The Centenary Celebrations

The firm celebrated their centenary in 1958 by holding a dinner and dance at Loughborough Town Hall, as reported in the Loughborough Echo[1]: –

Messenger & Co Celebrate Centenary

Thus, was founded the now world-known firm of Messenger and Co., Ltd., whose name is a byword in hot water healing and horticulture. But although the name of the founder remains there has not been a Messenger in the firm since 1874 when only 16 years after the High-street works were opened he sold out to Mr. W. C. Burder.

For the last 84 years, the progress of Messenger’s has been guided by the Burder family and the present managing director. Mr. Kenneth M. Burder, will preside over the centenary dinner and dance at Loughborough Town Hall tonight Friday, at which about 260 guests are expected.

GLASSHOUSE CONSTRUCTION

Mr Messenger was first in the field with the new system of glasshouse construction and heating of such buildings as conservatories, peach houses, vineries and specially designed houses for carnations, orchids, tomatoes and other kinds of fruit and flowers.

In 1872 a disastrous fire destroyed much of the High-street premises. The firm’s existence was then regarded as so important tothe town that a public subscription was opened for the replacement of workmen’s tools.

In 1887 the foundry was transferred to the present works in Cumberland-road and the move was completed by 1895. But those interested in history can see the original entrance in High-street between the “King’s Head” and the Leicester ‘Permanent Building Society branch.

With the decline of Victorian grandeur there was a falling off in the demand for garden buildings and Messenger’s had to look round for a fresh field of activity. Now about 75 per cent, of the factory’s production is devoted to machine tools and castings.

MACHINE PARTS

Some of the machine parts made are for experimental and prototype jet aircraft engines.

Messenger’s were, responsible for the healing of many large buildings in Loughborough, among them the Parish Church[2] and most other churches and chapels, the Echo Press, Victory Cinema[3] and the Town Hall. They recently installed central heating at Southfields and the Grove Hall[4] of residence, Loughborough Training College.

Loughborough’s street name plates used to be made by Messenger’s and other iron founders.

DUKE OF BEDFORD

Examples of Messenger’s recent Horticultural work range from a huge palm house built to the order of the Duke of Bedford to small and inexpensive greenhouses and frames for working men gardeners.

In digging out the early history of the firm Mr. Burder has been badly handicapped by the lack of authentic material.

Mr Burder spent two years in search for a photograph of the founder before he finally trace one in the hands of descendants in Surrey. It was copied and the reproduction “now hangs in the reception room at Cumberland road. Mr. Messenger is revealed as an austere-looking man with a very high-domed head curly beard and thoughtful countenance. He built many houses in the Victoria-street and Park-road area He- was also a leading member one of the dissenting sects and built at his own expense the meeting house in School-street. He died in 1899 at the age of 71 years.

For many years, the firm has had a London office in Victoria-street Westminster, and the manager there Mr. George Gutteridge, Loughborough, has been an employee for over 60 years.

LONG-SERVING EMPLOYEES

There are many other long-serving employees and there are instances of several members of one family on the firm’s pay-roll.

Among those to attend the dinner will be a number of retired workers.

Mr Burder told the Loughborough Echo that an extension to the present 12 acres works site is being planned to cope with production demands.

The board of three comprise Mr. Burder, his son Mr. F. G. M. (Derek) Burder, and Mr. Johnson, of London.

Messenger’s have achieved a great reputation in the past 100 years for high-class workmanship and individual attention to customers’ requirements. They are carrying this same standard with them as they enter their second century.

The Loughborough Monitor[5] also ran a story on the celebrations:

Loughborough firm ‘scores’ century….

Today the Russians and Americans are covering the first few laps of the “space track ” to the Moon … but the Englishman still clings to his liking for getting down to earth by pottering about in his greenhouse or tending his kitchen garden!

Proof of this is right here on your doorstep—in Loughborough. Remember the hullabaloo 12 months or more ago when the tenants of the Storer Charity allotments were told they must give up the gardens which had been nurtured in many cases by the same families for generations?

Next door to the “wilderness,” which has been created since the notices to quit expired, stand the works of Messenger and Company Ltd., the horticultural and heating engineers.

And. still being manufactured in the workshops, is the Loughborough No 1 greenhouse boiler. This self-same boiler was advertised in the1 Loughborough Monitor 75 years ago as “the boiler for the amateur.”

The only difference is on the price tag. In those days it cost £2 12s. 6d. today it is selling at £12.

It all started 100 years ago when Thomas Goode Messenger saw there was a future in the business of catering for the needs of the horticulturist.

And due to the foresight of this farmer’s son who became a plumber, more than 250 people in Loughborough in the Town Hall on Friday to celebrate the centenary of the firm.

The firm originally started in High Street. Loughborough, but a disastrous fire in 1872 destroyed the premises.

As it was the only firm of its kind in the United Kingdom a number of generous benefactors subscribed to its re-establishment.

SYMBOLIC

In 1874. Mr. Messenger sold out to Mr. W C. Burder, and ever since that year a member of the Burder family has directed operations.

At Friday’s function, the present managing director, Mr. Kenneth M. Burder and his son. Mr. Derek Burder heard glowing tributes to the family.

On behalf of the workers, Mr. Jim Harvey said it was “with great pride and pleasure” that they were able to have the company of Mr. Kenneth Burder, who had recovered from a disturbing- illness

“He has lived to see the centenary of his firm and this celebration is the symbolic culmination of his life’s work. Everyone who knows Mr. Kenneth will wish him many more years of active participation with the firm,” he added.

Mr. H. A. Johnson a co-director of the firm and managing director of an allied company, F. J. Edwards and Co., Ltd., London, said that no doubt Mr. Derek Burder would carry on the tradition and follow in his father’s footsteps as managing director of the firm.

Mr. Johnson concluded by presenting a record player to Mr. Kenneth Burder. The employees later presented him with several long-playing records.

Mr. Derek Burder welcomed the guests and thanked the work people and staff for their hardwork, co-operation and loyal service for many years.”

Other speakers were Mr. G. E. Gutteridge, the manager of the firm’s London office, who gave a talk on the history of the Firm’s directors and Mr. W Harriman foreman of the joiner’s shop, who proposed a vote of thanks to the directors.

What is the secret of the firm’s success over 100 years’. It can probably be best summed up in the words of Mr. Jim Harvey. “The success of any business depends a good deal on the relationship between employer and employee. And if you have a job at Messenger & Company you have got a home from home.

A third report appeared in the Leicester Evening News:

NO TASK TO LARGE OR TOO SMALL FOR THEM

AFTER 100 years of existence, Messengers and Co., Ltd., horticultural and heating engineers, can claim that no task is too small or too great for them to tackle.

At one time the firm was responsible for producing name plates for the town’s streets.

An example of recent horticultural work is seen by the thousands of visitors each year to Woburn Abbey, where Messengers erected a magnificent palm house for the Duke of Bedford.

Although the founder, Thomas Goode Messenger, was a specialist in them construction of glass houses and the installation of heating systems in hothouses, the firm has moved with the times and broadened its interests.

SUCCESSFUL CHANGE

There came a time when the demand for ornate Victorian structures in gardens was no longer sufficient to keep the staff fully employed, and the company transferred its attention to turning out machine tools and castings.

This line proved so successful that now about 75 per cent of the factory’s production is concentrated on this type of work.

Some of the parts made are used for experimental and prototype engines for jet aircraft—a state of affairs the first Messenger would never have considered In his wildest dreams, when he forsook hls trade as a plumber and set up in business in High-street as a horticultural builder and heating engineer.

And Thomas Messenger himself was a man of vision and business acumen. To him it was obvious that glass houses would be more efficient if lighter materials were incorporated their construction, together with an improved system of heating.

WORLD-WIDE FAME

He remained in control of the firm for only 16 years, and in 1874 sold out to Mr. W. C. Burden

Since then then fortunes of the firm have been in the hands of the Burder family, who have seen it grow into a concern with a world-wide reputation for craftsmanship of the highest order.

The move to the present Works in Cumberland-road began in 1887 and was completed by 1895. This was brought about by a disastrous fire in 1872 at the High-street premises, much of which were destroyed.

The continued existence of the firm was considered so important to the town that a public subscription was opened for the provision of new tools for employees.

As later events have proved, the townspeople invested their money wisely.

Town Hall, Loughborough

References:

  1. 16th May 1958.
  2. The church still (2007) retains the radiators, although the original boiler has been replaced.
  3. The cinema was on Biggin Street near the Market Place and opened on Friday 16th September 1921. It was closed very suddenly on Tuesday 16th January 1967. It was subsequently demolished and the site is now occupied by several shop units.
  4. Ashby Road, now part of the University of Loughborough.
  5. The Loughborough Monitor, 23rd May 1958.