Heating Systems

When the new partnership took over the business from Thomas Messenger, they purchased the rights to Thomas Messenger’s very successful triangular tubular boiler. By the mid-1870s the boiler had been in production for almost twenty years, having originally been patented (No. 466) in 1856[1]. The boiler was essentially a saddle boiler, although using for the time a unique arrangement of triangular shaped pipes instead of the normal circular pipes; this made for a larger surface area available for heating. Using this method Thomas Messenger claimed that “the heat cannot escape without doing threefold the work it would in any other manner of construction[2]. His design was described in the Mechanics’ Magazine[3]: –

In this boiler an arrangement of parallel triangular pipes is used, as shown in the engraving. The horizontal position of tubes, and the triangular shape, cause the gas in their upward current to rebound

The Mechanics’ Magazine, Volume 66, January 3rd – June 27th 1857

from tube to tube, so that before they can reach the flue, the whole of the heat is expected in the boiler. Rapid circulation of the water is caused by the action and re-action of the fire. Should the boiler require cleaning, it can be done by removing the ends which are made in separate parts. The fire-bars form water spaces.

Having obtained his patent he displayed his invention at a number of exhibitions across the country including the 9th annual exhibition of inventions at John Street, Adelphi, London, held in connection with the Society of Arts.

The boiler was very successful and sold in large numbers; although by mid-1870s it must have been becoming close to “end of life” with other manufacturers bringing improved designs into the market place. The firm continued with the triangular boiler for about five years, although by the early 1880s they appeared to have abandoned it, having developed their own “Loughborough” boiler introduced in the second half of 1881.

The firm also marketed a number of other boilers including several variants of the saddle boiler; an Independent dome top cylinder boiler; the Baseco Boiler; Meseta Boiler; Ideal Boilers. However, besides the Loughborough Boiler their best known and probably most significant boiler was their own designed and manufactured Quorn Boiler, which was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century and in production for almost sixty years. These two boilers were probably as important as the horticultural structures to the firm’s longevity.

Hot Water Low Pressure Heating Systems

Although the firm did on occasions install steam-heating systems, this was the exception rather than the rule. Probably well over 95 per cent of their heating systems were based upon hot water low pressure solution. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of pages have been written about such systems; therefore it is not the intention to go into any detail on such systems other offer the following extract from “The Book of the Greenhouse” by J.C. Tallack[4], printed in 1908 and part of the Handbooks of Practical Gardening series:

Heating. The heating of greenhouses has gone through many phases during the past half century, but I think that at last we may claim to have a really good system in the use of hot water for the purpose. It is a matter for congratulation that the old system of using hot air flues has almost disappeared, as these flues were almost always a nuisance; they cooled quickly if the fire went low, were often difficult to heat, and, worst of all, they were prone to leakage, and once the sulphurous fumes got through to the house, they meant death to the plants. I should not have mentioned the flue system of heating at all, did I not know that flues are to some extent used even now, and sometimes advocated for their cheapness. On the whole, we have nothing yet to supersede hot water when driven by a good boiler through a sufficiency of 4-in. pipes. Steam heating is quicker in action, but requires more attention from the one in charge, and it is not so manageable as hot water, especially for houses small in size and in number.

Low Pressure Heating Apparatus – The Book of the Greenhouse” by J.C. Tallack

Dealing, then, with ordinary hot water heating, it is necessary to success that the boiler be set well beneath the level of the house, that the pipes be so fixed that they have a continuous rise in the upper or flow pipe from the point of connection with the boiler to the point farthest away from it, and that the under or return pipe have a corresponding fall from the highest point reached back to the boiler again, which it should enter near the bottom. Speaking generally, the greater the rise the better the circulation must be. It sometimes happens that a doorway or some other obstruction engenders a wish to allow a ” dip ” at some particular point, but to do this will be fatal to successful circulation. Where two or more houses are connected with the same system of piping, valves should be put in the pipes so that the heat may be wholly or partially shut off when not wanted in a particular house or compartment. An air-tap should be connected to the pipe at the highest point so that any accumulation of air that would stop the circulation may be expelled at this point.

The heating arrangements of a greenhouse must of course be governed to some extent by the class of plant it is to contain. Cool house plants, and even so-called hardy plants, when grown in pots, must have some fire heat in winter. For such things two rows of 4-in. piping running lengthwise and across one end of the house would be sufficient. For the warmer greenhouse four rows of 4-in. piping traversing the same distance would be necessary. An approximate estimate is that 1 foot of 4-in. piping will heat moderately 30 cubic feet of space, but it should be borne in mind that it is far better to have too much than too little piping, as the heat given off to keep up a given temperature will be less fiery and injurious in proportion to the additional piping used. In choosing the boiler do not be misled into getting one that is too small for its work. Allow a broad margin beyond the maker’s estimate of size necessary to heat a given quantity of piping. A new boiler well fixed and driven hard by constant attention may do all that is claimed for it at first, but will not continue to do so for long without more attention than one is prepared to give it. In any case, the amount of necessary attention is less with a fairly big boiler than it is with a small one.




  1. The London Gazette, 3rd June, 1856.
  2. The Morning Post, 3rd April, 1857.
  3. The Mechanics’ Magazine, Volume 66, January 3rd – June 27th 1857.
  4. Head Gardener at Shipley Hall, near Heanor and Ilkeston, Derbyshire.