed above or a replacement is unclear, although the latter is probable. Both estimates include removing and rebuilding the orchid houses. It appears that this estimate was intended to make the orchid houses, etc., have a similar appearance and style, to the new conservatory. Listed amongst the components was 44ft. of muntins “to match the conservatory”, which formed part of a 450½ superficial feet of new framing for the front. Also included in the new front was 330 superficial feet of glazed sashes, again presumably similar to that used in the conservatory. There were also 16 sets of pillars, “similar to those used in the conservatory”. 346½ superficial feet of new framing for the back of the house connecting the orchid and fern houses. There was 1,635 superficial feet of new roofing, 144 ft. of new ventilators; four sets of ventilation apparatus. An allowance was also made for extending the length of orchid houses, using 18 superficial feet of glazed partitions, 48 superficial feet of front lights and 260 superficial feet of new roofing.


Conservatory and Orchard Houses erected for A. Turner: the dome-roofed conservatory was attached by a corridor to the residence – 1877 Messenger & Co., Catalogue

Archibald Turner died on 10th November 1876, aged 67 and buried in Welford Road Cemetery, Leicester. In his will, he left West Leigh to his two remaining children, Luke and Harriett, with instructions that it was to be sold 6 months after his death and the proceeds divided between them. He appointed three employees (at his Bow Bridge Works), James M. Padmore, the cashier, Richard Taylor, warehouseman, and traveller and William Pegg, general manager, as his executors. The three were to continue jointly running the business for seven years, taking the profits, at which point they were to get the business valued and either buy it or offer it to his son Luke for the valuation price[29]. He left his cups and medals to his grandchildren and the extra-large gold medal to his daughter-in-law, Selina Turner. All the contents of his greenhouses, vineries, orchid houses and conservatories, along with all his vines, orchids and plants were to be sold off.


West Leigh, Leicester – 1888 OS Map

West Leigh was offered for sale by auction in May 1877, with the bidding only reaching £16,000, which was below the reserve, the property was withdrawn[30]. Interestingly at the same auction Luke Turner, Archibald’s son purchased a residence on Glenfield Road, known as Dane Hill View, also owned by Archibald Turner. Luke and his father had been in partnership running an elastic web manufacturing business known as Luke Turner & Co. In 1874, the partnership was dissolved with Luke Turner continuing to run the business on his own[31].

The property was subsequently offered for sale by private contract[32]. Here it was described as having “well-planted Pleasure Grounds, Gardens, Shrubberies, PLANTATIONS, Conservatories, Orchid Houses, Greenhouses, Vineries, Tropical Fernery, Aquarium, Fruit and Vegetable Gardens……..[33]. It appears that the property proved difficult to sell and was subsequently sub-divided becoming semi-detached[34]. Some of the grounds were later sold off as building plots, along with the two residences, confusingly both known as ‘West Leigh[35]. At some point prior to the end of 1883[36] part of the garden was taken to form Ash Leigh Road, now Ashleigh Road, which separated the former West Leigh residence from its original Lodge entrance.


West Leigh, Leicester – Special Edition 1912 OS Map

By the beginning of WWI, the residential infill of the original garden of West Leigh between Narborough Road and Fosse Road was complete. West Leigh remained until the 1960s when it was demolished, and replaced in the 1970s by three-storey block of flats, a petrol filling station and a single storey portal frame building, known as the Christadelphian Hall[37].



Thomas Messenger’s buildings fared less well than the residence. The conservatory was demolished sometime after 1930[38]. The Orchid House, fernery, etc., which appears to have been built behind the Lodge, disappeared along with the Lodge, prior to 1904[39]; being replaced by a series of terraced houses, which remain.


Other Clients

Amongst the horticultural buildings quoted for during the year included two 100ft. by 15ft. plant houses, both with finials and one with partitioning for John Barnett, the gardener to Revd. William Botfield[40] at Decker Hill, Shifnal, Shropshire. The Regency house is today the clubhouse for Shifnal Golf Club, having taken it over in 1964[41]. The quote which totalled £520 included 6 plant stages consisting of one 92ft. by 4ft. 6in; one 42ft. by 4ft.; two 50ft. by 2ft.6in; two 100ft.by 2ft. 6in. The two structures were to be heated using a boiler, priced at £12, 343 yards of 4-inch, 43 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 200 cement joints, taking an estimated 60 man-days for a fitter and a labourer to install. There is no conclusive evidence of these structures actually having been erected. The 1882 Ordnance Survey map shows several glasshouses to the west of the house, one long range of around 150ft.in length and three others around 30ft, in length.


Decker Hill, Shifnal – 1882 OS Map

A 40ft. by 18ft. structure with three sets of ventilation apparatus and a 40ft. by 2ft. 6in. slatted walk (£108) was ordered by John Stead[42], of Eden Lodge, Eden Place, Stanwix, Carlisle, followed later in the year by a 13ft. by 7ft. shed (£15 10s.). The south facing structures were located towards the north end of the property and remained, at least in part until the whole site was levelled and replaced by a small residential development prior to 1971[43].

An order for a 76ft. long lean-to structure with 2 sets of ventilation apparatus along with 60ft. by 3ft. plant staging (£91) for Edward George Hartnell who lived at Elfords, Stream Lane, Hawkhurst, Kent: with Messenger having previously submitted three estimates; the first of £182 10s. for a curvilinear front roof; the second of £174, using a straight glass on front roof; the third of £165 10s. for a straight fronted roof instead of curvilinear.


Elfords, Hawkhurst – 1872 OS Map

Abraham Brierley was a woollen manufacturer, who owned Spa Mills in Fenay Bridge, near Huddersfield. Towards the end of 1867, he ordered a heated span-roofed partitioned plant house, measuring 61ft. 6in. by 21ft. 6in, priced at £238. The structure was installed at Mr. Brierley’s residence, Ashfield House in Lepton, which was a little distance east of his mill. Included in the order were nine sets of ventilation apparatus, a No. 9 boiler, 180 yards of 4-inch, 17 yards of 3-inch, 28 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 126 cement joints. The price included £6 7s. 6d for installing the heating system, £8 4s. 1d for carriage, with Thomas Messenger applying a 25 per cent surcharge on all the pipework, adding an additional £6 15s., including carriage. The structure, which was not built until the following spring, brought the following testimonial from John Fletcher[44], Mr. Brierley’s gardener:-

Ashfield House, Lepton, near Huddersfield, June 25th 1868.

Sir,-The range of span-roofed Plant-houses you erected here last spring for Mr. Brierley has given great satisfaction, and your system of construction and ventilation has been highly approved of by everyone that has seen them. Your Heating Apparatus does its work beautifully; your system of heating any one house separately, or all together, I think is excellent, being so simple, yet so effective. Such a system cannot fail to recommend itself wherever used. I shall be pleased to recommend you ….

A couple of weeks after ordering the plant house, Mr. Brierley ordered a significant quantity of ironwork. This included 122ft. of 1⅛-inch by ⅜-inch bar, weighing 190lbs.; 62ft. of 1-inch by ¾-inch bar, weighing 50lbs; 48 double pendants, weighing 216lbs.; 24 single pendants, weighing 45lbs.; 1,200 ft. of wire, weighing 45lbs. Surprisingly the price was only £9 2s., which included an allowance of 12 man-days fixing time, at 5s. per day and carriage on the whole (£1 10s.). The exact use to which this framework was put remains a mystery.

During the year Messenger installed heating systems to a number of churches including, Harborough Magna, Warwickshire (£49) and King’s Heath, Birmingham (£13 10s. – chancel only). The firm also installed heating (£87 10s.) for Messrs Platt, Dobell and Co.[45], in their Manchester warehouse: provided a rough estimate (£50) to Messrs Thomas Turner and Co.[46], for heating their Phoenix Works workshops in Great Brickkiln Street, Wolverhampton: provided additional heating (£39 5s.) to several plant houses and vineries for Richard George Coke of Tapton Grove, Brimington, Derbyshire.

Thomas Messenger was also involved with a number of conservatories during the year, including an octagonal shaped one for Mr. Hoban, of No. 8, Prospect Place, Deal, Kent; two with heating, one for G.T. Dodson, of Kibworth House, Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire (£113) and another for John S. Tempest, paper manufacturer, of Little Eaton House, Derbyshire. The latter included a 78ft. by 8ft. long glazed and roofed corridor (£227). A 66ft. long conservatory, with plant stages and heating (no boiler) for Duke of St. Albans, at Bestwood Lodge, Arnold, Nottinghamshire (£218).

Thomas Messenger was obviously not adverse to building horticultural structures to other people’s designs. For example, he gave an estimate to John White Cater[47], Chairman of the London and Brazilian Bank[48], of £92 10s. for a 24ft. 3in. by 15ft. 9in. lean-to structure This was presumably to the customers own design as he also gave an estimate for the same sized structure using his own design, which was £16 less. He also gave an estimate to John Mitchell for a 22ft. wide conservatory, to a William King’s design.


Glazing, Plumbing and Gas Fitting

As previous years, Thomas Messenger relied on local custom for his glazing, plumbing and gas fitting departments.

One interesting job undertaken was for William Seward at the Old Plough Inn, Market Place, Loughborough, whereby his men had to “show up in the most careful manner possible….”. The work was obviously a refurbishment, possibly conversion into a shop. The workers were also under instruction that any of the old material not re-used was “be left on the ground”. The work appears to have been quite elaborate and involved, requiring an amount of new brickwork, shutters, new sash windows, with the option of converting to bay windows. The work also required the use of Hollington stone, red Mansfield tiles and numerous runs of Minton encaustic tiles, together with numerous architrave mouldings. The work also required the use of a large number of best polished British plate glass, not less than ⅜-inch thick, fixed with putty both front and back.

During the year, his glazing department work included:

  • Providing ¼in. thick plate glass (£1 9s.) to the Cooperative Stores in Wood Gate, Loughborough.
  • Polished plate glass to James Harding, a builder, of Hume Street, Loughborough, who was installing it for a Mr. Chester.
  • A 10ft. deep, 8ft. high 5-sided window frame and glass (£31-10) for Joseph Crosher, coal merchant, of Nottingham Road, Loughborough.
  • A 34ft. by 30ft. plate glass window (£1 5s.) for Mrs. Kenney, a milliner of Leicester Road, Loughborough, presumably an insurance claim as it was paid for by the Norwich and London Accident Insurance Association.
  • 140ft. of 21oz. sheet window glass (thirds), 92ft. crown glass, in addition to providing and fixing plumbing material (£16 10s.) for William Moss, builder, for new houses on Burton Street, Loughborough.
  • Glass for a rose window (£56 8s.) at Ratcliffe College, Ratcliffe on the Wreake.

Whilst work for his plumbing and gas fitting departments included:

  • Fitting out a new shop for William Chester, a draper, of High Street, Loughborough
  • Gas pipe work, fittings, etc., (£32 5s) as part of the renovations at the Wesleyan Chapel, Leicester Road, Loughborough.
  • A new closet (£5 6s.) at the Plough public house, in Derby Road, Loughborough for George Redrup, brewer.
  • Plumbing for William Perry Herrick, of Beaumanor Hall, Woodhouse, near Loughborough, including 1,160 yards of 2½-inch mains pipe, lead pipe, brass taps, etc. (£218).


Business Practices

By 1867, Thomas Messenger had adopted a number of business practices that the subsequent company of Messenger & Co. continued to embrace through its life.


Component Pricing

Horticultural buildings and heating apparatus were normally priced up using all the component parts. For example, the price for a simple 61ft. 6in. by 16ft. 6in. span roof house for Joseph Cedric Rivett, a cotton spinner, of Prestolee New Mills, Prestolee, Lancashire, was calculated on the amount (in superficial feet) of timber and glass required. two sides of roof (61ft. 6in. by 9ft. 6in each – 1168.5), two uprights (61ft. 6in. by 3ft. each – 369), two ends (16ft. 6in. by 6ft. each – 198) – amounted to 1,738 superficial feet (allowing for rounding up) was priced at 1s. 4d. per ft., including fixing.

For more complicated or elaborate structures where additional components were required, the charge per superficial foot varied dramatically. The upright framing of a conservatory and plant house possibly double span roof for Edward Finch Dawson, of Launde Abbey, East Norton, Leicestershire, was priced at 2s 3d. per superficial foot, the gables at 2s. (1s. 9d, if a single span roof) and the roof sides at 1s. 4d; an additional entrance at £2; guttering at 2s. 6d. per linear foot; downpipes at 6s. per linear foot; cresting at 9d. per linear foot, finials at 8s. each; ventilation apparatus at £1 15s. per set; flashing at 6p. per linear foot. It appears that structures that included bays were the most expensive being priced at 3s. 3d. per superficial foot.

Normal plant staging was typically priced at between 7d. and 10d. per superficial foot.

Ordinary horticultural glass was normally included in the price of the framing. However, where a customer specified non-standard glass, this was charged separately, sometimes with glazing also being additional.

Pricing heating systems was generally a more detailed and complex business, because they were normally bespoke. In the earlier years Thomas Messenger probably had a more limited range of components available to him; thus in 1867, the list of parts was probably less than twenty. Typically, heating systems included a boiler, low-pressure 4-inch, 3-inch and 2-inch diameter hot-water pipes, accompanying bends, tees, collars, siphons, joints, cisterns, vapour pipes, bleeding nipples, etc. Boilers were priced individually, based on ‘size’ i.e. heat output. Pipes, joints, bends and siphons were priced based on diameter and length. 4-inch pipes at 2s. 4d. per linear yard, 2-inch at 1s. 2d. or 1s. 3d. per linear yard. 4-inch bends, siphons joints, collars, tees, values, vapour pipes, cisterns and nipples were priced individually. 4-inch bends at 2s. 10d. or 3s. 4d. each; 2-inch bends at 1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. each. 4-inch siphons at 3s. 9d. or 4s. 6d. each. 4-inch collars at 1s. 9d. each. 2-inch tees at 2s. or 2s. 2d. each. Cement joints at 5d. each. Valves were charged individually dependent upon type e.g. a double 2-inch to 4-inch valve was priced at between £1 10s. and £1 15s.

Carriage to site or to the nearest railway stations was normally calculated separately, but included in the overall price. Sometimes contingencies and other potential incidental costs were incorporated. On occasions, these appears to be a slightly contrived figure, so as to allow final price to be a more rounded. For example, in one set of pricing the combined carriage and contingency amounted to £4 14s. 1d., to allow the total price to be £45. On another occasion it was £5 10s. 8d. giving a total price of £110.


On-site Installation

On-site installation work for standard horticultural buildings was typically included in the price of the structure. However, on occasions options were given; for example, a span roof house for Joseph Cedric Rivett was quoted at £121[49], including carriage and fixing or £114 for delivery to the nearest railway station only.

Heating apparatus installation and more complex horticultural building work were almost always estimated separately. This was done in terms of both man-days and skills required, with the price simply being calculated by multiplying the day rate for a particular skill by the number of days. Where work involved dismantling, and/or rebuilding, making good, etc., again the customer was charged on daily rate, with materials being charged separately.

In 1867, three skill types were being used, a fitter who was charged out at 5s. per day, a labourer at 3s. and a joiner at 5s. 6d.


Installation Teams

On-site erection was normally done by a team of two, one a skilled person together with a labourer; a joiner and labourer for erecting horticultural buildings; a fitter and labourer for installing heating apparatus. Obviously, these varied depending upon the actual job in hand. Occasionally on large installations, several teams would be involved and on smaller jobs, only three people (fitter, joiner and labourer) might be used, to both erect the structure and install the heating system.



Thomas Messenger recognised the importance of commission work and built up strong relationships with architects and other related professions, such as builders and nurserymen. For example, Messrs Bateman and Corser, architects, of No. 42, Cherry Street, Birmingham were involved in placing work in Messenger’s direction, with at least 6 orders in the three years from 1866 to 1868. These included including King’s Heath Church and St. Barnabas’ Church in 1866, Kings Heath Church again and Harborough Magna Church in 1867 and Tettenhall Wood Church, Tettenhall Wood, Wolverhampton and Samuel Thornley[50], at Gilbertstone House[51], Birmingham in 1868. This form of relationship with other related professions particularly architects and to a lesser extent with builders and nurserymen was an import method for the firm to obtain work and one the subsequent firm of Messenger & Co., actively promoted, even well into the twentieth century. In their 1925 catalogue, they list over 250 architects from whom they had received commissions.



The work of laying foundations, brickwork and stonework, which Thomas Messenger decided was not a core skill that he wished to have on his payroll. He preferred to sub-contract this work to specialists, normally a builder or stonemason. In the early years, Messenger usually engaged the sub-contractors, who were normally located close to the client. Later, this varied with the client or vendor sometimes, taking responsibility for the arranging for the foundations and any brickwork to be completed prior to Messenger fixing the structure, heating apparatus, etc. This on occasions led to disputes, delays and frustration on both sides. Even as early as 1867, Thomas Messenger preferred to employ a builder that he knew and obviously trusted. He often tried to use the services of William Moss, a Loughborough-based builder, even when the work was some distance from Loughborough. During the year, Messenger engaged William Moss on a number of jobs including work for William Dabbs, Town Grange, Rothley, Leicestershire; Mr. H. Simmonds, Dulwich, London; Mr. W. Barnett, Decker Hill, Shifnal, Shropshire.



  1. The Derby Mercury, 17th April 1867.

  2. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, which was established in 1860, was one of the largest and most important trade unions of the Victorian era. It was initially a very militant organisation.

  3. These included part of the King’s Head Hotel (now in 2011 The Ramada Hotel), and a couple of houses and shops that fronted High Street, with Messenger’s yard to the rear.

  4. The Loughborough News and General Advertiser, 30th May 1867.

  5. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 5th April 1860.

  6. The Morning Post, 3rd January 1861.

  7. The Manchester Times, 9th March 1861.

  8. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 4th March, 1899.

  9. Samuel Frisby was an Ironmonger, Market Place, Loughborough and Iron Founder, Britannia Foundry, Meadow Lane, Loughborough.

  10. The Derby Mercury, 8th January 1868.

  11. The Derby Mercury, 22nd January 1868.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Cambridge University Library; Classmark 1870.10.52.

  14. Donington Park and the Hastings Connection; Anthony Squires; Pub: 1996; Kairos Press.

  15. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 19th May 1860.

  16. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 30th June 1855.

  17. The Greater Wigston Historical Society, Bulletin 61.

  18. The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 16th May 1863.

  19. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 30th May 1863.

  20. The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 30th May 1863.

  21. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 4th June 1864.

  22. Ibid.

  23. The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 10th September 1864.

  24. The Gardeners’ Chronicle & Agricultural Gazette, 17th June 1865.

  25. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser,13th July 1867.

  26. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 27th October 1827.

  27. The Leicester Chronicle, 21st April 1877.

  28. A drawing of the conservatory appears in Thomas Messenger’s 1870 Catalogue.

  29. In the event, the three executors retained control of the business after seven years had elapsed , although by WWI is fell into decline and eventually went into voluntary liquidation in 1963. The factory building was demolished in 1965.

  30. The Leicester Chronicle, 19th May 1877.

  31. The London Gazette, 28th July 1874.

  32. The Leicester Chronicle, 19th May 1877.

  33. Ibid.

  34. The Leicester Chronicle, 26th April 1879.

  35. The Leicester Chronicle, 8th May 1880.

  36. The Leicester Chronicle, 15th December 1883.

  37. Ashleigh Road Conservation Area Character Statement, June 2000.

  38. Ordnance Survey Map.

  39. Ordnance Survey Map.

  40. Originally of Haughton Hall in Cheshire, he assumed the additional surname of Botfield in 1863.

  41. Shropshire Magazine, August 2007.

  42. A partner in the textile firm, Messrs Stead McAlpin and Co.

  43. Ordnance Survey Map.

  44. John Fletcher had previously been a gardener, seedsman, poultry and fish dealer, in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. He probably moved to work for Mr. Brierley as he had been declared a bankrupt – The Edinburgh Gazette, 8th May 1868.

  45. Cheese Factors.

  46. Safe manufacturers.

  47. Who lived at West Lodge, Barnet Hertfordshire.

  48. Founded in 1862. It took over the Anglo-Portuguese Bank in 1863. In 1923 it amalgamated with the London and River Plate Bank to form the Bank of London and South America.

  49. £115 17s 6d. for the structure and £5 2s. 8d. for carriage.

  50. A varnish and lacquer manufacturer.

  51. Gilbertstone House was built in 1867 for the Birmingham industrialist, Samuel Thornley, on the site of a small farmhouse. It was located on the west end of what is now Saxondale Avenue and the grounds covered half of Sunnymead Road and parts of Wensley Road, Brays Road and Wychwood Crescent.. It was demolished in 1937.