Horticultural Buildings

The generic name for these structures is plant houses and there are essentially three classes: –

  1. Greenhouses – these are used for plant propagation and their after-care. Today there are many different shapes, sizes and styles of greenhouse available in a number of materials, such as wood, aluminium, alloy, concrete, plastic, etc. Historically, the greenhouses that the firm produced were always all wood frames, preferably of hardwood. When and wherever possible they preferred to quote the customer for their bespoke patent structures. After the first World War, they produced a range of span, ¾-span and lean-to amateur greenhouses targeted at “the growing demand for a Greenhouse of moderate dimensions, at a price within the. reach of the numerous class of amateurs who now resort to the culture of fruit and flowers under glass as a recreation[1]. Following World War Two, the firm gradually dropped the marketing of the bespoke greenhouse, probably as result of a change in direction of both the firm and customers’ requirements. Instead they introduced a series of greenhouse designs of a ‘cheaper’ non-bespoke nature, aimed mainly at the amateur gardener market, although some were marketed at specialised growers. The firm is only known to have accepted one order for an aluminium greenhouse, with the greenhouse being provided and installed by The Waldon Tool & Gauge Co., of Droitwich.
  2. Conservatories – these are structures whose sole or major purpose is for displaying decorative plant and flowers. There is a tendency for there to be an almost infinite range of differing designs afforded to these structures. As they are either attached or very close to their owners’ dwelling house, the latter often has a significant influence on the design of the former. Most owners want a degree of harmony between the two, thus placing a limitation on the flamboyancy afforded to the conservatory. Conservatories made their entrance around the beginning of the 19th century, probably being a natural progression of the orangery. The early conservatories were typically architectural in form and typically built of stone such as at Syon House. The majority of the firm’s conservatories, which, on occasions, they referred to them as winter gardens, were on the whole constructed of wood and glass, although there were a number of notable exceptions.
  3. Garden Frames – these include not only garden frames but glazed lights, peach cases and glass coping.

Over the years the firm produced a number of catalogues displaying their products and offerings. The most common of which is their 1925 5th Edition, which as a result of an error in the ordering, large number were still in stock when the firm failed in 1980 and were subsequently off to the public and therefore fairly common. Unsurprisingly their other catalogues are significantly rarer. One from 1897, of which there are no known copies was reviewed in The Building News on 12th March 1897:


MESSRS. MESSENGER AND COMPANY, horticultural builders and heating engineers, of the Midland Horticultural Works, Loughborough, and Victoria-street, Westminster, have issued a book on horticultural buildings, their ventilating and heating, with designs executed by the company, and the prices. The best and most practicable types of glass houses are illustrated, from the simple pit to the elaborate winter garden. Each of the designs is accompanied by a plan of the conservatory, showing its connection with the house. The book contains not only designs, but remarks on construction and the warming and ventilation of horticultural buildings, and these latter are particularly worth attention by all builders and architects. A large-size section of one of the houses, showing the arrangement of the sashes and mode of opening the lights, is given. Messenger and Company have judiciously combined, in the construction of these buildings wood and iron, by which the more solid appearance of wood structures is combined with lightness and strength. Ventilation is devised in the upright front by means of framed lights hung to the iron muntins with special hinges. The ventilation of roof is managed by a light hung to the ridge. These lights can be opened in lengths of 150ft. or more by means of patented apparatus. The upright framing of the buildings is composed of cast-iron muntins, while bracket-heads are screwed into the sill. These details are amply explained and illustrated in this book of 120 pages. We notice also designs for three-quarter vineries and plant-houses, with prices affixed for different widths, accompanied by sections, lean-to greenhouses, forcing-houses, peach houses, and glazed covers for front walls, greenhouses for amateurs, cucumber and melon frames, &c. Messenger and Co.’s patent improved lever apparatus for opening long ranges of top ventilators, ventilating tackle, and the various appliances are illustrated, and the prices of sets of different lengths given. Other pages illustrate cast-iron ridge castings, ornamental finials, spandrels ; and the section on heating by hot water or steam applies to all buildings. The “Loughborough” boiler, radiators, and other fittings are also illustrated and prices appended.




  1. Messenger & Co., Ltd., 5th Edition Catalogue.