Pipe Coupling Patent (1871/53)

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Court Appearance

It is difficult to image there not being occasions where disputes arise between client and supplier; either for not delivering what the client thought they were getting or for the supplier not to be paid what he thought he was due.

No doubt, Thomas Messenger must have had disagreements with his clients for any manner of possible reasons, but it was an apparently surprisingly rare occurrence for Thomas Messenger to have to appear in court.

In most cases, if problems arose they were settled out of court, either between the two parties or by arbitration under the auspices of a third party. However, they were two court appearances for the partnership of Messenger and Perkins in 1871.

The first dating back to an installation completed in 1869, when they were accused of faulty workman. The court case, which had previously been adjourned finally, took place in March at the County Court, in Loughborough, in front of a jury. The following is an extract from the trial report[3], which is produced in full as it makes interesting reading as to the problems that can beset a small provincial business:

Messenger and Perkins v. Tillotson.—This was another adjourned case.—Mr Deane was for the plaintiffs, who are plumbers and glaziers at Loughborough, and Mr. Giles for the defendant, who resides at Long Whatton Manor House—The claim was for £14 (to which a set-off was pleaded for old materials and cost of putting work rights, for work done at the Manor Home in putting up certain hot water pipe in the bathroom there.—The defence was, that the work was not done according to the original plan laid down, and, consequently, did not act efficiently, but, on the reverse, was the cause of much damage to the rooms. The account was of great length, inducing his Honour to ask if it was proposed to go through the whole of it. It was replied that the items of the account were not disputed, but the liability of the defendant, who had had the work taken to pieces and re-done. A long correspondence between the parties and their solicitors was read, from which it appeared that an offer of arbitration had been made and refused, His Honour asked why this could not be done now? Mr. Giles said it was impossible to do this, for the whole of the work done by the p1aintiffs had been all taken to pieces.—Mr Messenger in his evidence, said in December, 1869, he went to the defendant’s house, who showed him a bath cistern, defendant telling him that Mr. Twells, of Hathern, had put it up and that it didn’t work properly. He suggested certain alterations to Mr. Tillotson to remedy the defects complained of, and that as (the defendant stated, the 1ease of the house had not long to run, It was impressed upon the witness to do the work as cheaply as possible. No specific sum was mentioned, but plaintiff offered to give a specification of prices, but the defendant did not desire one, again saying he wanted the work done at as little expense as possible. Witness had had 17 years’ experience in this kind of work, and had put up several cisterns similar to the one put up at the defendant’s. One was at the Dispensary, another at Beaumanor and that room (the Court-room) was fitted up by him. The prices charged were reasonable, and he had prepared to point it out from a plan produced. Cross-examined by Mr. Giles: He could not say whether he offered to refer the case to arbitration before he received a letter from Mr. Giles. As soon, however, as Mr. Tiliottson complained, his firm offered to refer the matter. He denied that the boiler was anything to do with their work. They offered to put in a larger cistern, which was all that was required to remedy the defects complained of, if Mr. Tillotson would pay the difference of the expense. Mr. Martin paid witness for the boiler put up in the garden. Mr. Giles asked if the instructions for the stove in the greenhouse were signed by the defendant? The witness replied that everything not ordered by Mr. Martin, the owner of the property, was ordered by Mr. Tillotson or his servant.—Mr Giles said it was, not a proper answer. His Honour thought that it was, and again suggested to Mr. Giles the propriety of not interrupting the witness in his replies to his questions.-Mr Perkins, the other plaintiff, corroborated that the work done was done according to instructions given by defendant, and that the prices were reasonable. Complaints having been made that the cistern didn’t act properly, he went over and put in an overflow pipe. He saw Mr. Tillotson, and told him that the cause of the inefficient working was due to the improper heating of the cistern by the servants drawing out the dampers too far. Cross-examined: He took away about 20 feet of piping, but put in again all that was fit to use. He admitted that that Mr. Gi1es called upon him with £2 19s., and offered him the liberty of taking down the system put up by the plaintiffs and the piping.—The evidence in chief of this witness was not shaken by a long and desultory cross-examination.-David Moore, plumber and glazier, Loughborough, said he had, at the request of the plaintiffs, looked through the items of their account against the defendant, and without having seen the work done, the charges were fair and reasonable.—Mr Giles then replied, and charged Mr. Deane with a habit of indulging in personalities in that Court, and had charged Mr. Tillotson with something he would not name. Upon the merits of the case Mr. Giles dwelt for a considerable length of time, and then called the defendant, who said he held Whatton House on a lease, and the lessee, was to do all the repairs.— [Mr Deane objected unless the lease was produced. Objection allowed.]-He saw the plaintiffs at work there for Mr. Martin, and mentioned to them that he wanted them to do some work for him, but that as his lease had not long to run he wanted it done cheaply. Plaintiffs said it could be done for a few pounds. Witness objected to the sum as indefinite, when the plaintiffs said a £5 note would cover the whole work. The work was then done, but witness said it didn’t act at all, but was very disagreeable. He saw Mr. Messenger after his (witness’s) return from Paris.—His Honour: Then, you were in Paris.—Witness: Yes: but I had to run away. (A laugh.)—He complained of the charges made to him, and of the work. Witness then got the work done over again by another tradesman. The charge was £9 17s., and the apparatus acted well in every respect. He denied giving orders for some of the work charged. Cross-examined: He didn’t tell Mr. Messenger to keep down the expense or that he was to put up a larger cistern. Twells originally out up the work, and it worked well for five years, and the reason he employed plaintiffs in preference to Twells was that they were on the spot. Re-examined: He was away all last year, but he would tell Mr. Giles all about it, and out his note book, which contained a diary of his
continental travels—His Honour said if he were asked that question he should be under a difficulty, for he had left his note book on the dome of the cathedral at Milan. (Laughter.) The Court then adjourned.—Thomas Warren, the butler to the defendant was called, and detailed the inconveniences occasioned by the way the bath was put up. Cross-examined: He was present when defendant told Mr. Perkins he would pay him his bill when he had remedied the work. Mr. Perkins declined except that he was allowed to charge for the alterations. He heard Mr. Perkins say that the non-acting of the hydraulic apparatus was occasioned by the bad management of the damper. He heard Mr. Perkins refuse to do any more unless he was paid, as had made a perfect job.—Charlotte Burton said she was ladies’ maid to Mrs. Tillotson. She was in the housekeeper’s room, when plaintiff and defendant were talking together over the work to be done. She heard Mr. Messenger say it would only cost a few pounds, and upon defendant objecting at the vagueness of the sum when plaintiff said it would not cost more than £5. Witness detailed the disagreeable results arising from the alleged ill construction of the work. Cross-examined: She heard nothing said about an estimated in wiring being offered by Mr. Messenger, If there had been she must have heard it. The new cistern in place of the one put up by plaintiffs was in a different position to theirs-The upper housemaid was called to prove that the bedroom above the cistern was rendered uninhabitable by it. The noise made by it could be heard all over the house.—the cook said that she was told not to take out the dampers and went afterwards to do so. She knew nothing about the cistern upstairs. The Gardener deposed as to the capacity of the tank in holding water, and spoke generally upon the inconvenience of the work. He went to the plaintiff with Mr. Tillotson, and complained of the supply between the boiler and cistern leaking. – Mr. Twells, of Hathern, said that In 1865 he put up the old cistern for the defendant, and that he was asked to the work put up by the plaintiffs, and he said that their union joists leaked, leather being placed with ???? The persons who put the cistern ought to have ??? the expense of making the ???? good. He considered the tank too small. Forty-one feet of one-inch lead piping ??? put up by him, but plaintiffs replaced it with iron piping. Cross-examined: He had had much experience in these matters ten years before Mr. Messenger knew anything about it [A laugh]. He came to court disinterested. He (witness) ???? took up the cistern and defiantly asked Mr. Deane if he ??? that would stand the way of hot water. Galvanised iron was never intended to hold hot water. He didn’t care, he ???? it. Plaintiffs had found fault with his work, but he had ???? them many times. Upon being asked ig he understood the plan produced, he said “no, and he didn’t want to” [A laugh].-The Judge asked him to give a proper answer. Witness said he wished to speak the truth. This was the case for the defence, and before Mr. Giles replied, the cistern that was deposed to having held 60 gallons, and put up by the witness Twells was produced, and appeared not capable of holding more than the one put by the plaintiffs. The attorney then characterised very severely the attempt to throw dishonour on his clients, and retaliated by stating that this was not the 6nt time by hundreds that the plaintiffs-His Honour stopped the attorney, and he was compelled to withdraw this most irregular observation. He then strongly stated that unless the defendant and his witnesses had come into that court to perjure themselves, the Jury must find in his client’s favour.—Mr Deane said he hoped he should not be betrayed into the same warmth of expression as his friend Mr. Giles.—His Honour: Why one of the points of the case is that the cistern boiled over (laughter).—Mr Deane then summed up his case, and hoped the Jury would say that the plaintiffs had done their business in this case honourably.—His Honour said this case should have been referred to arbitration. He called the attention of the Jury to the salient points of the case, more especially directing them as to whether in certain items charged this work done was by order of the defendant or his gardener, and whether, if by the gardener, the defendant permitted or adopted such work, and whether any and what part of the work should be charged to the owner.—Verdict for plaintiff for £9 5s. 1d. less the sum of £2 19s. 6d., paid into court.

The second court appearance occurred in September, again held at Loughborough County Court[4]. This time it was Messenger and Perkins against Mr. Lowe. The dispute dated back to an incident in 1868 when the pump at the Dishley tollgate[5] failed and Mr. Perkins was summoned by Mr. Lowe to repair it. However, it was found to be beyond repair and so Mr. Perkins replaced it, charging £5 9s. 5d. including an allowance for the old pump, however, the bill was never paid. During the trial Mr. C. Marriott, the tollgate lessee stated “the plaintiff Perkins had said that the old lead, which was very good, would pay for the new pump, and that he never gave Mr. Perkins any authority to do the work”. Messenger and Perkins lost the case.


Shows and Exhibitions

Despite or in spite of the pressure of building up his business he committed time to attend several exhibitions and shows through the season.


Royal Horticultural Society’s Summer Show

The first was the Royal Horticultural Society’s Summer Show held at The Park, Nottingham, between June 27th and July 1st 1871.

One review[6] of the show made dismissive comments regarding the horticultural buildings exhibition part of the show. Firstly, it remarked that

it was only attended by provincial exhibitors including Thomas Messenger, Mr. T.H.P. Denman of Chelmsford, Foster of Beeston, Wheeler & Humphrey of Nottingham and Richardson of Darlington. Secondly, it remarked, “these (exhibitors) are well known…call for no special remark”. The review did note however, that Mr. Ayres exhibited his imperishable house that “appeared in much better condition than at Oxford, and now seems a business-like, useful structure”. As Thomas Messenger, both built and exhibited Mr. Ayres Imperishable House at Oxford, this comment could either have been aimed as criticism towards Thomas Messenger or was merely plain fact.

At the show Thomas Messenger exhibited “a large range of houses on his principle of construction, which had a very light and airy appearance —just a little too slim, if one might say so; the bracing and tying together of the various parts being well contrived, so as to avoid centre supports”[7].

A slightly more heartening report of those exhibitors appeared in The Nottingham Guardian on 7th July:

…Amongst the plant-houses erected in the grounds must be mentioned those of Mr. Messenger, of Loughborough, who has put up a very neat and substantial range, well adapted for general purposes. Houses are also erected by Messrs Dennis and Co., of Chelmsford, but by far the most commendable structure in this part of the exhibition is the Imperishable House, erected by the “Imperishable Hothouse Company”, who are now working Mr. W.P. Ayre’s Patent under his own management. This house is by far in advance of anything that has yet been offered to the horticultural public in the way alluded to. It is constructed of iron, glass, and concrete, and may, indeed, be truly said to be imperishable….”

There was talk of conducting a boiler trial at the Nottingham show, although nothing came of it. Maybe as a consequence only a few exhibitors displayed their boilers. Messrs J. Weeks & Co., displayed their tubular upright boiler; Messrs Jones & Rowe displayed their Witley Court Boiler; Henry Ormson displayed some substantial-looking convoluted saddle and flued saddles, together with a new form in which the fire was swept through the centre and four spaces around it. There is no mention in any of the reports of Thomas Messenger exhibiting his triangular boiler.

The Nottingham show was seen by the organisers as a complete success, accruing a gross profit of around £1,200[8]. Receipts on the opening day, when ticket prices were highest amounted to £150, excluding season tickets; on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday £400; on Thursday £600; on Saturday about 20,000 people attended[9]. As noted in the Birmingham Daily Post[10]Subsequently the grounds were visited by large numbers of persons, the “trade yard” as well as the horticultural department being inspected by large numbers of persons, principally ladies”.

Such large crowds must have meant that significant numbers of visitors saw Thomas Messenger’s display. Many of whom presumably were from the surrounding regions, still his most important source of clients.


Royal Agricultural Society’s Show

Almost immediately following the Nottingham show Messenger went to Wolverhampton, where the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show was held on the Race Course[11] from July 10th to 14th.

Here, amongst 360 stands he displayed his forcing house, with slate beds and triangular tubular heating apparatus[12]. In an advertisement in the local paper[13] that accompanied the show, it stated that he was “showing the most important of his patented principles of construction, which system is finding its way into every part of the United Kingdom”. He also advertised that he was displaying a number of photographs of his work, presumably showing horticultural buildings built for clients.

He appears to have continued the development of his product catalogue now describing it as “a richly illustrated catalogue of Horticultural Buildings, Hot Water Apparatus, &c., &c., containing a very large number of references from all parts of the United Kingdom[14]. Such was the catalogue that he required 33 stamps[15], which at the time was probably equivalent to 2s. 9d.[16], although that included postage.

How many of Thomas Messenger’s competitors attended the show is uncertain. Messrs Wheeler & Humphrey of Nottingham and Messrs Boulton & Co., of Norwich, Mr. Cranson, of Parkfield, Pershore Road, Birmingham, Mr. Inman of Stretford, Lancashire. Mr. T.H.P. Dennis & Co. of Chelmsford, who occupied a stand close to that of Thomas Messenger, exhibited a variety of greenhouses, cucumber-frames, hand lights, patent horizontal tubular boilers and valves. Mr. Dennis also displayed a couple of models, one of Gilley’s patent glass orchard and one of his own patent wrought-iron conservatories[17]. In his advertisement for the show he Mr. Dennis was offering a £5 greenhouse, described as “The Greatest Novelty[18].



Thomas Messenger’s various businesses must have been buoyant, as he appears to have expanded his workforce significantly. At the time of the census he was employing fifty-two men and twelve boys, up from the six men and two boys recorded ten years previously[19]. Presumably, the 64 workers included those that worked directly for both Thomas Messenger and for Messenger and Perkins. In the 1871 census, John Perkins is merely listed as a plumber and glazier.

How the workforce was split between his various businesses, namely horticultural building, hot water engineering, valve manufacture, plumbing, glazing and gas fitting is unknown. An analysis of the 1871 census for Loughborough reveals surprisingly few who claim to be involved in the horticultural building business. In fact, only four have been identified, this may not be helped by the fact that it appears that the horticultural building business is officially classified together with agricultural machinery manufacturing. The four identified are William Sharp, aged 36, of No. 4, Albert Street, a fitter; Henry Hoare, aged 19, of No. 45 Wood Gate, another fitter; John Sudbury, aged 51, of No. 25 Moor Lane, a foreman; Henry Green, aged 19, of No. 7 Rushes, a fitter. As Thomas Messenger was the only horticultural builder in the vicinity, it is reasonable to assume that these four individuals worked for him. There are also a relatively small number of carpenters and joiners, who may have worked in the horticultural business but equally they could have worked for one the joinery businesses, builders or for any number of other firms in the area. With regard to the hot water engineering part of the business, there are less than half a dozen boilermakers listed in the census. However, it is likely that these worked for Henry Hughes & Co., at the Falcon Works, Nottingham Road, who manufactured locomotive steam engines and used in collieries and ironworks across the country. Unsurprisingly there are a larger number of plumbers, including plumbers’ assistants, plumbers’ labourers, plumbers and glaziers, and plumber and gasfitters, although still not sufficient, even if they all worked directly both for Thomas Messenger or Messenger and Perkins, which is highly dubious as there were numerous other employers in these operating within the town.

An analysis of the surrounding villages, Barrow upon Soar, Shepshed, Quorndon, Hathern and Kegworth show a number of plumbers and glaziers but no horticultural works or boilermakers and relatively few carpenters and joiners.

Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 30 September 1871

Business and Customers

Country County Town/Village Customer
England Bedfordshire Heath and Reach C. Ridgway
  Cheshire Chester Charles Philip Douglas
    Chester Henry Richard Bowers
    Stockport Benjamin Whitham
    Wilmslow George Fox 
  Cumberland Wigton John Porter Foster
  Derbyshire Borrowash William Barron
    Borrowash William Barron & Son
    Derby Mr. Wheeldon
    Ockbrook Thomas Henry Pares
  Devon Exeter Boughton Kyngdon
    Lympstone Thomas Parr Perry
  Dorset Minterne Magna Lord Digby
  Gloucestershire Owlpen Thomas Anthony Stoughton
  Hampshire Portsmouth F. Perkins
  Hertfordshire Royston Luke Gimson
  Kent Beckenham John T. Bowden
    Burwash Miss Goold
    Margate James T. Friend
    Sevenoaks Miss. Florence Boscawen
  Lancashire Astley Bridge S. Hollins
    Bolton John P. Haslam
    Hooley Hill William Jones
    Manchester John King
  Leicestershire Birstall Harold Lees
    Birstall Major Worswick
    Harby G. Baguley
    Hinckley, near Sir John William Cradock Hartopp 
    Kegworth Rev. Joseph Clark
    Leicester John Stafford
    Leicester Mr. Grundy
    Loughborough Edward William Cradock Middleton
    Loughborough Local Board of Health
    Loughborough R. Crosher
    Loughborough Taylor & Co.
    Ratcliffe On The Wreake Ratcliffe College
    Thurnby James Alexander Jackson
  Middlesex London Edmund Hannay Watts
    London William Henry Michael
  Northamptonshire Guilsborough Rev. T.S. Hichens
    Kettering Mr. H. Stanley
    Wellingborough Corn Exchange
  Northumberland Hexham C.J. Maling
  Nottinghamshire Annesley Rev. Clement Howard Prance
    Arnold Duke of St. Albans
    Basford J. Bradley
    Newstead William Frederick Webb
    Nottingham J. Booth
    Nottingham Lee & Hunt
    Nottingham Mr. Clark
    Nottingham P. Owen
  Rutland Oakham Gerald James Noel
    Oakham Nelson Walters
  Somerset Shapwick H.B. Strangeway
  Staffordshire Colton John Dicken
  Surrey London E. Hunt
  Warwickshire Atherstone Mr. Page
    Little Ashton Mr. Parker Jervis
    Royal Leamington Spa W. Wills & Sons
    Wilnecote George Skey
  Worcestershire Droitwich John W. Blick
    Kidderminster John Lewis
    Worcester Thomas Westcombe
  Yorkshire, North Riding Guisborough Joseph Whitwell Pease
  Yorkshire, West Riding Bradford Mr. Wilson
    Farnley Tyas Rev. Cutfield Wardroper
    Halifax John Lewis
    Hatfield A. Barker
    Huddersfield William Edwards Hirst
    Leeds R. Green
    Leeds W.D. Cliff
    Lepton Abraham Brierley
    Sheffield Henry Steel
    Staincliffe George Fox
    Thornhill Capt. Joshua Cunliffe Ingham
  Unknown Unknown Emmanuel Sage
    Unknown H. Clark
    Unknown Mr. Meade
    Unknown Richard Britton
    Unknown William Bartram
Ireland County Cavan Bailieborough Lady Lisgar
Wales Caernarfonshire Bangor Orlando Webb
  Flintshire Mold James Davison
  Monmouthshire Malpas Thomas Cordes
  Montgomeryshire Welshpool Miss Pugh


Despite building up a countrywide clientele for his horticultural buildings and heating systems, he was still actively pursuing contracts with Local Board of Heath. In September he won a contract to supply flushing valves[20], with the lowest tender of £2 8s. He was up against stiff opposition, including Messrs Frisby and Jones who submitted a tender of £3; Messrs Thomas and Albert Marshall[21] £2 15s.; Messrs John and George Clements[22] £3 8s.; The Star Foundry[23] £2 10s.

The geographical spread of customers in 1871 showed subtle changes from the previous year with the actual number of clients or potential clients again exposing another decline, this time down over twenty per cent. This fall off was mirrored in the total number of orders or enquiries, down about forty per cent. Clients from the north of England were down whilst those from the south of England were up. Those from the combined area of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Warwickshire and Staffordshire fell for the fifth consecutive year.

The number of orders or estimates, for horticultural structures products only, was up to over a quarter; those for horticultural heating only or combination of horticultural structures and heating were also up; the former to over twenty per cent and the latter to well over one third. Significantly, there were no recorded orders or estimates for non-horticultural heating (e.g. ecclesiastical, public buildings, warehouse or factory).

Amongst the more interesting products and services that the firm delivered during the year included covering a bell-cote with lead at Messrs Taylor & Co.’s bell foundry, Loughborough. Providing two engines, one a 6HP and the other a 4HP to Messrs Lee & Hunt, tool and machinery mercers of Crocus Street and Arkwright Street, Nottingham. Providing a new passage for the Revd. Cutfield Wardroper at the Parsonage, Farnley Tyas in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Constructing a 13ft. by 7ft. span roof glass entrance, with cresting and folding doors, for John Dicken of Colton Hall, Colton, Staffordshire. Building a 30ft. by 12ft. heated lean-to hothouse for Thomas Parr Perry of Brook Cottage, Lympstone, Devon. Constructing a fernery, together with a number of other items, for William Henry Michael, of Cholmeley Park, Highgate, London. Building a large porch for George Skey, Wilnecote Lodge, Wilnecote, Warwickshire. Mr. Skey, a terracotta manufacturer based in Wilnecote, had engaged Thomas Messenger on several occasions the previous year, including one for a coil case with ornamental sides in marble for the hall.


John Lewis

John Lewis was a distinguished carpet manufacturer, born in 1828 in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland and nephew[24] of John Crossley, the founder of Crossley Carpets in Halifax. John Lewis was involved in three separate carpet-manufacturing businesses during his working life.

Firstly, from before August 1858[25] until April 1870[26], he was in partnership with John Brinton, trading as Brinton and Lewis. Following John Lewis’ withdraw from the partnership on 23rd April, the firm were manufacturing carpets, rugs and upholsters trimmings at the factory in Kidderminster, with several properties in London, one at Black Horse Yard, Rathbone Place and the other at No. 14, Berners Street, off Oxford Street[27].

After leaving Brinton and Lewis, he went to work in his uncle’s carpet business[28], becoming a director between 1870 and 1872. Following that he immediately setup his own carpet manufacturing business, occupying offices and warehousing at India Buildings and the Alhambra Factory, both in Halifax. He sold the business in 1882, having already left Halifax to live in London and died at Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex on 2nd June 1907.

In April 1871, Messrs Ives & Son[29], architects, of Waterhouse Street, Halifax, approached Thomas Messenger on behalf of their client, who at the time had just leased Saville Hall, Savile Park Road, Halifax.

The commission was for a partitioned 63ft. 3in. by 13ft. 6in span roof, greenhouse with two finials and 142 superficial feet of iron grating for which Thomas Messenger quoted £122 15s. The presumption is that this structure was to be erected at Savile House. Although in July, John Lewis made a direct approach to Thomas Messenger regarding a heated 30ft, by 12ft. 9in. lean-to early vinery with cresting and finials together with a 29ft. 6in. long span roof plant house. There was also 465 superficial feet of vine wire, a 60ft. by 2ft. 6in. iron walkway and a 29ft. by 17ft. peach trellis. The heating system included a No. 9 boiler, 123 yards of 4-inch, 53 yards of 3-inch 12 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 100 cement joints. The horticultural structures, fittings and heating system were quoted at £186 10s. with connection to the old boilers estimated at an additional £6 or £7. The address referred to in the record books was Hill Grove, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, not Savile Hall, Halifax. Whether these two structures were destined for Hill Grove rather than Savile Hall is unclear.

John Lewis had purchased Hill Grove privately in 1868 or 9, when the estate having previously been withdrawn from auction in February 1868, when only attracting one bid of £5,000[30]. The property was described, at the time, as a large family residence in 12 acres of land, close to the Kidderminster town centre, fronting onto Comberton Road.


Hill Grove, Kidderminster – 1885 OS Map

Following the dissolution of his partnership with John Brinton in 1870 and going to work in his uncle’s firm, he signed a lease on Savile Hall[31] in 1871. It is difficult to understand why John Lewis would wish to erect new horticultural buildings at Hill Grove having already decided to move to Halifax. When he sold Hill Grove for £9,950 to a Mr. Levens in September 1872[32], having already re-located to Halifax, the small estate consisted of 29 acres, boasted a two acre kitchen and fruit garden encased in a 14ft, high brick wall with around 5,000 ft. of greenhouses, in use as early, and late vineries, peach and fig houses. It also boasted a conservatory, melon pits, forcing house and heating apparatus[33]. There is no evidence of Thomas Messenger installing any horticultural buildings at Hill Grove, prior to the approach in July 1871, thus it is assumed that all the greenhouses and associated horticultural structures at Hill Grove were installed by another supplier.

John Lewis made a further approach to Thomas Messenger in January 1872, when living at Savile Hall, for a 39ft. by 13ft. peach house and a 77ft. by 14ft. partitioned vinery, probably trying to replicate, at least in part, the set-up at Hill Grove. The resulting quote of £292 15s. including all the fittings and heating system Both structures had iron walkways along their entire lengths, 2ft.6in. wide in the vineries and 2ft. 3in. the peach house. The vineries had vine wire along both the complete length of the roof as well as along the back wall. The peach house had vine wire along the length of back wall, in addition, to peach trellis along the whole length. The heating system included 142 yards of 4-inch, 40 yards of 3-inch, 35 yards of 2-inch heating pipes and 127 cement joints. There were connections to the existing mains system and the new system utilised an existing boiler.

John Lewis did not live at Savile Hall much longer than he did at Hill Grove, for in March 1876 he sold off his modern pictures and sculptures, having decided to leave Yorkshire[34]. The Hall was immediately taken on a five year lease to be transformed into a girl’s school. Today (2017), a medical practice and  pharmacy occupies the old Hall. Hill Grove House and part of the accompanying estate is today (2017) occupied by King Charles I School.


George Fox

George Fox was a Manchester-based manufacturer who in 1871 was living at Harefield, Fulshaw, just south of Wilmslow, Cheshire. He had been a client of Thomas Messenger since at least 1867, when he purchased replacement grates, presumably for a triangular boiler purchased some years previously.

In September 1871, he ordered three horticultural buildings, totalling in excess of £1,000. The first was a range combing an orchid house, stove and Muscat vinery, with a circular vestibule, domed roof and lantern. The heated structure alone cost £580, with fittings costing an additional £154. The second was a heated 62ft. 8in. by 21ft. span roof plant house, costing £181; the fittings an additional £41 10s.; with the heating costing £54. The third, several pits priced at over £30.

The range was erected a little away from the house with the curved vestibule at the western end that contained a fountain with jets for vapour. The eastern end was at an angle backing onto a track and possible stream, possibly provided water for the 100-gallon tank, pump and fountain. The range was divided down the centre with the main structure (excluding lantern and vestibule) comprised of a little less than 4,000 superficial feet of framing. It appears that the Muscat vinery was 24ft. long, as it was wired with 480 superficial feet of vine wire. The heating system comprised of two No. 7 boilers, 273 yards of 4-inch, 27 yards of 3-inch, 18 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 224 cement joints. The curved vestibule was also heated using 16 yards of 4-inch pipes, which cost an additional £2 8s. As per Thomas Messenger’s normal business practice, the superficial foot price of the normal framing for the structure including erection; however, any deviations from a standard shaped structure then the cost of erection was charged separately. In this particular case the slightly less than 4,000 superficial feet of framing priced at 1s. 5d. per superficial foot included erection, whilst the circular vestibule, domed roof and ventilated lantern were charged separately on a man-day basis. The estimate for the erecting the vestibule, domed roof and lantern amounted to £17 1s. 3d. that comprised of 50 days for a joiner and 25 for a labourer. The dome was glazed in 40 superficial feet of bent glass no doubt all secured using Messenger’s patented system. The fittings included two iron walkways in a honeycomb pattern, amounting to one hundred and ninety-five superficial feet. Fifty-four superficial feet of iron steps and bearers. Thirty-six superficial feet of curved grating in the vestibule. Iron steps in the Muscat house. Two hundred and eighty-nine superficial feet of iron and slate staging. Three hundred and forty-nine superficial feet of stepped staging. Associated with the structure there appears to have been a potting shed, which may have been a late addition. For which Thomas Messenger provided a 5ft. by 3ft. windows, with ornamental ironwork, a 7ft. ladder, a 17ft. by 3ft. bench, iron framing at the entrance along with additional framing, 45ft. 6in. for the roof and 5ft. 6in. for the front, which required additional heating including 54 yards of 4-inch pipe and 30 cement joints.

The 62ft. 8in. long plant house built just to the east of the residence had cresting along the whole length of the roof with a finial at each end. The heating used an existing boiler, together with 180 yards of 4-inch, 31 yards of 3-inch, 13 yards of 2-inch heating pipe and 177 cement joints. The plant house was glazed in 21oz. glass instead of 15oz. and had blinds along the whole length of both roofs. Other fittings included four stages measuring 42ft. by 3ft. of slate with iron fronts and backs.

The pits comprised of 480 superficial feet of framing, with 12 iron slide ventilators. The lights, glazed in 21oz. glass, were fixed onto the frame in such that they could be lifted off.

Harefield, Fulshaw – 1874 OS Map

On the 1874 Ordnance Survey map for the area, a number of other glass structures appear both close to and attached to the residence. It is possible that these are Thomas Messenger’s installed at the same time as he installed the original boiler and prior to 1867.

By 1898[35], several additional horticultural structures had been added just east of the residence at Harefield, with all the previous structures still extant. None of the new structures can be attributed to Messenger & Co., but it is interesting to note that the occupant at the time was Elijah Ashworth, a renowned orchid grower, who presumably used Thomas Messenger’s original orchid house of 1871. Such was the reputation of Elijah Ashworth that he held a two-day sell of duplicates, etc., on 4th and 5th November 1903. Twenty of the lots had reserves placed upon them ranging from £50 up to £1,000, although only two actually reached the reserve figure, with the sale realising almost £1,700[36].

By 1909[37], the curved vestibule and lantern were no more, although the rest of the structure remained, as did the fountain.

On the 1936 Ordnance Survey map, some of the horticultural structures had already disappeared including the original orchid, Muscat vinery and stove house, whilst the fountain had been replaced by a sundial.

Today (2017), although the house remains, none of the horticultural structures have survived, practically all being cleared away to be replaced by car parks. The residence now part of the Fulshaw Estate owned by the Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, whose headquarters are located within the estate. Harefield House as it is now used as serviced office accommodation[38].



On retiring around 1877, George Fox left Harefield and moved to Elmhurst Hall in Staffordshire, which he had purchased several years previously. Following the move, George Fox engaged Messenger & Co., on at least three separate occasions between 1875 and 1876. He died suddenly aged 77 on 29th May 1984 of angina pectoris[39], whilst staying with an old friend Sir George Armstrong, at No. 4, Ashburn Place, Kensington, London. The tragedy was that he had gone to London, to allow the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland to stay at Elmhurst Hall[40]. George Fox was an avid art collector and breeder of shorthorn cattle. Before moving to Elmhurst, he sold most of his art collection and at least one of which now resides in the British Museum, with another sale being held after his death[41]. He left a personal estate whose gross value was a little over £70,000[42].

Advertisement – The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 9 December 1871


  1. The following is an extract from the patent application (No. 1871/53) : –

    I cast or otherwise form the socket at one or both ends of each length of pipe with a flange (or with a ring) having one, two, or more lugs, ears, or tabs, or their equivalent, and having holes or slots in it at the outer end. Or instead of a flange I sometimes form the socket with one or more pairs of tabs or ears. The interior of the socket may be of the same diameter for the whole of its length. Or I divide it into two lengths of two different diameters. In such case the length of socket nearest the pipe which forms a part thereof is of such diameter that it will allow the end of the next adjoining pipe to be slipped into it. The outer end of the socket is made of somewhat larger diameter to receive one or more rings, or a coil, collar, washer packing which encircles the pipe inserted in the socket. Previously inserting the pipe in the socket the flange with holes in its projecting part or the flange or ring with tabs or ears on its outer circumference is slipped on the end of the pipe, the holes in the two flanges, or the spaces formed by the tabs or ears, being then brought opposite each other screw bolts are placed in the holes or spaces, nuts or equivalents are placed on the bolts and screwed or forced up. The smallest part of the flange is forced into the enlarged diameter of the socket and compresses the packing, thus forming a tight joint.

  2. 2nd – 3rd April 1871.

  3. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 25th March 1871.

  4. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 23rd September 1871.

  5. About one mile of north of Loughborough on road to Hathern.

  6. The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 1st July 1871.

  7. The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, Country Gentleman, Bee Keeper and Poultry Chronicle, July 6th 1871.

  8. The Nottinghamshire Guardian, 28th July 1871.

  9. The Standard, 3rd July 1871.

  10. 28th June 1871.

  11. Now West Park.

  12. The Birmingham Daily Post 11th July 1871.

  13. The Birmingham Daily Post 8th July 1871.

  14. The Birmingham Daily Post 11th July 1871.

  15. In 1865 the postage rate was set a 1d. for ½oz.; 2d. of 1oz. 2d. for 1½ oz. This was revised downwards on October 5th 1871.

  16. The British Postal Museum & Archive.

  17. The Birmingham Daily Post, 11th June 1871.

  18. Ibid.

  19. 1861 Census.

  20. The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury 9th September 1871.

  21. Ironmongers, seedsmen, etc., Market Place, Loughborough

  22. Engineers, Mill Street, Loughborough.

  23. Iron and Brass founders, Nottingham Road, Loughborough. At the time Thomas Messenger was a partner in the business together with John Taylor and Edwin Cook, the manager.

  24. He was the son of John Crossley’s eldest daughter, Martha, who married Price Lewis, an Irish carpet manufacturer and stuff merchant on 7th June 1827 in Halifax.

  25. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 14th August 1858.

  26. The London Gazette, 2nd August 1870.

  27. The London Gazette, 2nd August 1870.

  28. John Crossley & Sons.

  29. A partnership between Roger Ives and his son William. Roger Ives was at one time an assistant to Joseph Paxton and was favoured by the Crossley family, of carpet manufacturers, designing a number of their mills and other buildings. The partnership continued to be known as Ives and Son after his death in 1867.

  30. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 22nd February 1868.

  31. Savile Park Road , about five minutes walk away from the Town Hall

  32. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 28th September 1872.

  33. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 21st September 1872.

  34. The Leeds Mercury, 18th March 1876.

  35. Ordnance Survey Map.

  36. The Orchid Review, December 1903, page 373.

  37. Ordnance Survey Map.

  38. www.thefulshawestate.co.uk

  39. The Times, 31st May 1894.

  40. The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser, 9th June 1894.

  41. The Times, 4th January 1896.

  42. The Birmingham Daily Post, 20th July 1894.