The patent application was made on 4th July 1868 and sealed on 1st January 1869. The title of the patent “Improvements in the Construction and Erection of Buildings used for Horticultural or other similar Purposes, and in Machinery or Application employed therein.” is somewhat misleading in that it utilised a radically improved version of his original 1859 patented ventilation system (1859/1777). The new design used a series of narrow opening lights along the whole length of the structure enabled him to create a curved structure without the expense and trouble of having to use bent glass.
This invention was probably one of Thomas Messenger’s most successful; successful enough for him to renew it in 1871, although perhaps not successful enough for it to be renewed at the end of seven years in 1875, when he had no longer had an interest in the firm. The importance of this invention probably lay in the design of ventilation system rather than that of being able to build a structure “to any shape”.
The following is an extract from the patent application: –
My Invention consists in part in the construction and arrangements of a number of glazed lights of equal or unequal widths fixed on one or more sides of a conservatory or other building used for horticultural or other similar purposes, such lights being hung in such manner ,that the whole of them (or any number of them) on the same side may be opened at one and the same time any required distance. These lights may run the entire length of the building, and may open from one end to the other end thereof, the object being to admit fresh air into every portion of the building or erection in either small or large quantities.
This construction and arrangement will produce an effect not previously obtained; and by making the structure with narrow lights I am enabled to make the outline of almost any shape, and give it a very graceful and ornamental appearance without the use of bent glass, and at very small additional cost over that of a perfectly straight and plain structure.
The machinery or apparatus which I employ in carrying out my invention consists of screws and toothed wheels and worms, or their equivalent, for the purpose of opening and closing the lights before mentioned. The wheels or worms employed, or their equivalent, by acting upon a screw and travelling nut move a rod, to which are fixed arms to move the lights, and are fixed upon a rod to which is attached a grooved wheel, in which runs an endless band or chain worked by a second wheel and handle fixed in any convenient part of the building to be ventilated; or the motion may be given by a rod or countershaft, to which is attached a worm and handle to act upon the worms and wheels, and upon the screws and arms, or their equivalents, before mentioned, for moving the light or lights required to be opened or closed; or motion may be given direct by means of a handle fixed in the places of the grooved wheel before mentioned, or otherwise, according to the requirements of the situation.
The skeleton of the structure may be formed by fixing upon a stone, iron, wood, or other sill, or an iron or wood, or wood and iron combined rafter, bent to any required form if desired to be of an ornamental character, or it may be constructed of straight pieces of wood or iron firmly joined together in such manner that in the whole they have the form required. To these rafters are secured the iron brackets, bearers , or supports for the ventilating apparatus, or for strengthening or for training purposes, or for ornament.
The ends of the house or structure are constructed either pain or ornamental, ornamental, and are usually fitted in with fast lights, but may be fitted with moveable lights if desired.
If the building or structure is required to be perfectly plain, whether in form or lean-to span or semi-span roof structure consisting of upright sides and straight roof, it is formed by fixing iron or other bracket-headed “muntins” upon sills, as before mentioned, upon which “muntins” rest a small wood or other longitudinal plate: and also the feet of the wood, iron, or other rafters forming the roof. To these iron or other muntins are secured or cast on, so as to form part of same, the required brackets, bearers, or supports for ventilating or other apparatus as before mentioned. The ventilating apparatus in this case would be so arranged as to open the upright front light, and a similar one at the apex of roof opening the entire length of building at once, and either together or separately, as may be desired; or the upright light and the whole of the roofing may be made to open in a circular manner.
Although this Invention is intended primarily for the construction or ventilation of horticultural buildings, it may in many instances be employed with advantage for other similar buildings or structures.
Many advantages are embraced in this Invention, and amongst them may be mentioned, these buildings may be erected in any required form, and without the use of bent glass; their extreme lightness of construction combined with much strength and durability; that plants may be exposed to the atmosphere of the open air when desired, or pure air be admitted in any required quantity and at many points, thus giving thorough and complete ventilation, with novelty of construction and great variety of design, all being attainable at small cost. The buildings may be glazed either with or without employing putty, as required.
Having thus set forth the nature of my Invention, I now proceed more particularly to describe the manner of performing it with reference to the accompanying Drawings.
Description of the Drawings
Figures 1 and 2 represent general views of parts of two kinds of buildings.
Figure 3 show the apex of the roof with ridge can and ventilating lights with iron saddle, king rod, and the upper portion of tension rods as foxed to the saddle.
Figure 4 shows a section of upright front and a portion of the roof with sill, iron muntins with carrier for the ventilating apparatus, and the light bracket for straining wires, the lug to carry the upright ventilating light with the bracket to receive the tension rod, and the thrust principal cast upon it with the ventilating light open, and the arm opening for the same with longitudinal plate, a portion of the rafter with tension rod and thrust principal.
Figure 5 is a front view of muntins, sill, and longitudinal plate with rafter and ventilating screw, the travelling nut, and sliding rod with the screw carriers and wheel and chain.
Figure 6 shows the carrier for the sliding rod screwed to the rafter with the tension rod passing through it.
Having obtained the patent Thomas Messenger lost no time in displaying the structure at The Royal Agricultural Society’s Show in Leicester. Here he appears to have exhibited a structure similar to the one appearing in the patent diagrams. However, as the report below shows, it received with less than total enthusiasm, mainly due the shape of the structure.
The patent appears to be the first time that the term “muntin” has been used in relation to horticultural buildings:-
If the building or structure is required to be perfectly plain, whether in form or lean-to span or semi-span roofed structure consisting of upright sides and straight roof, it is formed by fixing iron or other bracket-headed “muntins” upon sills, as before mentioned, upon which “muntins” rest a small wood or other longitudinal plate: and also the feet of the wood, iron, or other rafters forming the roof. To these iron or other muntins are secured or cast on, so as to form part of same, the required brackets, bearers, or supports for ventilating or other apparatus as before mentioned. The ventilating apparatus in this case would be so arranged as to open the upright front light, and a similar one at the apex of roof opening the entire length of building at once, and either together or separately, as may be desired; or the upright light and the whole of the roofing may be made to open in a circular manner.
This together with the concept of continuous light (top or bottom) opening concept and mechanism and the use of tension rods are probably the three most important design concepts of Thomas Messenger’s horticultural building patents.
The Royal Agricultural Society Show, Leicester
One of the apparent highlights of the agricultural year was the annual show of the Royal Agricultural Society, which in 1868 was held at the Race Course, Leicester, between 16th and 22nd August. The show attracted very large attendances, exceeding 96,000 over the first five days.
Predictably, Thomas Messenger exhibited a large array of his wares, including:
- A 30ft. by 16ft. curvilinear conservatory, using his new design, yet unpatented.
- A 40ft. by 18ft. plant house and vinery.
- A 50ft. by 7ft. covered peach wall.
- A 20ft. by 12ft. portable tenant’s-fixture greenhouse.
- A large double-action patent pump or fire engine.
- A small double-action patent pump on wheels.
- A small double-action garden engine, with zinc tub.
- Three patent triangular tubular boilers.
- Several valves.
Naturally, Thomas Messenger’s display received an interesting and probably forthright report in the local newspaper.
Of these, Mr. T. G. Messenger, horticultural engineer, of Loughborough, has certainly the best display, for he not only exhibits hot-houses of various constructions, but some of them are of great novelty. The most striking feature is a well-conceived curvilinear Conservatory, of extremely graceful, and, at the same time, unusual appearance. The outline is formed by what are familiarly known as 2 O G curves meeting at the apex. These are covered with sashes some thirty inches deep, running from end to end of the house, hung, and overlapping each other. These are attached to Mr. Messenger’s patent ventilating apparatus, which is so arranged that one sash, or the whole of the sashes upon the house may be opened to any extent with no more trouble than is involved in simply turning a wheel. The principle of construction must possess many advantages for the growth of our more hardy greenhouse plants, and for the winter garden it must be perfection, as the fresh air is admitted in volume over the entire surface of the house. The appearance of this house is exceedingly light and graceful, and yet there is strength enough for all purposes. We think, however, in straining for a graceful outline. Mr. Messenger has lost sight of the useful, and that a flatter O G curve would give more internal room, with less consumption of glass. This, of course, is a mere matter of detail, which will find its proper place in the course of time. The principle for gardening purposes is, no doubt, right, and will do much to rid our gardens of the common lean-to sheds which so frequently disfigure them. The other houses exhibited by Mr. Messenger a combines Vinery and Plant Stove Forcing House and Peach House, and a portable tenant’s fixture Greenhouse – the whole of these are constructed upon patented principles, the objects of which are so to combine iron and wood that the necessary strength may be secured with the smallest consumption of material. The forcing house or pit is constructed with extreme lightness of appearance yet is sufficiently strong for any purpose. The arrangement of hot water pipes is also novel, one set of pipes being found sufficient for both top and bottom heat. A newly designed pattern of sash bar is also used in the house, which prevents all drip. These houses will relay the careful inspection of all interested in horticultural appliances not the least interesting of which is his Triangular tubular Boiler and Valves, all of which we find useful in practice.
A Quadrant Pump from Mr. Messenger is quite a new invention, which appears capable of almost any service to which a pump can be applied, whilst its power is scarcely less than an ordinary brigade engine.
This report captures the progress that Thomas Messenger had made over the previous few years. This no doubt underlines the thinking behind his breaking-up the business and spinning off the more parochial elements into the partnership with John Perkins.
Thomas Messenger was not alone in displaying horticultural products. Messrs Ormson and Co., of Chelsea displayed their Paradigm hothouse, together with their heating apparatus. Messrs Cumming and Edwards displayed their octagonal conservatory, with ornamental zinc roof. Mr. Cranston of Birmingham had a fixed roof ventilating conservatory and hothouse. Finally, Mr. B. Wheeler, of Nottingham was there with his conservatory.
An illustration of an ogee house appeared in one of Thomas Messenger’s advertisements in 1871; whether this was a ‘flatter’ version of the one shown at Leicester is unknown. The structure shown in the advertisement is similar to that described in the newspaper report, having a complete wall of sashes along the complete length on both sides of the house, with each sash probably being about 30 inches deep. The advertisement also demonstrates that the whole run of sashes could be opened so as to provide as much ventilation as was required.