Thomas Messenger appears to have been very active over the next twenty years not only building up his various businesses and displaying his products at the various exhibitions around the country, but also submitting patent application after patent application.

In 1852, the British patent system was severely overhauled by an act of Parliament, known as the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852, when a single Patent Office was set-up. The act defined a much simpler and cheaper process for obtaining patents and provided for a single United Kingdom patent. In 1883 another act was passed, this time allowing the setting up an office of Comptroller General of Patents that was responsible for conducting a limited review of the application, mainly to ensure that the submission adequately described the invention.

During the period from 1852 until 1915, when a patent was submitted it was numbered sequentially on an annual basis, starting at 1 at the beginning of each year. For example, in 1868[1] a total of 3991[2] patents applications were submitted, with Thomas Messenger submitting two; the first numbered 1675 was submitted in July and the second numbered 2139 submitted around six weeks later. Thus to identify a specific patent application during this period a combination of year and sequence number is used e.g. 1868/1675 and 1868/2139. Granted patent applications retained the patent application number.

Between 1852 and the end of 1883 the details of all patents applications were published, irrespective of whether they were granted or not. However, from the beginning of 1884 only those patent applications that were granted were published in detail. Several of Thomas Messenger later patents fall into this second category, and all that is known of them is the title of the patent when submitted.

According to the current United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office[3], a patent[4] can be described as giving protection for new inventions[5] and covers “how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made“. The granting of a patent gives the owner the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, and importing their invention without permission.

Thomas Messenger appears to have been an inveterate inventor and patent submitter. Over a thirty-nine year period, between 1856 and 1895, he submitted twenty-six patent applications, although not all of these were successful. The type and range of patents can be divided into two distinct periods:

1856 and 1873

The first were all directly related to his then and future business activities. In total, there were eleven patent applications, spread more or less evenly across the seventeen-year time span. Of the eleven patents, six were heating and plumbing related, three horticultural related and the remaining two were for pumping engines.

1876 and 1895

The second set of patents from 1876 and 1895 covered a more eclectic range of inventions, including locks and latches for doors and regulating mechanisms for the supply of water to water-closet lavatories.


  1. Patent applications filed and patents granted each year 1852 to 1915. 

  2. Of which 2,490 were granted.

  3. The operating name of the Patent Office.

  4. Intellectual Property. 

  5. a). Must be new
    b). Have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject
    c). Be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry.