Sunday, 24 April 2016

Investigating the Victorians leads to Messengers

Call me mad, if you will, but I've signed up to another online course, this time discovering more about the Victorians. 10 weeks of at least 10 hours a week study, lots of which will be on the pc, and much with my nose in the course text.

Talking of which, the course text -

Royle, E. (2012). Modern Britain: a social history 1750-2011, Bloomsbury Academic, 3rd ed. - 

is a mere 576 pages long (ok, so this includes extensive notes, a bibliography and an index) and quite awkward to hold. It's saving grace, I suppose, is that Loughborough does actually appear in the index! How exciting, I thought, but I admit to be a little disappointed that the entry referred to a paragraph on Thomas Cook and his Temperance outing from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841! There are brief mentions of Luddites, Scotch Cattle and Rebecca Riots (sorry, the latter two are more relevant to my Welsh background) and several pages devoted to Chartists.

The course itself has started with an introduction to the Victorians, and there has already been mention of the agricultural revolution, including the work of our very own Robert Bakewell. One of the first units of the course focussed on the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the Crystal Palace. This was a fascinating discussion, and the building itself reminded me of some of the large conservatories that used to be built onto large stately homes, only on an absolutely enormous scale. The fact that is was put up in 22 weeks was quite staggering, and to realise it was only a temporary structure, and was dismantled and re-built in a different location was enlightening. 

Anyway, the architect of the Crystal Palace was Joseph Paxton and because I could see similarities with Messengers of Loughborough who initially made conservatories, I did a quick scour of the internet and found a place called Combermere Abbey in Shropshire, which had a Messenger conservatory. In fact, the writer of the article said the following:

"the largest of Messenger’s buildings almost rivalled Paxton’s glasshouse of 1851"

praise indeed, I'd say! 

I'm sure most of you reading will know that Messengers was founded in 1858 by Thomas Goode Messenger who was initially a plumber and glass fitter and had offices on High Street. In 1874 the firm was taken over by Walter Chapman Burder, and in 1884 the company moved to Cumberland Road, presumably to be near the Charnwood Forest Railway, and the coal that was needed for the new foundry.

I've taken a couple of photos today, and if you zoom in on the one of the Messenger building from Hospital Walk, and look carefully at the columns at each side of the door, you might see that they have been etched with initials, EJGB on the left and WCB (Walter Chapman Burder) on the right. Hmm, not sure about the first set, but Walter Chapman Burder's wife was Elizabeth Jane Gifford Burder (nee Nash), so perhaps they are hers?
The entrance to the Cumberland Road Trading Estate

Inside the trading estate

A drain cover with no maker's mark

Burder's foundry building

Chimney and tower on the trading estate

Sliding door on the trading estate

The wall of the Messenger buildings on Hospital Walk

The entrance to Messengers on Hospital Walk

Messenger's entrance with the initials in the brickwork 

New housing estate along the site of the Charnwood Forest Railway

The last remaining building of the Charnwood Forest Railway

The Station Hotel on the junction of Derby Road and Station Street, now a funeral directors



  1. Absolutely brilliant, Lynne! we were looking at exactly the same buildings last week and wondering all about them - including the fascinating drain cover!

  2. Hi Bill! Isn't life just full of coincidences!! I wonder did you come to the same conclusions as me about the buildings and the drain cover? I must admit I did think that perhaps the drain cover had been made at the foundry as a kind of example of their workmanship! Thanks for getting in touch! Lynne


If you have found this post interesting or have any questions about any of the information in it do please leave a comment below. I might not be able to answer immediately, but I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading the blog.