Quadrant Pump Patent (1868/1675)

This invention, which became known as the quadrant pump, was submitted as a patent application on 21st May and successfully sealed on 17th November 1868.

It appears that Thomas Messenger associated the pump with his horticultural business rather than that business with John Perkins. He displayed at the Royal Agricultural Society Show in Leicester in August, where it was enthusiastically received (see below). The pump had a cast-iron base, with brass cylinders with plungers and four-values, capable of being used by one or two men by the use of a double action pump.

The following is an extract from the patent application: –

My Invention consists of an engine or pump in which there is a base or body (made of cast iron or other material) having spaces in it which convey the water or other liquid from valves to each end of a cylinder made of brass or other malleable or suitable material, and placed horizontally or perpendicularly, in which cylinder works a solid plunger. When this plunger is moved the water or other liquid is forced through other valves into an air vessel, and thence to a jet or spout. The four valves employed are accessible by unscrewing one nut only without taking the engine or pump to pieces. The plunger is acted upon by a rack and toothed quadrant or equivalent contrivance, which when manual power is used is worked by handspikes by one, two, or more men, according to the size of cylinder used. There may be also second motion employed whereby one man alone can work it, the quantity of water or other liquid discharged being in proportion to the power employed. The manner in which the rack acts upon the piston is by its being attached to one end of the piston rod, which rod works through a gland at one end of the cylinder. The whole is mounted on wheels and the handspikes serve for handles, so that the engine or pump may be removed to any required situation, and placed in any position, and it may be propelled by steam, horse, or other power.

Irrespectively of other advantages much saving is effected in this my Invention over other fire engines or pumps now in use.

Having set forth the nature of the said Invention, I now proceed more particularly to describe the manner of performing the same, with reference to the accompanying Drawings and to the figures and letters marked thereon.


Figure 1 represents a perspective view of a large fire engine constructed according to my Invention; Figure 2 is a like view of a small fire engine or garden engine constructed according to my Invention; Figure 3 is a plan section showing the inlet or suction pipe, the delivery pipe, and the position of the four valves, the cylinder with the air vessels and wheels; Figure 4 is a longitudinal section showing the water courses and the cylinder and plunger, also the rack quadrant levers, the second motion, and the guide wheels in elevation; Figure 5 is a transverse section showing the valves and valve lids, the nut and bolt to secure the same with the water courses (both inlet and outlet), the air vessel and cylinder, the quadrant and second motion, also the wheels and rocking arms and bearers in elevation.

A, A, are the wheels; B. the axles; C, the rocking arm attached to the axle; D, the bearer to receive the axle; E, the water courses; F, are the valves, and G, the cylinder; H is the plunger; I, represents the air vessel, and J, the piston rod; K is the gland, and L the rack; M, the guide wheel, while N represents the cylinder covers; O is the quadrant; P indicates the second motion, and R are the levers; S is the standard to carry the quadrant, and T represents the valve covers; U is the bolt with clamp to secure the covers; W, represents the inlet and outlet pipes; X, indicates the couplings, and Y is the handle to guide and propel the engine.

It should not be understood in this description of the Drawings that where the same letter of reference occurs more than once it indicates the same portion of the engine shewn in different positions.

It may here be mentioned that this double action pump, suitable with slight modifications to suit circumstances, may be employed as a fire engine or manure pump or garden engine, or it may be used as a domestic pump, or it may be employed for ordinary or deep wells

Having now described the nature of my said Invention, and in what manner the same may be performed, I declare that I claim,—

First. The combination of rack toothed quadrant and plunger in which one cylinder only is used, as herein-before described.

Second. The general arrangement and combination of parts herein-before described constituting an improved pump or fire engine.

Patent Figures
Annotated Patent Figures


It is difficult to know how successful this invention was as there are no known sales records. One possible reference is made in October 1868 of a sale of a “Patent Pump ready to fix on barrow or plank” to Mr. John Bailie, a plumber, living in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Whether successful or not he let the patent lapse in 1871 by non-payment of the additional Stamp Duty of £50 required to continue the patent after the initial three year period.

In his 1870 catalogue of horticultural buildings, hot water and hydraulic appliances, Thomas Messenger included a plate displaying a number of appliances, including a garden syringe and small iron pump for conservatories, etc. Obviously, the plate included his patented quadrant pump, which in the accompanying text was described “as the most important illustration on this page”. He also gave a graphic description as to its possible uses and options:

It may he used with advantage as an ordinary domestic force pump or as a farm pump for liquid manure and would be invaluable as a Fire Engine from the large amount of water it forces, and the distance to which it will throw it. Its greatest advantage, however, consists in the ease with which it can be used for a great variety and so save the expense of having separate pumps for each purpose. It may either be fixed for domestic uses, or it can be supplied on wheels, and so be capable of being readily removed to the sites of its various works. The amount of power required to work it can be varied from one to four men, the motion being so arranged that the amount of work done is proportioned to the power employed. One man can pump a much larger quantity of water than with an ordinary pump, whilst with four men it is little inferior to a small brigade fire engine requiring twice that number. It may also be had arranged to work by horse or steam power. The working portions are extremely simple, the whole of the valves being accessible by unscrewing one nut, and may be cleaned by an ordinary labourer without fear of disarrangement, while by careful adjustment of parts the amount of friction is reduced to a minimum, so that no labour is wasted. The pump can be supplied either with Iron cylinder or Iron lined with Copper, or brass, as may be preferred.

At the time, he was supplying the pump in two forms. The first fitted with a small sized quadrant pump and available on a wheelbarrow. The second fitted with a double action pump and two brass cylinders. Both were available with either oak or galvanised iron tubs.