At the beginning of 1868, Thomas Messenger made the decision to separate his plumbing, glazing and gas fitting businesses from his horticultural building, hot water engineering, iron founding and valve manufacturing businesses.


Messenger and Perkins

He went into partnership with John Perkins, under the name of ‘Messenger and Perkins’ trading as plumbers, glaziers and gas fitters, whilst continuing to run the horticultural and other businesses on his own account. Both businesses continued to be run out of No. 24, High Street, Loughborough.


Advertisement – The Loughborough News, 9 July 1868

John Perkins was a plumber and glazier trading out of Pinfold Gate as early as 1861[1], where he also lived[2]. He appears to have moved out of Loughborough, before returning in 1868. During the intervening period, he may well have been working for at least part of that time in Oakham[3].

The new partnership was formerly announced in The Loughborough Monitor on 30th January:-


BEGS to inform his Patrons and the Public generally, that in consequence of the very rapid increase of his business, he has found it impossible to devote as much of his time and attention to the requirements of his Patrons as he would wish, or as their favours deserve, and being desirous that all orders he may be entrusted with should have the benefit of a responsible and interested supervision, has decided upon taking as a Partner.


who having had a great extent the management of these branches of his business for several years past, and being thoroughly and practically acquainted with every department, he feels convinced will be able to serve and attend to the requirements of his Patrons in such a manner as will ensure satisfaction. At the same time T. G. Messenger will continue to apply his joint efforts with those of J. Perkins. Under these arrangements greater facility will be ensured for executing all orders entrusted to them with dispatch and satisfaction.


Trust they will be honoured with the confidence, and favoured with the orders of those who have hitherto so liberally supported T. G. Messenger, when sole proprietor, and at the same time solicit the kind favours of the Public generally, assuring them that no efforts shall be spared to carry out the wishes of their Patrons in a thoroughly satisfactory manner.

Plumbing, Glazing, and Gas-fitting works in all their branches, executed in a workmanlike manner, on the shortest notice, and with materials of the best description.

N.B. – Gas fittings, Gas Globes, and Ornamental Window Glass, always in stock.

please address-



January, 1st, 1868

Presumably, the pressure of building up the horticultural and heating side of the business prompted the split. This allowed the new partnership to refocus on targeting a more local domestic clientele. Straightaway they opened an office in Quorndon, about two miles to the south of Loughborough and later one in Wymeswold, about six miles to the northeast. Almost immediately, the new firm were advertising for workmen. In September 1868, they were looking to recruit two ‘good’ glaziers[4] and the following February an experienced multi-skilled person capable of plumbing, glazing and gas fitting. They were offering the successful candidate a “constant situation”, although they were only interested in “good workmen” with references[5].


Advertisement – The Loughborough Monitor, 13 February 1868

Whilst the two businesses appear to have been run independently, not surprisingly there was an amount of interaction between them. On several occasions Messenger and Perkins was a customer of horticultural business. Equally, on other occasions the horticultural business used Messenger and Perkins for several of their customer-related plumbing work.

It appears that from this point forward Thomas Messenger concentrated on building up the horticultural, heating and valve business, leaving John Perkins to handle the other businesses. To help promote his re-structured business he produced a new catalogue[6], entitled “Horticultural Buildings, Hot Water and Hydraulic Appliances”, which contained 31 lithographs, illustrating his conservatories, greenhouses, vineries, pits and associated fittings and fixtures. The catalogue, which sold for a half-crown[7], contained an introduction by Thomas Messenger bestowing the virtues of construction using a combination of both wood and iron[8].

New Patents

Over a six-week period, between late May and the beginning of July 1868, Thomas Messenger submitted two further patent applications.

The first (No. 1868/1675) was an invention for “Improvements in fire engines or double action pumps” As part of the patent submission he described himself as a ‘Hydraulic Engineer and Valve Manufacturer[9]. No doubt, he used whichever description he thought was appropriate to the submission, because on the second application (No. 1868/2139) he described himself as a “Hydraulic Engineer, Valve Manufacturer, and Horticultural Builder”. This particular submission was for a design covering “Improvements in the construction and erection of buildings used for horticultural or other similar purposes and in machinery or apparatus employed therein”.


Quadrant Pump Patent (1868/1675)

To view the patent Click here (Opens a new tab)


Ventilation Apparatus Patent (1868/2139)

To view the patent Click here (Opens a new tab


Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 10 June 1871


The Royal Agricultural Society Show, Leicester

One of the apparent highlights of the agricultural year was the annual show of the Royal Agricultural Society, which in 1868 was held at the Race Course, Leicester, between 16th and 22nd August. The show attracted very large attendances, exceeding 96,000 over the first five days.

Predictably, Thomas Messenger exhibited a large array of his wares, including

  • A 30ft. by 16ft. curvilinear conservatory, using his new design, yet unpatented.
  • A 40ft. by 18ft. plant house and vinery.
  • A 50ft. by 7ft. covered peach wall.
  • A 20ft. by 12ft. portable tenant’s-fixture greenhouse.
  • A large double-action patent pump or fire engine.
  • A small double-action patent pump on wheels.
  • A small double-action garden engine, with zinc tub.
  • Three patent triangular tubular boilers.
  • Several valves.

Naturally, Thomas Messenger’s display received an interesting and probably forthright report in the local newspaper[11].

Of these, Mr. T. G. Messenger, horticultural engineer, of Loughborough, has certainly the best display, for he not only exhibits hot-houses of various constructions, but some of them are of great novelty. The most striking feature is a well-conceived curvilinear Conservatory, of extremely graceful, and, at the same time, unusual appearance. The outline is formed by what are familiarly known as 2 O G[12] curves meeting at the apex. These are covered with sashes some thirty inches deep, running from end to end of the house, hung, and overlapping each other. These are attached to Mr. Messenger’s patent ventilating apparatus, which is so arranged that one sash, or the whole of the sashes upon the house may be opened to any extent with no more trouble than is involved in simply turning a wheel. The principle of construction must possess many advantages for the growth of our more hardy greenhouse plants, and for the winter garden it must be perfection, as the fresh air is admitted in volume over the entire surface of the house. The appearance of this house is exceedingly light and graceful, and yet there is strength enough for all purposes. We think, however, in straining for a graceful outline. Mr. Messenger has lost sight of the useful, and that a flatter O G[13] curve would give more internal room, with less consumption of glass. This, of course, is a mere matter of detail, which will find its proper place in the course of time. The principle for gardening purposes is, no doubt, right, and will do much to rid our gardens of the common lean-to sheds which so frequently disfigure them. The other houses exhibited by Mr. Messenger a combines Vinery and Plant Stove Forcing House and Peach House, and a portable tenant’s fixture Greenhouse – the whole of these are constructed upon patented principles, the objects of which are so to combine iron and wood that the necessary strength may be secured with the smallest consumption of material. The forcing house or pit is constructed with extreme lightness of appearance yet is sufficiently strong for any purpose. The arrangement of hot water pipes is also novel, one set of pipes being found sufficient for both top and bottom heat. A newly designed pattern of sash bar is also used in the house, which prevents all drip. These houses will relay the careful inspection of all interested in horticultural appliances not the least interesting of which is his Triangular tubular Boiler and Valves, all of which we find useful in practice.

A Quadrant Pump from Mr. Messenger is quite a new invention, which appears capable of almost any service to which a pump can be applied, whilst its power is scarcely less than an ordinary brigade engine.

This report captures the progress that Thomas Messenger had made over the previous few years. This no doubt underlines the thinking behind his breaking-up the business and spinning off the more parochial elements into the partnership with John Perkins.

Thomas Messenger was not alone in displaying horticultural products. Messrs Ormson and Co., of Chelsea displayed their Paradigm hothouse, together with their heating apparatus. Messrs Cumming and Edwards displayed their octagonal conservatory, with ornamental zinc roof. Mr. Cranston of Birmingham had a fixed roof ventilating conservatory and hothouse. Finally, Mr. B. Wheeler, of Nottingham was there with his conservatory.

An illustration of an ogee house appeared in one of Thomas Messenger’s advertisements in 1871[14]; whether this was a ‘flatter’ version of the one shown at Leicester is unknown. The structure shown in the advertisement is similar to that described in the newspaper report, having a complete wall of sashes along the complete length on both sides of the house, with each sash probably being about 30 inches deep. The advertisement also demonstrates that the whole run of sashes could be opened so as to provide as much ventilation as was required.


Workload and Customers

Country County Town/Village Customer
England Bedfordshire Leighton Buzzard Mr. Thurgood
  Buckinghamshire Chalfont St. Peter John Nembhard Hibbert
    Gerrards Cross John Bramley-Moore
    Newport Pagnell J. Talbot
  Cheshire Chester Charles W. Ewing
    Wallasey Major James Walter
  Cumberland Botcherby Joseph Hamilton
  Cumberland Carlisle Haughton & Thompson
  Derbyshire Derby George Thompson
    Derby John Weston
    Derby Rev. William Blackwell Buckwell
    King’s Newton Mr. Cantrell
    Norbury J. Orpe
    Tapton Richard George Coke
  Devon Budleigh Salterton Ellen Dart
    Filleigh Earl Fortescue
    Lympstone Thomas Parr Perry
  Dorset Woodsford Rev. Thomas Wenham Knipe
  Gloucestershire Elmore Sir William Vernon Guise
    Stow-on-the-Wold Alfred Sartoris
  Hertfordshire St. Albans Col. Ames
    St. Albans Mr. Young
  Lancashire Manchester District Schools
    Manchester Elliott & Alston
    Manchester John Knowles
    Manchester Platt, Dobell & Co.
    Southport G.B. Barron
  Leicestershire Birstall William Worswick
    Castle Donington Marquis of Hastings
    Castle Donington Matthew Attwood
    Castle Donington Trustees of Wesleyan Chapel
    East Norton Edward Finch Dawson
    Great Glen Thomas Crick
    Hinckley John Atkins
    Hinckley Thomas Goadby
    Leicester A. Robinson
    Leicester Henry L. Jones
    Leicester Henry Snow
    Leicester Joseph Goddard
    Leicester Mr. Argyle
    Leicester Mr. Bates
    Leicester Mrs. Ellis
    Leicester P. Cox
    Leicester Samuel Stone
    Leicester T. Johnson
    Leicester Thomas Dalby
    Leicester Thomas Swift Taylor
    Leicester William Henry Bates
    Loughborough Ambrose Lisle March-Phillipps de Lisle
    Loughborough August Clarke
    Loughborough John Farrer
    Loughborough John W. Greenwood
    Loughborough Messenger & Perkins
    Loughborough Mr. Bassford
    Loughborough Primitive Methodist Chapel
    Melton Mowbray Mr. Milford
    Osbaston Thomas Cope
    Quorndon Dr. James Harvey Lilley
    Rothley John Snow
    Shangton William Pain
    Whitwick Waste William Whetstone
    Woodhouse William Perry Herrick
    Woodhouse Eaves Woodhouse Eaves Church
  Lincolnshire Grantham John Bailie or Bailey
    Lincoln George Maples Fox
    Witham on the Hill Charles Augustus Johnson
  Middlesex London Alfred Waterhouse
    London Charles F. Reeks
    London E. Ellis
    London Henry Baslegette
    London J.R. Lloyd
    London T. Broughton
    Wood Green Mr. Holland
  Northamptonshire near, Lower Weedon John Judkins
    Rushton Mr. Clarke-Thornhill
    Wansford J. Rooke
  Northumberland Morpeth The Hon. & Rev. Francis Richard Grey
  Nottinghamshire Arnold Duke of St. Albans
    East Leake H. Angrave
    Mansfield Committee of Mansfield Cooperative Society Ltd Stores
    Newstead William Frederick Webb
    Nottingham Henry Farmer
    Nottingham Mr. Clarke
    Nottingham Mr. Stokes
    Nottingham S.D. Cox
    Ruddington Mr. Thomas Cross
    South Collingham Thomas Smith Woolley
  Oxfordshire Bicester Mrs. C. Roberts
  Rutland Oakham Arthur Blackwood
  Shropshire Whitchurch J. Beckett
  Staffordshire Betley Thomas Fletcher Twemlow
    Burton upon Trent G. Cooper
    Stafford G.F. Griffin
    Tettenhall Tettenhall Wood Church
    Whittington Edward Holmes
  Surrey Hersham Mr. Stubbings
  Surrey Walton-on-Thames Paul Cababe
  Sussex St. Leonards on Sea C. Lock
  Warwickshire Birmingham Edward Armfield
    Birmingham Lt. Col. Racliffe
    Birmingham Roman Catholic Chapel
    Birmingham W. Perks, Jun & Co.
    Coventry Robbins & Powers
    Hartshill Major Gee
    Royal Leamington Spa John Panton Gubbins
    Rugby Mr. Parker
    Southam G.W. Kershaw
  Wiltshire Calne Wilkins & Son
  Worcestershire Birmingham Henry Pope
    Birmingham John Cartland
    Tutnall William Edward Everitt
  Yorkshire, North Riding Middlesbrough George Neesham
  Yorkshire, West Riding Bingley Alfred Harris, junior
    Bradford C. Anderson
    Huddersfield E. Hirst
    Huddersfield James Brooke
    Leeds John Manning
    Lepton Abraham Brierley
    Settle H. Christie
    Sheffield Francis Ebenezer Smith
    Sheffield Francis Hobson
    Sheffield John Adams
    Sheffield Joseph E. Oxspring
    Sheffield Mr. S?????
    Sheffield William Hobson Peach
  Unknown Unknown ??? Chapel
  Unknown Unknown Capt. Pochen
France   Côtes-d’Armor R.H. Ingram
Scotland Lanarkshire Glasgow Committee of Royal Botanic Gardens
Wales Denbighshire Denbigh J.G. Roberts
  Monmouthshire Cwmbran Clark & Son


The records for 1868 show a slight increase in numbers of estimates and orders compared with the previous year. As these figures exclude almost all of plumbing, glazing and gas fitting orders and estimates, because of the split off, there was like for like increase in the region of 20 per cent, compared with the previous year. About one fifth were for horticultural only products, with a similar figure for heating only. Essentially half were for a combination of horticultural products and heating, with or without boilers, with around 10 per cent for non-horticultural heating.

Geographically, the spread was similar to the previous year but the percentages differed, mainly because of the removal of plumbing, glazing and gas fitting work, which were almost entirely based in Loughborough and its immediate neighbourhood. Even so, it is still a relatively local clientele with around 44 per cent residing in the counties Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire; increasing to around 60 per cent if Rutland, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire are included. The north and south of England accounted for about 15 per cent each.

Interestingly, Thomas Messenger received an order from Messenger and Perkins for installing heating to a conservatory for a Mr. Musters. The price of £21 included 18 man-days fixing time, with an additional 20 per cent mark-up on the price of the pipes. The latter was a standard figure applied to all heating pipes at this time.

The only overseas customer during the year was a R.H. Ingram, of 15, Haut-bourg-neuf, Côtes-d’Armor[15], France, who ordered a 20ft. by 10ft. span roof house, with a boiler and heating pipes; the price of £41 6s. included carriage to Southampton.


Influential Customers

During the year, Messenger undertook work on behalf of several influential Customers.


Earl Fortescue, Castle Hill, Devon


Earl Fortescue, of Castle Hill, Filleigh, Devon, purchased a heated range of ¾-span houses, which included a vinery (1,1176 superficial feet), early and late peach houses (1,081 and 572 superficial feet, respectively) and a greenhouse (1,984 superficial feet). The total price of £743 10s. (£129, £121, £68 10s, £237 respectively and £188 for the heating) was by far the largest single order received during the year. In addition, he provided and installed a No. 9 boiler which was connected an existing set of pipework to heat what was then known as No. 1 and No. 2 houses. The price of £34, included £16 for the boiler, £5 1s. carriage and rail fare; £4 19s. (18 days at 5s. 6d. per day) for a man to fix and connect the boiler and £3 contingency.


Castle Hill, Filleigh – 1880 OS Map

The work brought the following testimonial from Mr. Brewer, Earl Fortescue’s agent:

Castle Hill, Devon, July 13th, 1868.

Dear Sir,—I have heard from Earl Fortescue that he is satisfied with, your plans for the Hothouses here, and thinks them on the whole the best he has yet seen; and I consider that you have carried them out satisfactorily, both as regards materials amid workmanship, since his Lordship left Castle Hill,

Mr Baillie, the Gardener, is also perfectly satisfied with your plans and work. He considers your method of heating seven large Rouses from one Boiler especially successful. —Yours truly, D. P. BREWER,


Castle Hill, Filleigh – 1877 Messenger & Co. Catalogue

Floral Hall, Covent Garden

The Floral Hall stands just to the south of the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden. It was designed by architect Edward Middleton Barry, for the theatre’s management. It had a large glass and iron structure in style of the Hyde Park Crystal Palace which was erected by Frederick Gye. When it opened in early 1860, it had 75ft. frontage onto Bow Street, was over 200ft. long and 60ft. high. The main entrance was on Bow Street; internally it was divided into a central area with aisles down either side. The building eventually fell into disrepair, before being redeveloped, in the 1990s. The hall now forms part of the Royal Opera House complex and acts as an atrium and public area for the Opera House.


Floral Hall, Covent Garden, c.1870

Messenger was approached in 1868 to provide an estimate for installing heating into the Floral Hall, a little less than ten years after it originally opened. His design involved installing two large boilers, together with all the low-pressure heating apparatus, which included 2-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch and 5-inch hot water pipes. Intriguingly no radiator coils were included, with total reliance on there being sufficient pipe surface area to provide adequate heating. The price of £465 included £60 for the two boilers, £213 8s. 4d. for 1.270 yards of 4in. pipes; £17 17s. for 119 siphons, £21 13s. 4d. for 1,300 cement joints, £20 for carriage from Loughborough to London. Messenger included £38 for a 15 per cent mark-up on the pipes, etc. 200 man-days was estimated for installation, 100 each for a fitter and labourer and priced at £45 (5s. 9d. and 3s. 3d. per day respectively). Surprisingly only £4 9s. 11d. was included for contingencies. Also included in the estimate was £15 for altering the ventilation system on each side of the hall, to allow the windows to open using Messenger’s patent apparatus.


Donington Park, Castle Donington, Leicestershire



In December John Mclean, the gardener at Donington Park, Castle Donington, Leicestershire enquired about a new heating system. Thomas Messenger gave his response to both Mr. McLean and a Mr. German, who may have been the land agent. The proposed heating system, for an undocumented set of structures, which must have been considerable as it required two No. 10 boilers, priced at £17 10s. each. Other components included 276 yards of 4-inch, 6 yards of 3-inch, 80 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 200 cement joints. The total price given to Mr. German was £148, which allowed for 48 man-days installation and included a twenty per cent mark-up on everything, including man time. The equivalent quote given to John McLean was only £121 15s. A note is appended to the record book entry, indicating that if Lady Rawdon “takes the gardens” and pays John McLean for the heating apparatus, then John McLean had to pay £10 to Thomas Messenger. The timing of this is very peculiar because Henry Rawdon-Hastings, fourth Marquis of Hastings, a renowned gambler had died on 10th November in London, aged only 26. He had already sold off several estates and apparently mortgaged Donington Park to help pay off his gambling debts. The Lady Rawdon referred to in the record book was presumably Lady Florence Rawdon the 4th Marquis’ widow.


Industrialists and Businessmen

An important class of potential client was emerging at around this time. These were successful industrialists and businessmen, who had made their money and were looking to invest in their recently acquired residences. Initially they required conservatories, vineries, etc., whilst later it was ‘central heating’.


William Edward Everitt

William Edward Everitt was a partner in the firm of Allen Everitt and Sons[16], metal tube and wire manufacturers, located at the Kingston Metal Works in Bridge Street, Smethwick. He lived at Finstall House, Tutnall, Worcestershire, which was described[17] as a “fine mansion, surrounded by an extensive and beautiful park”, which he probably bought in 1868[18]. He appears to have almost immediately set about enhancing it. In June, Messenger gave him three different estimates. The first of £189 1os. was for a conservatory, with gable entrance, plant staging and heating (with provision made for heating the billiard room, coach house, etc.). The second of £100 10s. was for a 62ft. by 8ft. partitioned lean-to forcing house (capable of being taken to pieces) with ventilation apparatus, plant stages and heating. The third for £172 was for a single 46ft. by 18ft. structure, partitioned so to serve as two vineries, along with an iron walk, ventilation apparatus, vine wiring and heating with boiler.

In October, William Everitt accepted all three estimates with a couple of minor modifications. The vinery structure was increased by 2ft.and divided into three, instead of two and the forcing house was divided into two. These changes increased the total price by £15 to £477.


Major James Walter

Major James Walter, who was a partner in Messrs Wilson, Son and Walter, managers of The City of Cork Steam Packet Company. He lived at Verulam, Grove Road, Wallasey, Cheshire, which he had built for himself around 1861. It was reputedly named Verulam, as Major Walter claimed to be related to the Earls of Verulam[19].



Major Walter purchased the 8,000 square yard plot in 1860 on which to build his residence, extending the plot by an additional 17,000 square yards in 1866. When Major Walker moved out in the late 1870s, unable to pay the mortgage, it was renamed ‘Wallasey Grange’ and today (2015) is simply known as ‘The Grange’.

In 1868, Major James Walter made enquiries regarding a heated 71ft. by 20ft. ¾-span roof building with gable entrance, resulting in an estimate of £177.


Veralum, Wallasey – 1875-6 OS Map

The 1875-6 Ordnance Survey map shows 7 separate standalone horticultural structures, together with 2 which are attached to the residence, one of on the south side and another, much larger, on the north side. None of them appears to have a gable entrance. When the property came up for sale in 1878[20] it was described as standing in 5¼ acres, with 35ft. by 20ft. drawing room, a 33ft. by 17ft. dining room, connected to a large conservatory, 23ft. by 18ft. 6in. morning rooms, eight bedrooms along with numerous further rooms. Outside there were the two conservatories, a 22-ft. long range of vineries, two other span roof vineries, one 78ft. long and another 76ft. long, a 141ft. long peach house. All described as being “thoroughly practical in working and constructed with a view to self-support”.

When Major Walter left Wallasey, he became Manager of the old London, Chatham and Dover Railway. He died in January 1900[21], aged 82, whilst living Stratford Lodge, Richmond upon Thames, London.


John Knowles

John Knowles (1810-1880) who was born in Manchester is probably best known as the proprietor of the old Theatre Royal in Fountain Street, from 1842 until it burnt down in May 1844. He subsequently built a new Theatre Royal, in Peter Street, which opened in September 1845, remaining sole owner before handing control over to a limited company in March 1875[22].

John Knowles start in business was as a stagecoach proprietor, later succeeding his father in the coal and marble trade. For a period, he was the proprietor of a corn and flourmill at Nuneaton and later in life became a director of the Lancashire and Mutual Insurance Companies[23].

Reportedly, he was also a successful cultivator of exotic plants and as early as November 1850, he received a Banksian medal from the Horticultural Society for a new Burlingtonia from Demerara, covered with numerous pendent spikes of beautiful white blossoms[24].

John Knowles lived at Trafford Bank House, Old Trafford, Manchester and in 1868 he purchased a heated 30ft. by 20ft. partitioned house with an iron door and frame; four sets of ventilation apparatus; a No. 7 boiler; 55 yards of 4-inch; 53 yards of 3-inch; 82 yards of 2-inch pipes; 30 cement joints. The price of £138 included 20 man-days for installing the heating system, split evenly between a fitter and his labourer.

Four years previously, he had purchased a significantly large greenhouse, several ventilation systems, heating apparatus, and valves from Thomas Messenger, for which in October 1864 he gave the following testimony:

SIR —I have great pleasure in saying that the two Glass Houses you have erected for me give entire satisfaction. I consider your principles of construction thoroughly scientific, and admirb1y adapted for such structures, and I would mention particularly your Ventilating Apparatus which opens the front lights of my 168 feet House at once with ease. Also the same on roof, which I think has not a parallel. I can also, for the limited time it has been in action, speak in the highest terms of your Patent Heating Apparatus, both for beating power and economy of fuel, which you have fixed for my six Houses, and your Patented double valves act perfectly, enabling me to shut off the heat from any or more of the houses or the top or bottom heat as may be required. I trust to be able to speak still further to the efficiency of your Apparatus after it has stood the test of winter months, and it will at all times give me pleasure to testify to the merits of the works you have executed for me, and a personal inspection of them can be had at any time by a note from yourself.—I remain, Sir, yours truly, John Knowles.

Around 1877, John Knowles moved from Manchester to The Lawn, Newbold Road, Rugby, Warwickshire and appears to have engaged Messenger & Co., to dismantle at least some of his greenhouses, together with a conservatory at Trafford Bank House and re-erect them at his new residence, at a cost of £340 8s. 3¾d.

John Knowles died at his residence in Rugby on 18th February 1880, aged 69. Three months later the property was sold being described as a desirable freehold residence or hunting box, standing within its own pleasure grounds, lawns, gardens and pleasures, amounting to 2 acres, 2 roods and 32 perch. The house had three reception rooms, eleven bedrooms, three dressing rooms, a boudoir, etc.; whilst in the grounds there was a “conservatory, vinery, green and other glass houses”, along with stabling for six horses, a coach house and piggeries[25]. The house still survives, at one time used by the local authority as municipal offices; while the surrounding gardens have not fared so well and are now partly occupied by a leisure centre; known as Benn Hall.


William Whetstone



William Whetstone, who lived in Broom Leys, Whitwick Waste, Leicestershire, was a tile, and mosaic manufacturer and colliery proprietor in Coalville, Leicestershire. His brother Joseph, who was mayor of Leicester in 1839, bought the property in 1845, which William inherited on his brother’s death in 1868. William immediately set about building a new house, with the help of architect Joseph Goddard[26].

William Whetstone requested a number of estimates from Thomas Messenger over the following two years. The first, in early November was worth £552 for a series of structures. These included a 46ft. by 19ft. span roof plant house, a 130ft. by 14ft. ¾-span roof partitioned range with 2ft. 6in. wide iron walk along the complete length, a 22ft. by 8ft. 6in. span roof peach house, 1,400 superficial feet of vine wire and a number of flat, stepped and slate plant stages with bearers. All the structures were to be heated using a No. 10 boiler with 292 yards of 4-inch; 35 yards of 3-inch, 70 yards of 2-inch heating pipes, along with 200 cement joints and 60 man-days fixing time. Two weeks later another estimate was submitted this time valued at £124 for a range of only 60ft. instead of the original 130ft. with proportionally less partitions.


Broom Leys, Whitwick Waste – 1883 OS Map


Having received two estimates the previous November William Whetstone had obviously still not made a decision as he requested four further sets of estimates, between February and May 1869.

The first set consisted of four estimates with a total value of £304. The first estimate was for a heated 36ft. by 12ft. ¾-span structure, using a No. 2 boiler with 36 yards of 4-inch, 33 yards of 1½-inch and 30 cement joints. The second was for heating a pit using an existing boiler, 11 yards of 4-inch, 7 yards of 1½-inch and cement joints. The third was for a stove house as an extension to an existing house, heated using an unspecified boiler, 11 yards of 4-inch, 18 yards of 1½-inch pipe and 10 cement joints. The fourth was for a greenhouse with gabled entrance with the stove house, as in the third estimate.

The second set towards the end of March valued at £137 included two vineries in a single partitioned 54ft. 6in by 16ft. 9in. structure, with a 54ft. by 2ft. 9in. iron walk, 1,145 superficial feet of vine wire and two finials.

The third set a couple of weeks later valued at £53 was to heat the 54ft. 6in. long range included a No. 6 boiler, 108 yards of 4-inch, 24 yards of 3-inch and 70 cement joints.

The final set, in the middle of May, consisted of two estimates both for conservatories. The first a heated 45ft. by 10ft. partitioned lean-to conservatory, using an existing boiler, 64 yards of 4-inch, 20 yards of 2-inch pipes and 60 cement joints. The second for a 2ft. wider partitioned conservatory, with the extra 2ft. width adding an additional £33 8s. It is difficult to determine exactly which, if any, of the estimates were accepted.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1883 shows the new residence, together with four horticultural structures. One south facing, adjoining the house, was presumably a conservatory. Another to the east, link attached to the presumed conservatory, again south facing and for the most part backed up against an existing wall, probably with a ¾-span roof. Two further structures occur towards the western perimeter of the gardens, one almost square, presumably with a double span roof and the other being much smaller.

At the time of William Whetstone’s death in 1900 all four structure were still extant. The residence was subsequently purchased by the Broom Leys Estate Co. Ltd., in 1903 and sold again five years later to Horace Rendall Mansfield, Member of Parliament for Spalding, Lincolnshire. He only owned it for three years before being purchased by the Whitwick Colliery. During the WWI, it was used to house refugees and from 1915 used as a hospital catering for those wounded in the war. By 1925, it had become a school and remained that until the present day (2012)[27]. All four horticultural structures were removed prior to 1929[28], although the rest of the outbuildings building appear relatively unaltered.


The Star Foundry



In July 1867[29], Thomas went into partnership with his former brother-in-law John William Taylor and Edwin Cooke. Together they purchased a property on the corner of North Road and Barrack Row, from the Burton’s Charity. The site had been a barracks[30] from around 1840[31] and later the headquarters of the Loughborough Rifle Corps[32].


Star Foundry, corner of North Road (now Nottingham Road) and Barrack Row, Loughborough – 1883-4 OS Map

The partnership then set about transforming the site into The Star Foundry to be managed by Edwin Cooke. The purchase did not go smoothly and it was not until two years later, in 1869[33], that the conveyance was completed; however this did not stop the business from opening, which was formally announced in the local newspaper in July 1867[34]:-



The above Company beg respectfully to announce that they have become Proprietors of the large and commodious premises for many years known as the Barracks, which they have made (by the erection of Foundry and complete machinery) suitable for the carrying on of the business of Iron and Brass Foundry.

The S.F.C. in making this announcement humbly solicit a share of public patronage.

Having a thorough practical knowledge of the business, and every facility at their command, confidently assure their employers that all orders entrusted to their care will be promptly and efficiently executed at the lowest prices consistent with good metal and careful workmanship.

Castings of every description both in iron and brass, made to employer’s own patterns. Also, Patterns made to order, if required

N.B. – All orders addressed to

The Manager of The Star Foundry Co.,

Nottingham Road, Loughborough

(E. Cooke, Manager)

Edwin Cooke continued to manage the foundry until his death in 1907, aged 67, when it was taken over and run by his wife, Ellen. The foundry was still working as recently as the mid-1960s; today the site is now occupied by a Post Office sorting office.

Not only was The Star Foundry a supplier but it was also a customer, for it ordered greenhouse-heating apparatus, including a boiler, to be shipped to Derby railway station.


Site of the Star Foundry – 2016

Intriguingly, the Star Foundry was on several occasions a competitor of Thomas Messenger. For example in 1871 both tendered for the Local Board of Health’s contract to supply flushing valves. Amongst five tenders, Thomas Messenger won the contract with a submission of £2 8s. against £2 10s. from The Star Foundry[35]. The same year The Star Foundry was also found to be far too expensive in another Local Board of Health’s contract for street indicators for the local waterworks’ hydrants[36]. Its’ submission was 2s. against the winning submission of only 9d[37].

Whilst Messenger by now may have had a foundry attached to his own works in the High Street, it might have been his idea to secure a ready source of material, particular boiler components, for his expanding business. On several occasions between 1868 and 1870, The Star Foundry provided the ironwork for Messenger, including a cast iron boiler and ironwork for several conservatories.


Site of the Star Foundry – 2016

Miss Ellen Dart

Upper West Terrace, Budleigh Salterton – 1889-90 OS Map

The first was for Miss Ellen Dart, the daughter of Joseph Dart, who died in November 1866[38] and had for many years been principal secretary of the East India Company. Father and daughter lived together at Marine Villa, Upper West Terrace, Budleigh Salterton, Devon from before 1851[39]. In September 1868, she received two estimates. The first of £198 included a 50ft. by 40ft. run of ironwork, for along the whole front “from the base to the pinnacle”, to be supplied by The Star Foundry. The price charged to Thomas Messenger was £62 10s., to which he added ten per cent. The record book entry makes reference the first estimate being to “as Plate 13”, which presumably is reference to his catalogue. Assuming that he did not change his catalogue drastically between 1868 and 1870 when plate 13 was described as an “iron ridge and furrow-roof conservatory, with Gothic tracery, parapet, iron pillars, with foliated capitals, and segment arches”. This would fit in well with The Star Foundry providing the elaborate ironwork.


Miss Dart received a second estimate of £189 this time for a different design of conservatory. This was 32ft. long with gable and described as per “Plate 9” in the catalogue. Again, the respective plate in the 1870 catalogue appears to illustrate the conservatory, which was described as “a good ridge and furrow-roofed Conservatory, with projecting porch entrances. The Conservatory is designed with Gothic details, and is suitable either as a detached erection, or to attach to a residence. The interior would be fitted with plant stages round the sides, and a centre bed for planting out large plants”. This time the description does not completely tally with the component that includes one gable and that appears to be larger than the description allows. The component list also does not refer to The Star Foundry, although amongst the components are 15 iron columns with base and caps, priced at £1 each.

Miss Dart subsequently accept the first estimate i.e. the design based upon ‘plate 13’.


Conservatory at Marine Villa, Upper West Terrace, Budleigh Salterton, Devon – 1877 Messenger & Co. Catalogue

The following July, Thomas Messenger was again engaged by Miss Dart, this time for estimates for four sets of fittings. The first two were for a 15ft. and 6ft. long upright “guard for flowers”, which included grating in the bottom of both. It appears that they were to be placed in front of two windows, one a bay and the other straight. The estimate for the 15ft. guard in front the bay window, which included carriage, fixing and painting was £4 18s.; whilst that for the 6ft. straight window was £2 4s. The other two estimates were for cresting above the same two windows, again including grate bottoms. The estimate of £3 15s. for the bay window included carriage, fixing, and painting, with 13ft. of cresting and 22 superficial feet of grate bottoms. That for the straight windows was £1 15s., including carriage, fixing, and painting, with 6ft. of cresting and four superficial feet of grate bottoms. It appears that the estimate for the guards was not accepted.


Upper West Terrace, Budleigh Salterton – 1970-81 OS Map

The conservatory is clearly depicted on maps from the late 1880s until the 1930s.. By the mid-1950s, it appears to have been replaced by one of a simpler rectangular shape with a smaller footprint. In the 1970s[40], the property and its neighbour then known as Ingleside Hotel and “Tremichael” respectively, were demolished to make way for a development, which still exists, comprising of three unprepossessing blocks of flats, known as Ingleside Court.




George Maple Fox

Another example of using The Star Foundry to supply components was for George Maples Fox, an ironmonger of No. 206, High Bridge, Lincoln. On behalf of an unknown client, George Fox received five estimates from Thomas Messenger.

The first of £51 was for a 2oft. long conservatory delivered to Lincoln railway station. The components included seven 7ft. 3in. long cast iron columns and two 19ft. long girders from The Star Foundry. The second estimate of £4 10s. was for 20 man-days for a fitter and labourer to erect the structure. The third of £15 5s. for glazing using 666 superficial feet of 21oz. plate glass. The fourth of £4 10s. for painting the structure both sides with three coats of paint. The last estimate of £14 10s., for providing and installing the heating system to the conservatory. This included a No. 1 size boiler, 30 yards of 4-inch heating pipe, 4 yards of 2-inch, 20 cement joints allowed seven man-days (5 for a fitter and two for a labourer) for installation.


No. 206, High Street, Lincoln – 2013



  1. Drake’s Directory of Leicestershire, 1861. ?

  2. 1861 Census. ?

  3. White’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland 1863. ?

  4. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 12th September 1868. ?

  5. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 13th February 1869. ?

  6. Printed by Thomas Forman, Long Row East, Nottingham. ?

  7. Two shilling and six pence. ?

  8. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen, Vol. XV (New Series) 1868, page 77. ?

  9. The London Gazette, 5th June 1868. ?

  10. The London Gazette, 16th July 1875. ?

  11. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 17th Friday 1868. ?

  12. Ibid. ?

  13. Ibid. ?

  14. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 10th June 1871. ?

  15. The department was called Cotes du Nord in 1867. The name changed to Côtes-d’Armor in 1990. ?

  16. The company, which still exists, was taken over by I.C.I. Metals Ltd., in 1930. In 1971 the works changed its name from the Kingston Metal Works to the Allen Everitt Works. ?

  17. Post Office Directory of Worcestershire, 1876. ?

  18. Surrey History Centre ref: 6200/ADD/Box 7 – 1868-1879. ?

  19. History of Wallasey. ?

  20. The Liverpool Mercury, 14th June 1878. ?

  21. The Manchester Times, 19th January 1900. ?

  22. Manchester Times, 28th February 1880. ?

  23. The Annals of Manchester : a chronological record from the earliest times to the end of 1885; Printed in 1886; Page 375. ?

  24. The Florist and Garden Miscellany, 1850. ?

  25. The Standard, 16th May 1880. ?

  26. Joseph Goddard (1839/40-1900) was a Leicester-based architect, responsible for a number of buildings in the city. He trained in his father’s architectural practice, but later worked independently. ?

  27. Broom Leys Primary School.?

  28. Ordnance Survey Map. ?

  29. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury 18th March 1899 The Loughborough News and General Advertiser, 25th July 1867. ?

  30. Housing soldiers destined for the Crimea War. ?

  31. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 18th March 1899. ?

  32. Drake’s Directory of Leicestershire, 1861. ?

  33. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 18th March 1899. ?

  34. The Loughborough News and General Advertiser, 25th July 1867. ?

  35. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 9th September 1871. ?

  36. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 6th May 1871. ?

  37. The winning tender was by Messrs Thomas & Albert Marshall, ironmongers, Market Street, Loughborough. ?

  38. The Times, 1st December 1866. ?

  39. Census. ?

  40. East Devon District Council – Budleigh Salterton Town Design Statement. ?