Cucumber House and Frames

Early in 1869, Thomas Messenger received a very favourable account of his cucumber house, in a newspaper article on the cultivation of cucumbers. The article gave a detailed description of the “cucumber house[1]:

This is about ten feet wide, with dwarf upright sashes on the sides and a span roof, the timber being very light and strengthened by tie rods. Ventilation is effected by underground air drains and sashes in the roof worked by Mr. M’s peculiar machinery. The internal fittings consist of a mid-pathway about three feet wide and a border on each side retained by brick work. Under the border in the chamber is placed four or five of troughed four-inch pipes for heating, the hot air being conveyed into the house through shafts provided for the purpose. By this arrangement no heating pipes are seen and the house has a very neat appearance. When not required for the growth of Cucumbers, the side borders, being nearly four feet wide, are used for forcing strawberries or French Beans, or the house is admirably suited for growth of early Grapes in pot. We ought to remark that the bottom of the bed over the heating chambered is formed of strong slate slabs, which may be raised or lowered as a deep border or no border may be required

Despite getting a good write-up, it appears that Thomas Messenger sold relatively few of these during the previous year. Robert Johnson Goodacre, an architect, of No. 5, Friars Lane, Leicester, enquired about one amongst other items on behalf of the owner of Quenby Hall, Hungarton, Leicestershire.

Cucumber or melon pit – 1870 Catalogue

Thomas Fletcher-Twemlow of Betley Court, Betley, Staffordshire was sent an estimate of £62 10s. for a 36ft. by 12ft. span-roofed cucumber and melon house. This was one of a number sent in November 1868; the others included a 40ft. by 18ft. plant house (£93); plant house staging (£15); heating the plant house (£28-15s); heating for a forcing house, including a boiler (£44); various lintels and shuts (£11 15s.). These was followed up less than a month later by estimates for an alternatively sized plant house (36ft.) with staging and heating (£135) and a 60ft. by 12ft. structure, including both stepped staging and heating, with boiler (£153 10s.). There is no direct evidence as to whether any of the structures were actually built. However, a little under eight years later, in 1876, Messenger & Co. won an order to build a 56ft. long partitioned heated vinery and 63ft. long heated peach house. These were built just north of the residence, in what appears to have been a walled kitchen garden. These greenhouses remained until after 1976, when following the death of Charles Fletcher-Twemlow, the land and buildings were left to a Trust and Betley Court apparently fell into disrepair[2]. The property was subsequently purchased by Professor Brown, who restored the property[3]. At the same time, permission was given to convert the stables block into residential properties and to insert a new road (Court Walk) to the rear of the site to allow several new houses to be built on the site previously occupied by the presumed kitchen gardens.

Cucumber Frame – 1870 Catalogue

It appears that Thomas Messenger was marketing both a cucumber house and frame; the house being much larger and sturdier that the frame or box, which was probably simply a modified propagating frame. The cucumber frame was one of a number of portable structures that featured in his catalogue. Others included a cucumber or melon pit, portable ground vinery, portable fruit tree protector, cucumber glass and various hand glasses.

Hand Glasses

During the year, he sold one to Arthur Blackwood, of The Cedars, Oakham, Rutland who bought one cucumber box and three 7ft. by 3ft. 6in. lights glazed with 15oz. glass for a total of £5.

In 1869, Thomas Messenger sold a 3-light 9ft. by 6ft. unglazed cucumber frame for £5 to Christopher L’Estrange of Kevinsfort, County Sligo. Mr. Thomas Forman of Nottingham received two estimates for cucumber houses, the first of £40 10s. for a heated 27ft. by 9ft. house with 380ft. of framing wire. The second for a heated 17ft. 6in. by 8ft. house with 210ft. of framing wire.



During the year, Thomas Messenger continued his round of exhibitions, including attending the Royal Horticultural Society’s Manchester Show, in July. Here he displayed several new structures, including a peach wall house, as well as his patented ½ span roof plant house and span roof propagating house[4]. These structures were according to another report “all in that light and graceful style peculiar to Messrs Messenger[5]. He also exhibited one small house that had been adapted to provide bottom heat[6], presumably using his own boiler.


Workload and Customers

Country County Town/Village Customer
England Buckinghamshire Gerrards Cross John Bramley-Moore
    Iver John Mitchell
  Cheshire Thornton Hough Thomas Brittain Forwood
  Cheshire Tranmere Robert Anderson
  Cumberland Carlisle Haughton & Thompson
    Moorhouse S. Dunne
    Stanwix John Stead
  Derbyshire Bakewell Edward Ward Fox
    Borrowash William Barron
    Duffield John S. Tempest
    Holloway William Walker
    Shardlow J. Smith
  Devon Budleigh Salterton Ellen Dart
    Cove William North Row
    Filleigh Earl Fortescue
    Newton St. Cyres John Quicke
  Dorset Sturminster Marshall Charles Joseph Parke
  Durham Darlington Bingley & Co.
  Hertfordshire Little Gaddesden Col. Elliott
  Lancashire Bolton A.M. Knowles
    Bolton A.M. Knowles
    Bolton John P. Haslam
    Eccles Mr. Gray
    Farington William Bashall
    Garstang Mr. Parkinson
    Manchester Elliott & Alston
    Manchester John King
    Pendlebury Peter Maclaren
    Preston J.D. Kennedy
    Ramsbottom G. Stark
    Ramsbotton Thomas Greig Stark
    Rochdale A. Parrey
  Leicestershire Bardon Breedon Everard
    Barrow upon Soar George Braund
    Castle Donington Marquis of Hastings
    East Norton Edward Finch Dawson
    Kibworth Harcourt G.T. Dodson
    Leicester Samuel Stone
    Leicester Thomas Swift Taylor
    Leicester William Matts
    Leicester Forest (East) Dr. James Harvey Lilley
    Long Whatton Rev. R. Martin
    Long Whatton Thomas Knowles Tillotson
    Loughborough John W. Greenwood
    Loughborough The Star Foundry Co. Ltd.
    Maplewell Charles Ashton
    Market Harborough H. Hopton
    Melton Mowbray John Coupland
    Prestwold Col. George Hussey Packe
    Quorndon James Harvey Lilley
    Quorndon Mr. Underwood
    Rothley William Dabbs
    Swithland Mr. Morley
    Whitwick Waste William Whetstone
    Woodhouse Eaves Charles Ashton
  Lincolnshire Aisthorpe Rev. Robert William Otter
    Lincoln Charles Pratt
    Lincoln Field Uppleby
    Lincoln George Maples Fox
    Welby Rev. William Frith
  Middlesex London Alfred Waterhouse
    London John Baggallay
  Norfolk Norwich Mr. Sandale
  Northamptonshire Pipewell Oscar William Holden Hambrough
    Wellingborough William Woolston
  Northumberland North Seaton Mr. Dickie
  Nottinghamshire Arnold Duke of St. Albans
  Nottinghamshire Bestwood Bestwood Chapel
    Chilwell John R. Pearson
    Newstead William Frederick Webb
    Nottingham Edward J. Lowe
    Nottingham Thomas Forman
    Nottingham Woodward & Clarke
    South Collingham H.A. Hubbersty
    Wellow William Squire Ward
  Rutland Knossington Alexander Duncan
    Oakham D.S.W. Royce
    Oakham Henry Samson
    Oakham Nelson Walters
    Oakham W.C. & C.K. Morris
  Staffordshire Betley Mr. Whitmore
    Codsall Mr. W. Barrow
    Newark Mr. Nowell
    Tettenhall Tettenhall Wood Church
    Tittensor G. Fleming
    Whittington Edward Holmes
    Wolverhampton Lowe & Co.
  Surrey London E. Hunt
  Warwickshire Birmingham F. Everett
    Birmingham Kings Norton Church
    Coventry Mr. Darlinson
    Southam G.W. Kershaw
  Westmorland Kirkby Lonsdale Alfred Harris, junior
  Worcestershire Birmingham John Cartland
    Tutnall William Edward Everitt
    Worcester T. Southall
  Yorkshire, North Riding Guisborough Joseph Whitwell Pease
    Middlesbrough John Peter Hornung
  Yorkshire, West Riding Bingley Alfred Harris, junior
    Bradfield James Wilson Rimington-Wilson
    Handsworth Fisher, Holmes & Co.
    Lightcliffe Henry William Ripley
    Ranmoor Henry Hutchinson
    Rotherham Clement Beatson Clark
    Sheffield Charles Cammell
    Sheffield Francis Hobson
    Sheffield George Wilson
    Sheffield Henry Edmund Watson
    Sheffield Henry Howson
    Sheffield James William Harrison
    Sheffield Mr. Penton
    Sheffield W.A. Matthews
    Swinton Mr. Waring
  Unknown Unknown Rev. J.P. Johnson
    Unknown J. B. Stanley
Ireland County Sligo Kevinsfort Christopher Carleton L’Estrange
Northern Ireland County Antrim Belfast Joseph Forsyth Johnson
  County Down Dromore Jonathan Joseph Richardson


The analysis of the customer records for the year shows a very different profile to the previous year. The total number of estimates and orders were down twenty per cent. In excess of fifty per cent were for horticultural products only, compared with less than twenty per cent the previous year. Less than five per cent were for heating only, whilst those for a combination of horticultural products and heating were over one-third.

Geographically there was an almost doubling percentage wise in the estimates and orders received from the north of England, with a slight fall in those from the south; whilst those in the area covering Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire was also down.

Whilst it appears that the majority of Messenger’s clients and potential clients requested bespoke solutions, it was also clear that Messenger probably had a stock of pre-built structures. For example, when John S. Tempest of Little Eaton House, Little Eaton was entertaining purchasing a number of structures, including stove, forcing and peach houses, Messenger noted that the peach house would be supplied from stock.


Industrialists and Businessmen

The conurbations of the current Sheffield Urban District and Greater Manchester saw the most significant rise in enquiries and orders from successful industrialists and businessmen.


Francis Hobson

Francis Hobson was a partner in Francis Hobson and Son, merchants, steel and file manufacturers, of Don Steel Works, No. 124, Savile Street, Sheffield. At one time, he lived in Oaklands, Ramoor Road an area known for a number of large houses built for the city’s steel magnates.

Francis Hobson received a couple of estimates. The first in January was for £57 10s. for a heated (using a No. 1 Boiler) 20ft. by 11ft. structure, with both stepped and flat staging. The second in April, presumably a revised estimate was for £78 10s. for a more complex heated (again using No. 1 Boiler) 20ft. structure with gables, cresting and finials.


George Wilson


Tapton Hall, Shore Lane, Sheffield

George Wilson (1802-1878) was a partner in Wilson and Co., snuff manufacturing of Sharrow Mills, Sheffield, which is still in existence today (2102). By 1869, George Wilson was living at Tapton Hall, Shore Lane, Sheffield, which he had bought two years earlier.

Tapton Hall – 1893 OS Map

In May 1869, Thomas Messenger sent George Wilson two sets of estimates, one at the beginning of the month and the other at the end. The first comprised of four estimates; the first of £112 for a 45ft. by 12ft. heated (using No. 2 boiler) span roof plant house; the second of £5 7s. for 370ft. of skeletal staging prepared ready for laying slates tops, etc.; the third of £8 10s. for a potting shed, with bench, two doors and 5ft. by 3ft. window; the fourth of £66 10s. for a heated (using No. 1 boiler) 25ft. by 12ft. lean-to house, with both flat and stepped staging. The second set at the end of month, comprised of further two estimates. The first of £51 10s. for a heated (using No. 1 boiler) 20ft. by 14ft. plant house with flat and stepped staging and £8 5s. for a potting shed. The second of £68 for a heated 30ft. by 14ft. plant house with flat and stepped staging and £8 10s. for a potting shed.


Henry Edmund Watson


Site of Shirecliffe Hall

Henry Edmund Watson[7] was a solicitor, living at Shirecliffe Hall, Shirecliffe Lane, Sheffield. In April, he received an estimate from Thomas Messenger for what was probably a hexagonal shaped conservatory containing a lantern, 19 cast iron columns weighing 58cwt[8], pilasters, cresting and even a fountain. It almost abutted up against an existing conservatory, to which it was connected. The new conservatory was a rather complex structure, taking a fitter an estimated 90 days to prepare and fix. The estimate also allowed for plastering 25 yards of old wall, together with 165 yards of outdoor and indoor painting. The structure was to be clad in 1,134 superficial feet of best 26oz. sheet glass. The estimated price was £263 10s., which Thomas Messenger marked-up to £280. The structure, which was built as an add-on to an existing conservatory remained until the beginning of the twentieth century but had disappeared by 1923.[9]


James William Harrison

Site of Tapton Grange

James William Harrison, was a partner in Messrs Harrison Brothers and Howson[10], general merchants and cutlery manufacturers, then located in Norfolk Street, Sheffield.

At the time, he was living at Tapton Grange, Tapton Park Road, Sheffield, which he had built a few years earlier. It sat in grounds of almost three acres stretching from Tapton Park Road, down to Fulwood Road, bounded on the west by St John’s churchyard.


Tapton Grange – 1893 Town Plan

In late 1869, James Harrison engaged Thomas Messenger and agreed to purchase a set of heated curvilinear structures, including a conservatory, stove house, plant house and vinery. The total price was £509, with the conservatory costing £252, the stove and plant house £159 and the vinery £98. The stove and plant house consisted of 1,003 superficial feet of framing, including a partition, 60 superficial feet of flat staging, 260 superficial feet of stepped staging and one finial. The vinery consisted of 723 superficial feet of framing, 460 superficial feet of vine wire, 70 superficial feet of iron walkway, 19ft. of cresting and one finial. The heating apparatus included 128 yards of 4-inch, 8 yards of 3-inch, 24 yards of 2-inch hot-water pipes and 112 cement joints.

However, it appears that before the stove, plant house and vinery were built; alterations were agreed resulting in price increase of £35. The changes included a 12ft. by 10ft. end to the roof of the stove house, an additional 730 superficial feet of framing for the vinery, together with a corresponding increase in the quantity of heating pipes.

In April 1870, Thomas Messenger provided James Harrison with another estimate, this time for heating the coach house and harness room. The total of £15 5s., included an extra sized boiler, 16 yards of 4-inch, 22 yards of 3-inch, 25 yards of 2-inch pipes, 60 cement joints and 6 man-days fitting time.


Range of curvilinear-roof houses, erected for J. W. Harrison, Tapton Park, Sheffield – Messenger & Co., 1877 Catalogue

It is believed that James William Harrison lived here until his death in March 1897[11], although various reference from around the early 1890s refer to him as living at Tapton Park[12]. Following his death, his nephew John Brocksopp Wilkinson, who was also a partner in the firm of Harrison Brothers and Howson, lived there, until his death in May 1919[13]. The Grange was later acquired by The National Union of Teachers Benevolent Fund for £6,000 and was opened on 23rd August 1928 by Princess Mary, as a girls’ orphanage. The house was eventually demolished in 1970[14] and the site built over.


William Howson

Tapton Park, Sheffield

About the same time as James Harrison engaged Thomas Messenger, his partner, William Howson, was also engaging Thomas Messenger. William Howson resided at Tapton Park, Tapton Park Road, Sheffield, just across the road from his partner. Similar to Tapton Grange, Tapton Park was built a few years earlier, probably designed by the architect, H. D. Lomas[15].

William Howson’s father was a member of Thomas Sansom & Sons and on his death in 1847, William Hudson, succeeded into the business. When James William Harrison and Henry Harrison joined the firm, the name was changed to Harrison Brothers and Howson[16].

In late 1869, he received an estimate for £287 regarding a heated peach house and vinery. The lean-to peach house was to be 60ft. by 7ft. 6in. with a 60ft. by 2ft. 3in. iron walkway and a 60ft. by 6ft. peach trellis. The heating was to be supplied using a No. 5 boiler, 40 yards of 4-inch, 8 yards of 3-inch, 40 yards of 2-inch pipes and 30 cement joints. The 56ft. by 16ft. partitioned ¾–span roof vinery had 1,120 superficial feet of vine wire, together with 56ft. by 2ft. 9in. and 5ft. 6in. by 2ft.9in. iron walkways and 2 finials. The heating was to be provided using the peach house boiler, together with an additional 80 yards of 4-inch, 4 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 60 cement joints.


Tapton Park, Sheffield – 1893 Town Map

It appears that the estimate for the vinery was not accepted as five years later, in 1874; Thomas Messenger built a very slightly larger 56ft. 4in. by 17ft. partitioned ¾-span roof heated vinery glazed with rough plate glass with a slight projection at one end, adjoining the original peach house. The vinery that contained 1,012 superficial feet of vine wire was heated using the existing boiler, with an additional 114 yards of 4-inch, 13 yards of 3-inch, 17 yards of 2-inch pipes and 97 cement joints. The total price of £342 5s. 6d. included £39 10s. for Mr. Moss’[17] brickwork and £1 for repairing the peach house.

Following his death, in July 1884, aged 62, from paralysis, his widow continued to live at Tapton Park.

The vinery and peach house was still visible on the 1935 Ordnance Survey map, by which time the house was known as Genefax House. The vinery and peach house do not appear on the 1953 Ordnance Survey map although two other horticultural buildings on the northeast side of the gardens that were built prior to 1893[18] were still present.


Henry William Ripley



Henry William Ripley[19] was a politician[20] and senior partner in Edward Ripley and Son[21], a dyeing company based at Bowling Dye works, Bowling, Bradford.

He purchased a range of vineries, etc. from Thomas Messenger for £1,190 to be installed at his residence Holme House, Lightcliffe, Halifax. The range, was constructed towards the north-west of the main residence, which formed part of the extended formal gardens and was almost certainly the south-west facing lean-to structure around 180ft. long, that appears on the 1885 Ordnance Survey map. The extended formal gardens appear to have fallen into disrepair prior to 1907.

Holme House, Lightcliffe – 1885 OS Map

The property was subsequently owned by Sir Algernon F. Firth[22], who purchased a heating system from Messenger & Co. Ltd., in 1902. In 1913, the firm were awarded the contract to replace the eastern part of the original structure with an 89ft. long by 16ft. wide partitioned lean-to range. It also appears that at around this time alterations were made to the other half of the original structure. Following his retirement in 1921, Sir Algernon Firth moved from Holme House to live at Scriven Park in Knaresborough. Between 1921 and 1933, the greenhouses and the immediate surrounding land were converted into a garden nursery, known as Holme House Nurseries, which remained until 1977. The greenhouses were subsequently completely removed during the early 1980s[23].


Alfred Waterhouse – Architect

Thomas Messenger was continuing building up his relationships with various architects, including Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905), normally associated with the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. He was the designer of the Natural History Museum, London, Manchester Town Hall, Balliol College, Oxford, amongst many others.


Alfred Waterhouse – The Graphic, 4 May 1878

Joseph Whitwell Pease

Alfred Waterhouse acted on behalf of Joseph Whitwell Pease[24] of Hutton Hall[25], Guisborough, over the purchase for £289 of several heated forcing houses (requiring 1,875 superficial feet of framing), propagating frame and lights, slatted stages and nine slide ventilators. The price allowed for 6 days of a joiners time to fix the structures and 48 man-days for a fitter and labourer to install the heating system.


Jonathan Joseph Richardson

The architect, on behalf of another client, Jonathan Joseph Richardson ordered a number of horticultural buildings, costing £480. These included a 45ft. by 17ft. 9in. vinery; 45ft. by 17ft. 9in. peach house, 36ft. by 21ft. 3in. plant house; 1,080 superficial feet of vine wire; 45ft. by 2ft. 9in. and 43ft. by 2ft. 9in. iron walkways; two 16ft. by 3ft. flat stages and two 12ft. by 3ft. flat stages. The heating included two boilers and 180 yards of 4-inch heating pipes. 26oz. glass was used on the roofs of the vinery, peach and plant houses, with 21oz. on the uprights.

Jonathan Joseph Richardson was a politician[26], for whom Alfred Waterhouse designed Kircassock House, County Down, Northern Ireland. Whilst neither the house nor gardens survive, it was during the Second World War used as the Headquarters of eighth United States Air Force Composite Command.


John King Junior

John King the younger[27] (1819-1905) who lived at Fernbank, Palatine Road, Manchester, was a cotton spinner and partner or owner of both J. King jun. and Co.[28], and Wadkin and King[29].

In October 1869, John King received an estimate, via Mr. Waterhouse, possibly Alfred Waterhouse, for a range comprising of several vineries or plant houses for £223, together with amount of ironwork for £91. The range consisted of 2,140 superficial feet of framing with 172 superficial feet of stepped staging, 210 superficial feet of flat staging, 214 superficial feet of stages for slate tops. The range was to be heated using a No. 4 boiler, 120 yards of 4-inch pipe, 18 yards of 2-inch and 95 cement joints.


John King Junior – The Graphic, 21 November 1874

The following January, John King himself requested both additions and alterations to the previous estimate, including substituting two No. 6 boilers for the original No. 4 (£17 12s); an additional 4-inch pipe around both the stove and plant houses (£6 1s. and £6 18s. 6d. respectively), connecting an existing plant house to the new boiler (£1 17s. 6d.); replacing an existing 1-inch pipe in the forcing house with 2-inch pipe (£7 9s.); a new conservatory pump with 15ft. suction pipe (£2). Lead on flat roof over entrance to the potting shed (£2 17s.).

It appears that Mr. King did not proceed, for in March 1871 Thomas Messenger submitted another set of estimates for 90ft. by 17ft. lean-to range divided into three partitions for vineries. The estimate of £138, excluded glazing and painting but included cresting, finials and vine wire along the back wall. For some unknown reason the glazing and painting with three coats of paint and “left perfect” was priced separately at £76 15s. The accompanying heating system priced at £95 5s. included two No. 6 boilers, 226 yards of 4-inch pipe, 23 yards of 2-inch and 150 cement joints. Also included in the estimate was an iron walkway along the complete 60ft. length. This range contains about 35% more framing than that quoted for several years earlier and consequently more expensive at £331.


Fern Bank, Palatine Road, Manchester – 1894 Town Plan

It appears that Mr. King probably accepted the estimate as a lean-to structure of the correct size appears on a later map of the property. The range was built facing southwest against an adjoining wall with the adjacent property, Holly Rohde.

Messenger & Co. Ltd., returned to the property at least twice. Firstly, in 1900[30] to install a new boiler that was presumably a replacement. Secondly, two years later when they were engaged to paint the vinery and other buildings, together with installing a ventilator[31].

The vinery range was still extant in 1922[32]. However, by 1932[33], the residence and gardens had been swept away and replaced by a small residential enclave of 32 almost entirely semi-detached two-storey brick built houses of uniform appearance, together with an access road known as Longton Avenue.


Thomas Ridley Hetherington

Thomas Ridley Hetherington (1835-1889), was a partner in the firm of John Hetherington & Sons, of the Vulcan, Hope, and Ancoats Works, Pollard Street, Manchester. The firm were machine tool and textile machine manufacturers, established by his father, John Hetherington, in the 1830’s; who in association with Sir William Fairbairn invented the Lancashire boiler, for which they held a joint patent[34].

In the early, 1870’s Alfred Waterhouse was designing a 2½-storied villa with a tower for Thomas Hetherington. The villa built on the west side of Lower Park Road, close to the junction with Crescent Range, Victoria Park, a 70-acre private estate formed the 1830s, where a number of wealthy families built their houses. It was a gated community, formed by the residents in 1845, with tollgates, boundary walls and police, all managed by the Victoria Park Trust..

The villa, originally known as Blagdon, was renamed Firwood around the beginning of the twentieth century, probably when the Xaverian Brothers[35] relocated from Oxford Road, Manchester in 1903. The villa, along with numerous others now forms an integral part of the Xaverian Roman Catholic College.

When Alfred Waterhouse was designing Blagdon, he ordered a series of iron components, costing £17 10s, presumably intended for a vinery. These included an iron walkway of unknown dimensions, six 2ft. long muntins, 102ft. of tension rods, seven iron shoes for the top of the rafters, fourteen double and eight single vine pendants, 148ft. of vine rods and 728 superficial feet of vine wire, two sets of front and two sets of top ventilation tackle. This particular order was subsequently cancelled with all the components which having already been manufactured going back into stock. At the same time, he ordered a complete heating system, for an unknown purpose. The components included a No. 3 Boiler, 60 yards of 4-inch, 43 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 69 cement joints. It appears that at the time that the price of iron was on the rise because Thomas Messenger added 40 per cent on the price of iron for the vinery components and almost 50 per cent for the heating components.

The 1893 town plan of the area, shows Blagdon has having a considerable amount of glass structures, occupying a larger footprint that the residence itself. By 1992[36], almost all the glass structures had been removed.


Thomas Hodgkin

Also in 1872, Alfred Waterhouse again ordered iron components; this time for a conservatory instead of a vinery, together with a complete heating system. Alfred Waterhouse’s client was Thomas Hodgkin[37], a banker, who was living at Benwell Dene, Newcastle upon Tyne, for whom Alfred Waterhouse designed the house in 1865.

The order for the conservatory components, which was not cancelled this time, included 80ft. of tension rods, seven king posts, ten iron brackets, 125ft of flat iron muntins and three sets of roof ventilation apparatus (£19 16s.). Thomas Messenger was not responsible for erecting the conservatory but did provide a fitter to supervise at a price of 10s.

The heating apparatus included a No. 3 boiler, 106 cement joints, 73 yards of 4-inch and 18 yards of 2-inch heating pipes. Thomas Messenger was responsible for installing the system for which he charged £8 10s. with £21 10s. for carriage and contingencies. Similar to the order for Thomas Ridley Hetherington, the ironwork attracted a significant mark-up, 40 per cent on the conservatory components and well in excess of 50 per cent on the heating components.


Heythrop House


Heythrop House, now known as Heythrop Park Resort

In 1872 and 1873, Thomas Messenger received several orders for work at Heythrop House, Oxfordshire. The work undertaken by Alfred Waterhouse, on behalf of Albert Brassey[38], was initially to rebuild the interior of the Hall, which was in a derelict condition following a disastrous fire.

Thomas Brassey, Albert’s father, a railway contractor, had bought the Hall in 1870 for his son as a wedding present. Presumably, following completion of the refurbishment of the Hall, the work was extended to include the estate and particularly the area within and around the walled garden, with the building a series of new horticultural houses and their complete fitting out.

In 1872, Alfred Waterhouse ordered a series of large structures, including two 170ft. long by 16ft. lean-to ranges erected against the southeast facing wall of the walled garden. It appears that the two ranges were divided into four houses each, with possibly five vineries, two peach houses (one early and one late), together with a forcing house.

Vine wire, amounting to 4,420 superficial feet, was placed along the complete back wall of both ranges. Five of the houses had additional vine wire (4,009 superficial feet) and two had peach trellis (1,110 superficial feet). Both ranges had a complete run of iron walkway 2ft 6in. wide.

Just to the north of the walled garden, two 52ft. by 22ft. structures (stove and orchid houses) were built at either end and at right angles to three 101ft. long structures which were aligned parallel to the two 170ft. long ranges. The three long structures included two pits; one or both of which were designed for growing cucumbers.

As would be expected there were a large number of stages; one stepped measuring 38ft. by 8ft.; two flat measuring 52ft. by 3ft. and four 4ft. by 3ft. There was also 676 superficial feet of slate staging. Each of the 101ft. long pits was lined with 5ft. wide slate bottoms incorporating ventilation apparatus.

The total price of the buildings amounted to £1,334, with an additional £330 14s. for fixtures and fittings.

Messenger also provided heating to the various houses, which included installing two No. 13 boilers, 1,600 yards of 4-inch, 150 yards of 3-inch and 165 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 1,040 patent joints. Fitting was estimated at 126 days for two men (fitter and labourer) at a rate 10s. per day. Similar to earlier, Messenger marked up the price of the iron components, by 50 per cent on pipes, by 40 per cent on the boilers and by 40 per cent on valves. The total price for the initial heating plan amounted to £790 that included a substantial 68 per cent mark-up.

The total weight of all the material and components was estimated at 70 tons, for which Messenger charged £85 for carriage, presumably to the nearest railway station, with additional charge for cartage to Heythrop House of either 4s or 5s per ton.

Thomas Messenger was also responsible for fitting out the mushroom house, including slate shelving, fronts and bottoms.

As was normal with large schemes there was almost continuous refinement, as work progressed, resulting in numerous changes and modifications to the heating systems, water supply, shelving, partitions, etc. The last recorded change, being to the heating system, which was finally priced up almost a year after the initial approach. Alterations to the heating system agreed in July 1873, included the omission of one pipe in the late peach house, substituting two pipes all around the border in lieu of four in the early peach house. Also connecting pipes in the plant house around the north end to the door and adding one pipe each side of the stove house, together with connecting the pipes round the ends of the doors.

A visit made to Heythrop House gardens, six or seven years after Thomas Messenger completed his work, was reported in the Garden Magazine on 19th March 1881, of which the following is an extract:

…..To the right are the plant-houses, pits, frames, &c., the first being the stove and Orchid house (51 ft. by 21 ft.). Amongst the Orchids in bloom at the time of our visit were line specimens of Angraecum citratum, Coelogyne cristata (on one plant alone of which we counted 120 blooms), Dendrobium nobile (very fine), D. pulchellum, D. Wardianum (splendid), Dendrochilum glumaceum, Lycaste Skinneri, Maxillaria grandiflora, Odontoglossum hystrix, 0. luteo-purpureum, Pescatorei, pulchellum, Roezli (fine), Oncidium cucullatum, Phaius grandifolius, Pilumna fragrans, and one of the finest specimens of Anthurium Scherzerianum we ever saw, having 100 of its brilliant scarlet spathes; also fine plants of Adiantum farleyense. On leaving the stove a range of span-roofed houses is entered; in the first was a fine crop of Cucumbers still in full bearing (Rollisson’s Telegraph), which Mr. Smith considers the best winter variety; the second was full of Roses, with Hyacinths and other bulbous plants; the next was devoted to Ferns, Azaleas, Deutzias, and Spiraeas, the flowers of which are used chiefly in a cut state. The greenhouse forming the western boundary of the range is of similar size and construction to the Orchid house, and is well stocked with plants, &c., used for replenishing the large conservatory situated on the south-west side of the mansion, Running parallel to these houses is a block of well-stocked pits, and near to these, abutting on the northern side of the southern boundary of the kitchen garden is a range of buildings consisting of apartments and dormitories for some fifteen under-gardeners. Mushroom house, fruit room, in which we counted some 150 fine bunches of Grapes (Lady Downes and Alicantes), and other offices.

The kitchen garden, having an area within the walls of rather over 2 acres, is well stocked, the southern boundary being formed by a range of fruit houses, the first and last having a run of 50 ft. each, and the remaining six 40 ft. each. These are divided by an arched entrance with a tower, the latter being fitted up as dormitories for six of the gardeners. The walls of the kitchen garden are now getting well covered, whilst the outer borders are studded with a number of pyramid fruit trees. To the east of the gardener’s house, and running down to the gas-works, an orchard has been laid out, which is well stocked with trees, now coming well into bearing. From the greenhouses and kitchen garden to the mansion are shrubberies bordered with herbaceous plants, a neat gravel path running through the same and leading to a very line Grass plant, having a circular gravel walk, backed by a wild flower garden, the latter forming an octagon, from the sides of which run alternately a set of well-formed gravel and greensward walks, overhung by fine Yew trees, the whole forming a most enchanting spot. Passing from here we come to the south front of the mansion, from the terraces of which charming views of the surrounding country are obtained, reaching as far as the Chiltern Hills.

Messenger & Co. Ltd. did return to Heythrop Hall in 1899[39], undertaking repairs to the heating system and identified the use put to some of structures, including forcing houses, store, several peach houses with an early peach house and up to 5 vineries, of which at least one was an early vinery.

Heythrop Hall Walled Gardens – 1881 OS Map

From 1926 Heythrop House became a Jesuit College, during which time it was both altered and enlarged. For thirty years from 1969, it was used as a National Westminster Bank Staff College and Conference Centre. Now known as Heythrop Park Resort, Heythrop House has been converted into a hotel with conference facilities and a golf course, set in grounds of 440 acres.


Replacement aluminium-framed greenhouses

The 1881 Ordnance Survey map shows that the walled garden which was to the east of the main house, lying on an almost south-west/north-east alignment. Two 170ft. long ranges still exist, although they are replacement aluminium structures erected during National Westminster’s time at Heythrop.


Foxhill, Reading



Alfred Waterhouse, who in 1868, was based at No. 8, New Cavendish Street, London[40], engaged Thomas Messenger for a number of relatively small items, which appears to have been destined for his own house, Foxhill in Reading, Berkshire.

Alfred Waterhouse began the house in 1867/8, which was built on part of his father’s Whiteknights estate. The house, which was originally set in twenty acres of grounds overlooking Whiteknights Lake, still exists but now belongs to the University of Reading.

Similar to numerous other occasions, it appears that Alfred Waterhouse never actually engaged Thomas Messenger to build any of the significant horticultural buildings at Foxhill; instead preferring to buy components from him and have his own workforce complete the work. The exception, as elsewhere, were the heating systems, whose fitting was deferred to Thomas Messenger’s own installation team.

In October 1868, Thomas Messenger quoted £91 for heating a number of horticultural structures including several vineries. The system included a boiler, 259 yards of 4-inch, 15 yards of 3-inch, 30 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 184 cement joints, with 40 man-days allowed for installation.

The next occurrence was in December when Alfred Waterhouse ordered a series of components, including seventeen short muntins, 8ft. long; twelve long muntins, 28ft. long; seventeen transverse rods, 18ft. long; fourteen transverse rods, 13ft. long; seven saddles, twelve sets of ventilation apparatus along with numerous other items all probably for a new conservatory. The price of £36 10s., included alterations to patterns, presumably at least some of these components were made specifically to Alfred Waterhouse’s own design.

The following February, Thomas Messenger produced three estimates. The first of £60 was for heating “all the houses”, which included a No. 4 boiler, 170 yards of 4-inch, 25 yards of 3-inch, 34 yards of 2-inch hot-water pipes, 100 cement joints and 36 man-days allowed for installation. The second of £8 5s. was for three sets of ventilation apparatus for a 70ft. long conservatory with 16 front lights. The third of £12 5s., for ironwork and ventilation apparatus for a number of vineries, included six 3ft. long iron muntins, six 12ft. long tension roads, a 19ft; long thrust principal, three 8ft, long saddles, vine supports, vine pendants, angle iron and 4 sets of ventilation apparatus, of unknown length. Again, the estimate included the cost of altering a number of patterns. The third and last estimate of £3 was for 120ft. of 4-inch moulded iron guttering.

In December 1869, Alfred Waterhouse ordered one 50ft. by 7ft. frame and 2-inch lights, glazed with 21oz. sheet glass, painted on both sides with four coats of paint. The price of £10 10s. included delivery to Loughborough railway station.

The following March, he ordered several frames painted with 4 coats, together with five 5ft. 6in. by 4ft. 2-inch lights for his garden at Foxhill, at a cost of £8 2s. The price included 16s. 6d. for a joiner spending three days fabricating the frames.

Foxhill with conservatory – c1867- 1885 – Courtesy of Cornell University Library Collections

The next orders were not until January 1872, when Alfred Waterhouse ordered components to wire a wall at Foxhill. The first consisting of 1,500 yards of galvanised wire (No. 14), 45 dozen eyes cost £4 5s. The second for the components to make a raspberry trellis that included 500 yards of galvanised wire (No. 14), eight T-shapes terminating posts and a winding key for a total price of £9.

Alfred Waterhouse did not live at Foxhill for very long, he soon moved to Yattendon Court, which he had built (1877-8) and where he died in 1905. There is no evidence of Alfred Waterhouse engaging Messenger & Co., during the building of Yattendon Court, even though he built a large south facing range east of the Court.

Foxhill continued in private ownership until the 1950s when it was acquired by the University of Reading. It was subsequently used a student accommodation before being renovated in the early 21st century, when the conservatory was lost[41] and the School of Law took over the building[42].

Thomas Messenger’s relationship with Alfred Waterhouse was relatively short, with the last known order being in July 1873.


Other Architects

During 1869, Thomas Messenger also completed work on behalf of a number of other architects, an important strategy that was later actively pursued by Messenger & Co.


George Tunstal Redmayne

George Tunstal Redmayne (1840-1912) was the son of Giles Redmayne, who owned a linen drapers and silk mercers business in London. When he purchased the Brathay Hall estate at the head of Lake Windermere, he engaged Alfred Waterhouse. He was a pupil of Alfred Waterhouse and later an assistant, before setting up on his own account around 1867, with offices at Royal Insurance Buildings, No. 67, King Street, Manchester. This was the same address that Alfred Waterhouse used when he was based in Manchester. In 1870, he married Alfred Waterhouse sister, Katherine Waterhouse at Christ Church, Reading[43].

In February 1869, Thomas Messenger provided a two series of estimates, following a request from George Redmayne, working on behalf of his client Peter MacLaren a partner in the firm of J. Maclaren and Nephews, general merchants.

Peter Maclaren lived at Highfield, Pendlebury, about 4 miles north-west of Manchester city centre and now a suburban town in the City of Salford, Greater Manchester. Highfield was built prior to 1838 when Laurence Brock Hollinshead was living there[44]. Peter Maclaren appears to have moved there prior to 1863[45] and between 1865 and 1870 engaged Alfred Waterhouse to undertake alterations and design the stables. However, for some unknown reason George Redmayne took over work at Highfield in 1869.

The first set of three estimates created by Thomas Messenger was in early in 1869. The first totalling £1,420 included a partitioned conservatory attached to the house, a 120ft. long partitioned vinery and a 31ft. long pinery, all heated using a two No. 10½ sized boilers; the only known reference to a half-sized boiler. The vinery and perhaps the pinery probably formed part of a range at the back of which were, what the estimate refers to as “back buildings”. Also included in the estimate was £510 for work by the bricklayers, masons and slater’s (£300, £170 and £40, respectively. The second estimate of £195 was for the heating system alone, which besides the two 10½-sized boilers also included over ¼ mile of 4-inch pipes, 10 yards of 3-inch, 107 yards of 2-inch hot-water pipes and 300 cement joints. The installation of the heating system alone was estimate at 36 days each for a fitter and labourer, along with 3 days of a fitter’s time for preparing and connecting the boilers. The third and last estimate of this first set was of £21 for 12 sets of ventilation apparatus.

Several weeks later, another set of estimates were prepared, probably as a result of the very high first estimate. Whilst numerous additions were added, including 540 superficial feet of ¾- and ½-inch self- faced slate for the mushroom house and 210 superficial feet for the pinery bottoms, the overall price was reduced by £140. The heating estimate was also modified, bringing that down by £5 if two boilers were used and by £19 with only one boiler.

The 1893 Ordnance Survey Map shows a conservatory attached to the south-west part of house and a lean-to range with porch to the north of the small estate, presumably being the vineries and pinery with mushrooms house, etc., behind. Both structures were still present in 1908, although by 1932 the two glass structures’ had gone, although the “back buildings” were still present. However, by 1936 the residence and all the outbuildings, along with its neighbours had been swept away and replaced by a housing estate comprising of a large number of detached and semi-detached brick built houses, which still exist.


Messrs Flockton and Abbott

Messrs Flockton and Abbott, architects and surveyors, was a partnership between Thomas James Flockton, George Lewsby Abbott, and Marcus Flockton, who at the time were operating out of No. 7, St. James, Sheffield.


Edward Ward Fox



In 1869, they were working on behalf of Edward Ward Fox at Haddon House, which is located on the southern outskirts of Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Edward Fox had moved into Haddon House prior to 1864[46], it having previously been occupied by Sir Myles C.B. Cave. When offered for let in 1862[47], the residence with seven bedrooms stood in grounds of seven acres, which included gardens and pleasure grounds although apparently with no glass- or greenhouses.


Haddon House – 1879 OS Map

Messrs Flockton and Abbott 1869 order totalling £235 included a 96ft. long ¾-span heated range, of which 70ft. was 14ft. wide and the remainder 7ft. There were three flat and three stepped plant stages with a 31ft. by 3ft. 9in. iron walkway. The heating system comprised of a No. 6 boiler, 138 yards of 4-inch, 8 yards of 3-inch, 30 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 100 cement joints.

The range, built facing SSE just to the west of the house, was still present in 1922[48]. However, by 1970[49] it had disappeared along with all the other horticultural buildings.

In 1870, Edward Ward Fox approached Thomas Messenger directly regarding a new heated conservatory (£152); a peach house with trellis, slate fronts and iron walkway (£59 12s. if 42ft. long and an additional £6 11s. if 50ft. long); lastly to provide wiring along the 8ft. high back wall of the 70ft. long part of the range built the previous year (£4 10s.). Edward Fox accepted both the estimates for the conservatory and peach house.


Conservatory erected for Captain Ward Fox, Haddon House, Bakewell – Messenger & Co., 1877 Catalogue

Edward Ward Fox died, aged 45, on 24th March 1879, at No. 1 Hill Street, Berkeley Square, London[50]. However, members of the Fox family continued to live at Haddon House into the 20th century[51] and in 1890, Mrs. Ward Fox ordered a heating system and a larger stove house from Messenger & Co.[52]


Charles Cammell

Also in 1869, Messrs Flockton and Abbott, requested several estimates on behalf their client, Charles Cammell of Norton Hall, Norton Church Road, Norton, Sheffield.

Norton Hall was rebuilt in the early part of the nineteenth century for the Shore family. However, they were forced to sell it, following the bankruptcy, in 1843, of bankers Messrs Parker, Shore & Co[53]. The Hall was subsequently leased to James Yates with the contents having already been sold in 1843.

The Norton estate comprising of over 200 acres, Norton Hall, three other mansions, a watermill, ninety-four small houses, and cottages, along with numerous other buildings and works was finally sold by order of the High Court of Chancery in 1850 on behalf of Samuel Shore[54]. The estate, which also came with a one and a half acre kitchen garden with a vinery and greenhouse, was purchased by Charles Cammell (1810-1879), the founder of Charles Cammell and Co., of Cyclops Steel and Iron Works, Sheffield[55]. In 1902, the firm took over the Laird Brothers of Birkenhead to become Cammell Laird & Co., shipbuilders.

In the mid-1860s Charles Cammell decided to remodel the fifty year old Hall engaging Thomas James Flockton of Flockton and Abbott[56]. Presumably having completed the work on the Hall attention was transferred elsewhere on the estate.

In early March 1869, Thomas Messenger was requested to submit several estimates for a series of long greenhouses presumably for the walled garden, which lay to the south of the Hall.

The first estimate totalling £363 included three uprights measuring 8ft, by 8ft., 82ft. by 6ft. and 19ft. 3in. by 9ft.; 3 pairs of roofs 82ft. 6in, by 11ft., 64ft. by 11ft. and 22ft. by 11ft.; guttering; 11 cast iron pillars weighing over 14cwt; large folding doors; 24 man-days for fixing the pillars, guttering and downspouts.

The second estimate totalling £398 submitted five days later included five uprights measuring 83ft. by 8ft., 19ft. by 15ft., 10ft. square and 90ft. by 12ft.to go on top of a wall. Five roofs, one 83ft. by 15ft., one 83ft. by 18ft., one 26ft. by 18ft., one 14ft. by 15ft. and one 17ft. by 18ft. Guttering, five cast iron pillars weighing 12cwt, two uprights over pillars measuring 83ft. by 4ft. and 28ft. by 4ft., large folding doors, 12 man-days for fixing the pillars, guttering and downspouts.

The third and final estimate submitted in mid-April was for £330 and included 3 uprights measuring 83ft. by 5ft., 19ft. by 5ft. and 8ft. by 5ft.; 2 roofs measuring 83ft. by 38ft. and 64ft. by 30ft.; 2 gables measuring 12ft. by 20ft. and 10ft. by 5ft.; large folding doors. None of the estimates included any heating systems, staging, etc.

Following the death of Charles Cammell in January 1879[57], his son resided there for a while. However, in August 1887 the whole estate, with over 600 acres of land, was put up for sale by auction, with the kitchen garden simply being described as “Gardens, Greenhouses and Vinery[58].

Greenhouses, Norton Hall, Sheffield – 1906 OS Map

A series of greenhouses of about the correct length but of differing widths appear on subsequent Ordnance Survey maps of the area up to the Second World War. By this time, the estate had been disposed of and the Hall, now converted into apartments, was being used as a maternity hospital. The kitchen garden converted into a commercial nursery, which remains to the present time.


Commercial Nursery, Norton

Robert Johnson Goodacre

Robert Johnson Goodacre (1826-1904) was a Leicester-based architect who in his early career had been in partnership Thomas Larkins Walker. Following the breakup of the partnership in 1854, he continued alone, from No. 5, Friar Lane, Leicester.

Around the time he started engaging Thomas Messenger, in the early 1870s, he went into partnership with his brother, John Goodacre, operating as R. J. and J. Goodacre; again operating from No. 5, Friar Lane. The partnership was finally dissolved lasted in April 1903, with John Goodacre continuing alone[59].

Robert Johnson Goodacre engaged Thomas Messenger on a number of occasions between 1868 and 1874. Interestingly there are no known references to the architectural firm engaging with Messenger & Co., other than one instance in June 1875.


Quenby Hall



The first known occasion, which involved three estimates, was in September 1868, in relation to work at Quenby Hall, Hungarton, Leicestershire.

The first of £238 was in September for a 60ft. by 18ft. span roof range partitioned into three houses, including nine sets of ventilating apparatus and two finials; 460 superficial feet of rough glass for the pits, 920 superficial feet of vine wire and two 20ft. long by 2ft. 6in. wide iron walkway. A 9ft. long by 5ft. wide stepped stage and six flat stages, four 4ft. by 2ft. and two 30ft. long by 3ft. wide. The whole to be heated using a No. 6 Boiler, 127 yards of 4-inch, 60 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 120 cement joints.

The second estimate in November was for £307, which in addition to that offered in the first estimate included 654 feet of additional framing for altering an existing conservatory. Also extra for a non-projecting gable entrance with two doors, two sets of ventilation apparatus, one finial, an extra sized boiler and 10 yards of 4-inch hot water pipe with 8 cement joints.

The third and final estimate was for £324 15s and dated the same as the second. was again accumulative; including everything from the second estimate with the addition of £17 15s. for a 22ft. by 7ft. stove house. It was to be heated using 21 yards of 4-inch heating pipe and 16 cement joints. Internally it was to be fitted out with three slate stages, one 20ft. long by 3ft. wide and the other two 3ft. 6in. square.

Conservatory, plant-house, &c., erected at Quenby Hall – Messenger & Co., 1877 Catalogue

The various owners of Quenby Hall were regular customers of Messenger & Co. Ltd., up to the mid-1930s, purchasing numerous horticultural buildings and heating systems.


Thomas Swift Taylor

Thomas Swift Taylor was a member of the cotton spinning firm, of J. & W. Taylor, of Mansfield Road, Leicester. In 1868, he was living at Leicester Frith House, then just outside the city boundary, about two miles north-west of the city centre.

Leicester Frith Estate, which included the residence known as “The Frith House”, was put up for auction in late 1861[60]. Comprised of over 243 acres it was offered in 6 lots. , Lot 1 included House with six bedrooms, entrance lodge, gardener’s cottage, ornamental grounds, hothouses, greenhouses, vinery, stales, farm house, agricultural buildings, sitting in a little over 206 acres. At the sale held on 27th November, Lot 1 offered together with Lot 2 (10 acres of land) remained unsold with not a single bid[61]. The remaining four lots of land (totalling 26 acres) were all sold, two of which was purchased (one immediately after the sale) by Thomas Swift Taylor.

Leicester Frith – 1886 OS Map

By the time Robert Goodacre engaged Thomas Messenger in 1869, Thomas Swift Taylor was already a customer of Thomas Messenger on two previous occasions. The first was in August 1868 to install a small porch. The second, in November, was regarding a 60ft. by 20ft. heated span roof structure, with iron walkway, which was priced at £259, including £44 (to which Thomas Messenger added a £3 mark-up) for excavations and brickwork by Mr. Moss of Loughborough.

Robert Goodacre requested an estimate for several horticultural structures comprising in excess of 7,000 superficial feet of framing, along with a sizeable heating system that included two No. 11 boilers, 480 yards of 4-inch, 14 yards of 3-inch, 70 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 600 cement joints. The estimate of £865 allowed for 70 man-days’ work to install the heating system. The estimate also included a relatively small allowance of £73 10s. for the removal of several existing structures, including a small old plant house, a vinery and several recently built structures.

Thomas Messenger was re-engaged at Leicester Firth, in July 1870, this time apparently directly by Thomas Taylor. On this occasion it was in regard to installing central heating for his new residence, that he had just had built, presumably designed by Robert Goodacre. The basic estimate amounted to £216, which included a No. 13 boiler, 350 yards of 4-inch, 86 yards of 2-inch heating pipe, 3 coil radiators, 200 4-inch joints, 120ft. of grating over the pipes and a hot closet in the sewing room. 150 man-days was allowed for the complete installation. In addition, there were seven options with estimates varying from a little under £5 up to £20 for various configurations of coil radiators and associated pipe-work. Lastly, there was a list of options for covering the coil radiators with cases. Two designs (No. 1 and No. 7) both without backs were offered varying between £5 and £6 10s.

In the 1880s, the Borough boundary was extended to incorporate part of Leicester Frith amounting to 136 acres that included Leicester Frith House

Thomas Swift Taylor died in 1899, following which his trustees managed his estate. Still in possession ten years later, they sold 93 acres of the estate to Leicester Corporation, purchasing a further 118 acres, ten years later[62].

Today the house, now known as the Mansion House, together with the walled garden and surrounding area forms part of Glenfield Hospital. During the First World War, it was used to house neurasthenics. Following the war Leicester Borough Council purchased the site from the then owners, the Ministry of Pensions and opened it as a home for the mentally defective. With the inception of the NHS in 1948, the management was taken over by No.3 Hospital Management Committee, who administered the site, together with a number of local hospitals, hostels and home, known collectively as Glenfrith Hospital[63].

An aerial photograph taken in 1921[64], shows the walled garden, adjacent to the house with the same glasshouses as in the 1886 map with an additional south-facing lean-to structures against the north wall, to the west of Messenger’s lean-to.

In 1924, Leicester Corporation Health Committee purchased a 30ft. x 12ft. span roof tomato house, without front lights from Messenger & Co. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the No.3 Hospital Management Committee purchased three new houses. In 1959 a 40ft. x 14ft. span roof house in cedar complete with staging; in 1960 a 48ft. x 20ft. house, again cedar; lastly in 1962 replacement for the old lean-to frames[65].



Other Clients

In 1872, whilst working for William Ward Tailby (1825–1914) at Skeffington Hall, Leicestershire Robert Goodacre requested an estimate for a complete heating system for one or more unknown buildings. The estimate for £58 included a No. 4 boiler, 63 yards of 4-inch, 28 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 64 cement joints.

In early 1876, after Thomas Messenger had sold the business, Mr. Tailby engaged Messenger & Co., to build a heated 25ft. by 15ft. ¾-span bedding plant house, furnished with 22 plant stages. As the heating system components did not contain a boiler, it is likely that the heating system ordered four years earlier, was probably intended to heat one or more horticultural buildings, rather than the Hall.

In 1871, Edward Warner purchased Kepwick Hall, in North Yorkshire, from Colonel Crompton[66] and engaged Robert Goodacre to build him a new residence. The initial phase, completed in 1873, was in the revival Tudor style, following which Thomas Messenger was engaged to install the heating system.

Edward Warner had been a customer of Thomas Messenger, as early as the late 1850s, when living in Quorndon Hall, near Loughborough. On this occasion, Thomas Messenger used a No 7 boiler, 42 yards of 4-inch, 397 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 348 patent joints. There were also a number of coil radiators, which the firm manufactured themselves, using 1-inch and 1¼-inch wrought iron pipes. Some of the pipework was laid under floor, overlain by both 8-inch and 16-inch wide grating.


Keyham Hall, Keyham

In 1874, John Goodacre, by this time apparently in partnership with his brother, engaged Thomas Messenger on behalf of Roger Dutton Miles at Keyham Hall, Keyham, Leicestershire. Roger Miles was a farmer, landowner, and partner in the firm of Miles and Rowland, land agents operating from Friar Lane, Leicester. The engagement by John Goodacre involved an 80ft. by 20ft. heated span-roof range, with a raised entrance. The range was to be partitioned, and fitted out with vine wire together with both wooden and slate stages, a cold water supply, with a galvanised tank and a conservatory pump with suction pipe. Heating was to be provided using a No. 9 boiler, 254 yards of 4-inch, 79 yards of 3-inch 37 yards of 2-inch hot water pipes and 218 cement joints. The original estimate included a 17ft. long stove house, which was removed in the second estimate submitted several weeks later, reducing the overall price by £95 10s. There was also a corresponding change in the heating system, with a No. 5 boiler in place of a No. 9, 56 yards less 4-inch pipe, 15 yards less 2-inch pipe and 48 fewer cement joints. It was also agreed that a coil radiator would be installed in the pantry at no extra cost. In June 1875[67] the partnership of the two brothers ordered a set of blinds for the plant house at Keyham, costing £10 15s., for which Mr. Miles paid in a single payment 4 months after the order was placed[68].


Keyham Hall – 1885 OS Map


Following the death of Roger Dutton Miles, December 1880, aged 63[69], the Hall was subsequently offered for let[70], being described as having a dining room, several drawing rooms, six best bedrooms, cellars, etc. In the grounds, there was stabling for twelve to fourteen horses, a coach house, flower gardens with conservatory, vinery, tennis court, capital kitchen garden, etc., sitting in about three acres. The 1885 Ordnance Survey Map shows a single glass-roofed structure just to the southeast of the Hall and is the conservatory/vinery described above.



  1. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 29th January 1869.

  2. Betley Conservation Area, Character Appraisal, December 2008, page 8.

  3. BBC Doomsday Reloaded – D-block GB-372000-348000.

  4. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 30th July 1869.

  5. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen. Vol. XVII (New Series) 1869, page 81.

  6. Ibid.

  7. He was knighted in 1886.

  8. 2,946 kilograms.

  9. Ordnance Survey Map.

  10. The firm occupied premises in Norfolk Street from 1866 before expanding to Shoreham Street Works in1880 and eventually moving to a new factory in Carver Street in 1901. They also had showrooms in London, initially at No. 11, Hatton Garden, followed by Nos. 43-44 Holborn Viaduct and then Regent Arcade House, Nos. 19-25 Argyle Street.

  11. The Times, 4th September 1897.

  12. The Morning Post, 10th May 1897.

  13. The Times, 17th November 1919.

  14. Ranmoor Society News, September 2009.

  15. Pevsner Architectural Guides – Sheffield, page 271.

  16. The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 7th July 1884.

  17. Loughborough-based builder.

  18. Sheffield Town Plan.

  19. (23rd April 1813 – 9th November 1882). In 1880 he was created a Baronet, of Rawdon in the County of York and Bedstone, Shropshire.

  20. He was returned as Member of Parliament for Bradford as a Liberal at the 1868 general election, but his election was overturned on petition in 1869. He was subsequently re-elected at the 1874 general election as an Independent, but was defeated at the 1880 general election when he stood as a Conservative.

  21. Established by his grandfather in about 1806.

  22. (1856-1936). He was a member of the family-owned carpet manufacturing business, T.F. Firth & Co. He went on to become Chairman, retiring in 1921. The firm was subsequently taken over by Sir William Akroyd.

  23. 2007 contamination assessment report by PMCoote Ltd., as a result of the planning permission being sought to develop the site for residential properties.

  24. Joseph Whitwell Pease (1828-1903) was elected Member of Parliament for South Durham in 1865, which he held until the reorganisation of 1885; following which he was elected Member of Parliament for Barnard Castle, which he led until his death in 1903. He was created a baronet of Hutton Lowcross and Pinchinthorpe in 1882.

  25. Hutton Hall was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and built by Joseph Whitwell Pease in 1866/7. The hall was demolished after World War II.

  26. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for Lisburn in 1853 as a Liberal, and again in 1859 as a Conservative, resigning in 1863.

  27. He was born in Manchester in 1819, the second son of John King. He married Miss Fell of Warrington in 1856. He was a member of the Society of Friends. He was first elected to the City Council in 1856 and was made Alderman in 1867. He was mayor of Manchester in 1875. He was also a J.P.

  28. No. 12, Chepstow Road, Manchester and Springfield Mills, Salford.

  29. Cotton Spinners, doublers and sewing cotton manufacturers and manufacturers of cotton twines for fishing nets; mill – 12, Chepstow Street, Oxford road, Manchester.

  30. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/64.

  31. Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading: TR MES AD1/212

  32. Ordnance Survey Map.

  33. Ibid.

  34. Minutes of the Proceedings of Institute of Civil Engineers, , Volume 101, Issue 1890.

  35. A religious order founded by Theodore James Ryken in Bruges.

  36. Ordnance Survey Map.

  37. Hodgkin was born in London. In 1859 he became a partner in the new banking firm of Hodgkin, Barnett, Pease and Spence in Newcastle, and this connection continued until 1902, when the concern was absorbed by Lloyd’s Bank. Until 1894, Hodgkin and his wife lived at Benwell Dene in Newcastle, but moved in that year to Bamburgh Castle.

  38. Albert Bassey (1840-1918) – who was born at Rouen, France, 22nd February 1844, third son of Thomas Brassey, a railway contractor; he was educated at Eton and at University College, Oxford, matriculated 18th October 1862, aged 18, B.A. 1867, M.A. 1899; entered the Army as Cornet 14th (The King’s) Hussars 21 August 1867, Lieutenant 3 April i86g ; Lieut.-Colonel Oxfordshire (Queen’s Own Oxford Hussars) Yeomanry Cavalry 21 .April 1892, retired 19 December 1894; J.P. for Countyco. Oxford, High Sheriff 1878 ; Master of Heythrop Hounds since 1873; M.P. for North Oxfordshire (Banbury Division) 1895-1906.

  39. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/64.

  40. Now 61.

  41. Being replaced by two large teaching rooms

  42. University of Reading.

  43. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 9th July 1870.

  44. The Manchester Times and Gazette, 28th July 1838.

  45. The North Wales Chronicle, 11th July 1863.

  46. The Derby Mercury, 14th September 1864.

  47. The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 6th September 1862.

  48. Ordnance Survey Map.

  49. Ibid.

  50. The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 29th March 1879.

  51. The Times, 21st February, 1912.

  52. Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading.

  53. The firm was established in 1770; following the failure in 1843 most of the assets being acquired by The Sheffield Banking Co., who in 1919 amalgamated with National Provincial & Union Bank of England Ltd. of London.

  54. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 11th May 1850.

  55. Formerly Johnson, Cammell and Co.

  56. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 17th April 1865.

  57. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 18th January 1879.

  58. The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 30th July 1887.

  59. The London Gazette, 1st May 1903.

  60. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 16th November 1861.

  61. The Leicester Chronicle or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 30th November 1861.

  62. Victoria County History – A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester: Author – R. A. McKinley (editor); Published 1958.

  63. J. N. Broad’s A Brief History of the Development of Glenfrith Hospital, 1906-1982.

  64. http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/download/QB EPW005257.

  65. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/55.

  66. Victoria County History – A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2; Author William Page (editor); Published 1923.

  67. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/43.

  68. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/04.

  69. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 11th December 1880.

  70. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 20th February 1886.