The Loughborough Boiler

In 1881, the firm introduced their famous and best-selling patented ‘Loughborough’ boiler, which utilised a horizontal flow piping technique. Such was its versatility that the firm soon began to be market it as being suitable not only for heating greenhouses but for harness rooms, coach-houses, offices, motor homes, etc. The essence of this boiler was its simplicity, in terms of production, installation, usage and maintenance.


The first known advertisement for the Loughborough Boiler appeared in The Gardeners’ Chronicle on 10th September 1881

The boiler was launched in September,  several months before Walter Chapman Burder’s successful patent application (1881- No. 5439) was submitted on 13th December.

The main advantages of this new ‘water-jacket’ boiler were that it was self-feeding, easily fixed and consequently inexpensive to both purchase and run. It sold in large numbers to amateur gardeners, if for no other reason than, it required no attention overnight. The boiler was based upon a slow-combustion principle, with a moderately sized boiler consuming about 16 lb. (7.26 kg.) of fuel over a twelve-hour period. The recommended fuel was either coke or cinders, with anthracite a suitable alternative. It was advised that the coke should be broken up into small pieces about the size of walnuts. To aid this, the firm eventually manufactured and sold a purpose built coke crusher, which came in two forms with or without a stand. In the 1910’s these sold for £1 6s. 6d., and 15s., respectively .


Coke Crusher with Stand
Coke Crusher without Stand

The firm claimed that as the boiler fitted into the thickness of the wall no heat was wasted, as all the heat, including that of the boiler itself, could be utilised. No stokehole was required as the front of the boiler was installed into the brick or boarded onto the front of building; with an external flue, no smoke entered the building. Thus, the stoking and feeding doors were accessed from outside the greenhouse and claimed to be safe from the risk of fire. However, despite claims to the contrary, the front of the boiler, being located externally was completely exposed to all weathers must have had a detrimental effect on efficiency and longevity. However, the firm claimed[1]that many who purchased them 25 to 30 years ago still have them in regular use, giving satisfactory results.


Positioning – Loughborough Boiler Brochure

The low-pressure horizontal heating pipes, normally 4in. diameter, which ran around the greenhouse or other structure, were connected to the back of the boiler inside the house. The connections of these pipes were usually of a simple kind, with elastic joints or vulcanised rubber washers, compressed by screwing up two bolts. The pipes utilised an open-feed siphon system fitted with a lid, therefore it required no cistern or supply-pipe.


The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 8th October 1881

The boiler was ‘reviewed’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle, on 17th September 1881:


We are frequently asked to recommend a cheap and effectual method of heating small greenhouses managed by amateurs. Messrs. Messenger, of Loughborough, have introduced a new boiler which seems likely to answer the purpose. The small boilers for setting in brickwork hitherto in use necessitate a considerable outlay for a stokehole if below the level of the ground, and where the heating apparatus is put in by the tenant this is a drawback. In this boiler the mains are entirely saved, and the hot-water pipes are connected to the sockets of the boiler, while an open feed syphon at the opposite end does away with the necessity of a cistern. Added to these advantages, the boiler being placed in the greenhouse assists in heating. Messrs. Messenger further claim for it the following advantages :

Loughborough Boiler – The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 17 September 1881

“No heat is wasted. The boiler standing in the house, the whole of the heat from the boiler itself is utilised. Economy both in first cost and maintenance ; there being no brick setting or iron casing required, and consequently none to get out of order. Not being set in brickwork, or attached to the freehold, it forms a ‘ tenant’s ‘ fixture. Cheaper and more powerful than any boiler for small greenhouses before the public. No unsightly stokehole is necessary, the front of the boiler being flush with the greenhouse and on the level of the ground. The boiler is not unsightly inside the house, being under the stage ; and being stoked from the outside no fumes can enter the house. May be fixed either in the brick or boarded front of a greenhouse, and is absolutely safe from risk of fire. Being on the slow combustion principle, it is very economical in fuel. No night stoking is required. The joints to the hot-water pipes are put together with elastic rings, and can be fixed by any handy person. A hot-water fitter not necessary.”


No. 1 Loughborough Boiler – Messenger & Co. Ltd. 1913 Catalogue

The following month, the Building News printed a review in the edition of 7th October 1881.


MESSRS. MESSENGER AND CO., of Loughborough, have just brought out a new boiler for heating greenhouses, harnessrooms, coach-houses, coils in halls, &c, which is worth attention. The advantages claimed are that no heat is wasted, the boiler standing in the house, the whole of the heat from the boiler itself is utilised ; economy both in first cost and maintenance ; there being no brick setting or iron casing required : and consequently none to get out of order. Not being set in brickwork, or attached to the freehold, it forms a “tenant’s fixture.” No stokehole is necessary ; the front of the boiler being flush with the greenhouse, and on the level of the ground. It may be fixed either in the brick or boarded front of a greenhouse, and is absolutely safe from risk of fire. Being on the slow-combustion principle, it is very economical in fuel, and no night- stoking is required. The joints to the hot-water pipes are put together with elastic rings, and can be fixed by any handy person. The hot-water pipes are connected immediately to the sockets of the boiler, so that the necessity for mains is done away with, and the pipes circulate through an open-feed siphon fitted with a lid, so that there is no need for any cistern and supply-pipe. Simplicity has been noted in all such points as these, that an efficient apparatus may be produced cheaply without reducing any essentials, or the quality of the materials. The fuel consumed is 16lb. in 12 hours and the apparatus is capable of heating including the boiler itself, the equivalent of 50 ft. of 4in. piping.

The boiler received numerous write-ups over the years, particularly in the first twenty years of production, including a long article in the Book of Garden Management, published by Ward, Lock & Co. 

The firm won a silver medal (the highest award) for the boiler at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Summer Show, held between 23rd and 25th May, 1882. They also won two other medals, as reported in the Gardeners’ Chronicle on 27th May, 1882:  

The Messrs. Messenger, of Loughborough, had a lofty and most elegantly-fitted three-quarter span vinery, 30 feet by 20 feet, that elicited much admiration. A rather unusual feature was the introduction of a little art decoration, in the shape of blue shading on the ironwork, that had a pleasing effect. A small span conservatory, admirably suited for an amateur’s requirements, and fixed with boiler and piping, showing a most efficient and simple method of heating, was instrumental in bringing the firm the award of a Silver Medal in the class for modes of heating small conservatories. Their hot-water piping and fixing also secured the Silver Medal in that class and a Bronze Medal was awarded them for their admirable plant frames.

Within eighteen months of the launch, the firm was appointing regional or county-based agents and distributors. Frederick Wells & Son, builders and decorators of Foregate Street, Worcester, were sole agents for the Worcester area by April 1883[2]; Robert Girling, horticultural builder, of Wellington Street, Ipswich, was sole agent Suffolk in September 1883[3]; T. Oughton, gas and water engineer, of No. 25, Osmaston Road, Derby was another reseller[4].


1889 Price Increase Leaflet

The boiler was the original of its type, and was for several subsequent years the only boiler of this pattern offered to the public; however, it was soon copied by other boiler manufacturers, who attempted to win a slice of the market by undercutting the price of the “original”.  Several ‘copies‘, often seen as improvements on the Loughborough Boiler were identified in the press including one produced by Messrs. Charles P. Kinnell & Co., the Halifax Boiler and the Finsbury Boiler.


1951 Loughborough Boiler Advertisement

The boiler was in continuous production for over 70 years and was still being marketed as late as 1956[5]. They sold in vast quantities, averaging almost 1,000 per year:

 Year[6]  Number in Use
1884 1,500-2,000 
1886 4,000-
1888  7,000 
1890  9,000 
1893[7] 13,000 
1896  16,000 
1901[8] 20,000 
1904  25,000 
1908  28,000 
1912  32,000 
1923[9] 35,000 
1931[10] 40,000 
1939[11] 43,000 


The Builder, 27 October 1923

One of the last Loughborough boilers to be sold was to Miss A.D. Lomas, of The Rowans, No 66, Lutterworth Road, Blaby, on 27th April 1961. Miss Lomas purchased a heated oiled cedar partitioned 30ft. x 9ft. 10¾in. orchid house with staging and gutters. The heating was provided by a No. 2 Loughborough boiler with 75ft. of second-hand 4in. heating pipe.

The boiler came in six sizes Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6; although not all were either suitable or recommended for all situations. No. 4 only appears to have been available for a very short term and for a specific purpose.

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were made of cast iron throughout, shells with cast iron fronts, and other fittings in cast iron; the smoke nozzle could be on either side or on the top.

No. 1 Boiler Gallery

Nos. 1 and 2 were made such that all the front parts coming into contact with the fire were protected by hard cast-iron plates which can be easily renewed if at any time they burn away.

No. 2 Boiler Gallery

No. 3 had a water-way front, which did not require the protection plates needs by Nos 1 and 2, which increased the heating power considerably.

No. 2 Boiler Gallery

Nos. 5 and 6 has a waterway front welded in one piece with the boiler, with No. 6 also having a waterway shelf. In both these boilers the smoke nozzle was always in the centre of the front.

Nos. 5 and 6 Loughborough Boiler – Loughborough Boiler Brochure

Boiler Sizes and Heating Power


  Size of Boiler
(exclusive of flange)
    Heating Power
of 4in. Pipe
No: Height (including Stand) Inches



1 25 14 11˝ 50
2 25 16 13 100
3 25 19¾ 16¾ 200
5 30 19¾ 19½ 375
6 30 19¾ 22½ 500


Positioning – Loughborough Boiler Brochure

The Loughborough Boiler as a Greenhouse Boiler

The firm offered three standard plans for greenhouses;

Plan A had pipes running along one side of the structure, with an expansion box fitted at the end before returning;

Plan B had pipes around two sides before returning

Plan C had pipes around three sides before returning.

All the customer had to do was to decide which plan they required A, B or C and given the external greenhouse measurements use the table below to determine which the recommended boiler.

Loughborough boiler greenhouse heating layout plans


 Greenhouse dimensions (External  measurements in ft.)  Plan A
Boiler No.
 Plan B
Boiler No.
Plan C
Boiler No.
8 x 6 1 1
10 x 6 1 1 1
10 x 8 1 1 1
12 x 8 1 1 1
12 x 10 1 1 2
14 X 8 1 1 2
14 X 10 1 1 2
16 X 10
16 X 12 
18 X 12  —- 
20 X 12  —- 
24 X 12  —- 
30 X 12 —- 


The size of boiler was dependent upon both the size of the structure and which plan the customer required. There were options for increasing the size of boiler above that recommended by the firm. The intention was that the customer would be responsible for installing the system themselves, although the firm offered an installation service, albeit at a price.


Loughborough Boiler Smoke Pipe Holder

The firm expected the customer to provide the following information when ordering:

  1. Boiler Size – 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6.
  2. Position of Flue – Right or Left of front, or on top of boiler (except for Nos. 5 and 6).
  3. Pipe Size – 2 in., 3 in., or 4 in.
  4. Socket Type – Elastic joints or common cement joints.
  5. Socket Position – Whether at back of boiler, or on right or left side. If on side, the thickness of the wall in which boiler is to stand should also be given.
Greenhouse Fixing

Greenhouse fixing was usually the responsibility of the owner and some guidance was provided:

  • The boiler should be placed in the wall of the greenhouse.
  • Fixed in this position no further protection is necessary, and the heat from the body of the Boiler is given off inside the house, instead of being lost.
  • The annexed illustration shows the method of connecting the Boiler to hot water pipes, with an Open Feed Syphon at the end. The Feed Syphon is well adapted for the two smaller sizes, and forms a cheap arrangement for a complete apparatus, but for the larger sizes a separate supply cistern connected direct to the boiler is preferable.
  • The boiler should be the lowest point, the Open Feed Syphon the highest, the pipes having a gradual rise from Boiler to Syphon ; ½ inch rise in 9ft. is sufficient, but in short lengths of pipe 1 inch to 1½ inch is better.
  • The pipes should be filled with water, which should rise about two inches above the top socket of the Open Feed Syphon. Care should be taken to keep the Syphon always well supplied with water. A few bricks should be placed under the pipes to support them, about every nine feet apart.

Open Syphon Gallery


The boiler also came with stoking instructions:

  • Lay and light the fire in the usual way, using coal in starting ;
  • open the damper and doors, and, when the fire has burnt up, the two upper doors should be closed, the lower one left from a quarter of an inch to an inch open, according to the draught and according to the fire required, and the damper from half to two-thirds closed.
  • Coke and cinders may be used when the fire burns up.
  • An hour before making up the fire for the night, open the damper and the lower door further, rake the fire and make it burn brightly, so as to heat the house to a higher temperature ; then in making up for the night break the coke small, about the size of large walnuts, and bank it up with small cinders ; close the damper about two-thirds, shut the doors, or, if necessary, leave the lower door open about a quarter of an inch, and no difficulty will be found in keeping the fire alight during the night.


In order to preserve the Boiler, attention should be paid to the following points

  • Take out the fire bars about once a month during the time the Boiler is at work, and thoroughly clean them from all dirt and clinker that may adhere to them ;
  • and when leaving off fires in the Spring clear out all ashes, &c., from the boiler and ashpit, and leave the boiler dry and clean.
  • If attention is paid to these matters, there will be no chance of damage occurring while the boiler is out of use.

The Loughborough Boiler as a Harness Room Boiler

In order to maximise the appeal of the boiler, the firm developed a number of non-horticultural applications. With the horse as the principal means of local transport and sport, one obvious adaptation was as a harness room heater. It appears that the firm ceased this opportunity as early as mid-1882 when exhibiting at the Horticultural Exhibition in the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London held between 24th July and 5th August.


Messenger & Co., advertisement, Gardeners’ Chronicle, 29 July 1882

The boiler was still being ‘recommended’ almost ten years later when mentioned in a book entitled “Stable Building and Stable Fitting:  a handbook for the use of architects, builders, and horse owners” , by Byng Giruad, printed in 1891:

No harness room can therefore be considered complete without some means by which a regular temperature can be maintained, and as a supply of hot water should always be ready, a boiler is one of the first requirements. ” The Loughborough,” a view of which will be found on Plate 31, Fig. i-, has been designed, among many more, for this purpose, and can be further made to heat a row of pipes in an adjoining coach house or washer’s room. It can be built into a fire-place, as in Plate 8, or stand out in the open, and the sockets placed either at the back or the sides as may best suit the construction of the building and the position of the coil or line of pipes. This boiler is 25 inches in height, 17 inches wide, and 13 inches deep.

Loughborough Harness Room Boiler – Plate 31, Fig. 1, Stable Building and Stable Fitting, 1891
Stable Design – Plate 8, Stable Building and Stable Fitting, 1891

The Loughborough Boiler as a Motor Home Boiler


Motor Home Heating Leaflet – unknown date

As a logical extension of the harness room application, the firm saw an opportunity with the increase in private car ownership to use the boiler to provide a “motor home” heating solution. This was particularly true at the beginning of the twentieth century when car ownership was still in its infancy with only 8,000 cars across the whole of the UK[12]. Being relatively expensive only the affluent could normally afford to own them and an obvious target audience for the firm.


Loughborough Boiler Brochure

The advantage of the boiler, as a greenhouse solution, was that it could be fitted into the thickness wall and stoked externally. This was also seen as an enormous asset, with regard to ‘garage’ heating, as it minimised any risk of explosion.

Just prior to World War One, they were offering apparatus consisting of the boiler, capped smoke pipe, stoking tools, radiator with supply cistern, and connections to the boiler in two sizes. The first based upon their No.1 boiler was capable of heating upto 2,000 cubic feet and priced at £5 10s. (carriage paid); whilst the larger No 2 boiler had the capacity to heat upto 3,500 cubic feet was priced at £7 5s. (carriage paid).


Motor Home Heating Apparatus – Messenger & Co. Ltd. 1913 Catalogue

As happens even today, the cars were no doubt kept in redundant coach houses rather than custom-made garages. Which were often adjacent to the tack or harness rooms, which for a long time had tended to be heated. Therefore the firm came up with a variant of their established Nos. 2 and 3, harness room boiler, based on the lough borough boiler. Here they suggested attaching pipes to the rear of the boiler which were then fed through to heat the coach house. Another advantage of this solution was that it was possible to modify the boiler to also provide hot water. Being an open fronted variant it was not suitable for installing inside the garage, nor was it as powerful as a normal closed fronted boiler.


Another alternative was termed the chauffeur’s boiler. Similar to the harness room boiler, it was located in the chauffeur’s room with pipes into the coach house/garage. The boiler, which was a variant of the standard Nos. 2 and 3 could be opened during the day, to allow some cooking and at night closed up and allowed to burn overnight without attention. Again it could be modified by adding a circulating boiler to provide a supply hot water, which could be used for washing purposes.


Wood Burning Boiler – Loughborough Boiler Brochure

The Loughborough Boiler as an Open fronted and wood burning boiler

Another variant available in four sizes (Nos. 3-6), including the only known instance of a No. 4. It had large front doors which could be partially opened and was capable of burning wood. It was sold in numbers to the Metropolitan Police Authority for heating police station cells.


Hall Heater – Loughborough Boiler Brochure
Loughborough Hall Boiler Leaflet, probably dating from the late 1880s

The Loughborough Boiler as a Register Grate[13]

Used for heating rooms and offices, it was available in four sizes (Nos, 2, 3, 5 and 6) the flue was on the top and came in two modes, open fronted and closed; the latter being useful when leaving it unattended. It measured 3ft. 2½in. high at the front by 2ft. 11½in. wide, although these dimensions could be varied slightly to meet specific requirements.

Room Heater – Loughborough Boiler Brochure





  1. Undated Loughborough boiler brochure.
  2. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 21st April 1883.
  3. The Ipswich Journal, 29th September 29 1883.
  4. The Derby Daily Telegraph, 28th February 1884.
  5. Greenhouse Price Catalogue.
  6. Unless otherwise stated the numbers have been taken from A Century of Progress – a History of Messenger & Company, Limited. 1858-1958 (Unpublished).
  7. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory, 1893.
  8. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory, 1901.
  9. The Garden, 1st September 1923.
  10. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory, 1931
  11. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory, 1939.
  12. Car Ownership.
  13. The register grate had its origins in the early 19th century when the idea of closing down a fireplace with a radiant steel or cast iron interior to improve its efficiency first emerged.