Modern Building Services
Reflecting on the development of building services

What product has been the most influential in the development of the industry? Modern Building Services has teamed up with the organiser of the H&V07 exhibition to find the answer — and we want your vote. Read on.

Hartley & Sugden boilers

In the 18th century the development of boilers was directed towards raising steam to drive steam engines. Around 1810, systems of heating by hot water were introduced. Early hot water heating boilers were small and crude, and heating for buildings such as country houses, churches and prisons continued to be mainly by warm air. Most early hot-water boilers were of the saddle type, originally manufactured using rivetted wrought-iron plates. Steam heating for other than factories and large institutional buildings, such as hospitals and asylums, never achieved great popularity.

An important change came in 1854 when Samuel Cook discovered a method of joining wrought plates by fire-welding. His first designs were saddle and cylindrical boilers. By 1863 he had established the Premier Works at Halifax in Yorkshire. This spawned a whole new industry, the boilermakers of Yorkshire, where the availability of coal, iron, water and good transportation links was an important consideration. Prominent among these early firms were Robert Jenkins of Rotherham, Lumbys (later Lumby, Son & Wood) of Halifax, and Hartley & Sugden, also of Halifax.

Hartley & Sugden was established in 1867 and grew rapidly. In 1872 its improved wrought welded saddle boiler was awarded a gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Show. By 1891 its boilers, of which the patented Dome Top and the Climax were particularly successful, had been installed in their thousands throughout the UK and across Europe. The era of the mass-produced hot-water boiler, in which Hartley & Sugden played a leading role, had arrived — and changed the face of the heating industry.

Electric thermostat

Even the cave man who rubbed two sticks together knew that he needed some control over his fire. He got fed up lugging logs from the forest just for his missus to fling the goatskin door open to cool down! Fire was therefore rationed to conserve energy, which is pretty much what a thermostat now does. Without control, we squander precious resources or use our fabulous machines to exhaustion.

Several millennia on the situation is hardly any different — but, thanks to Warren S. Johnson and his electric thermostat, we have a more choice in how we can remain comfortable in an economic way.

Sadly, as so often is the case, it was the British who invented the thermostat but failed to sell the brilliance and commercial potential of the idea to a sceptical UK industry. In the 1940s a president of the IHVE (now CIBSE) ‘deprecated in his own practice the elaboration of automatic mechanisms, because in his view, they were not needed, and, in the second place, they were liable to get out of order’.

Born in Vermont, Johnson worked as a printer, superintendent of schools and a surveyor of the Plains. In 1876 he was appointed Professor at the State Normal School in Whitewater where he experimented with control of the school’s warm-air heating system. Hand-operated dampers in the furnace room controlled the temperature of air supplied to the various classrooms. The janitor regularly toured the classrooms, noting the room temperature, then returned to the furnace to adjust the settings. In a wheeze very much like an ‘Upstairs, downstairs’ servant call system, Johnson installed electric thermostats in each room, connecting them to annunciators so that thermostat contacts rang an alarm bell and operated an indicator in the furnace room to show ‘warm’ or ‘cold’, leaving the janitor to adjust the dampers as required. Johnson was granted a patent for his electric tele-thermoscope.

He went on to develop his well-known system of pneumatic controls. In 1885 he founded the Johnson Electric Service Company, which became a major international controls manufacturer. This in turn was a significant driving force in the eventual world-wide acceptance of automatic controls in the building services engineering industry.

The Grundy stove

John Grundy Senior was born in Tyldesley near Manchester in 1807. He was a grocer and flour trader. He was a warden of the local Top Chapel. When the chapel needed a heating system he developed and installed a revolutionary warm-air heating stove with an arrangement of plenum and discharge ducts. This was so successful that in 1859 he set up in business to manufacture and market his heating apparatus, which he later patented. The business flourished and he continued to make improvements, increasing its efficiency and effectiveness, and securing more patents. He died in 1879.

His son, John Grundy Junior, born in 1844, took over and expanded the business. In the 1880s, he moved to live in Islington and opened three London offices. The firm became so successful that he set up his own iron foundry in Tyldesley. The Grundy stove became well-known in the industry, and in 1897 (the year of the founding of The Institution of Heating & Ventilating Engineers) he could claim to have heated some 3000 places of worship, including many famous cathedrals, as well as mansions, houses, hotels, hospitals, schools, warehouses, factories and workhouses. The firm advertised ‘Winter, warmth and comfort — pure warm air’.

John Grundy was one of the entrepreneurs who established the IHVE. In 1898 he was elected the first president. He died in 1913. His son Herbert Hamilton Grundy took over the business and served as IHVE President in 1915. Herbert died in 1932, but the stoves were so well-liked that manufacture continued into the 1970s. Examples can still be found in use today, a history that can be traced back nearly 150 years.

The Gurney stove

Goldsworthy Gurney (later Sir) was born in Cornwall in 1793. In 1814, he settled in Cambourne where he practised as a surgeon, moving to London in 1820 and developing his interest in engineering. In 1825 he patented a steam carriage, going on in 1842 to patent a system of heat recovery from lighting fittings. In 1852, Gurney was appointed to investigate the ventilation problems in the House of Commons where he flashed off large quantities of gunpowder in the chamber to observe the motion of the air currents, He was said to have posed a greater risk than Guy Fawkes!

His interest in heating led him to invent a new type of warm-air stove, which he patented in 1856 as ‘Certain Improvements in warming and moistening air’. The apparatus was described as a metallic vessel having a number of plates extending from its outer surface, standing with the plates vertical in a shallow trough of water. This was significant in attempting to provide humidification to offset the drying feeling caused by warm air. He soon after sold the rights for his invention to the London Warming & Ventilating Company which advertised itself as ‘Proprietors of the Gurney stove’ and remained active in the 1950s.

The stove was made in three sizes, the largest being 1 m in diameter with a 1.8 m diameter base and of 2.7 m high. It consumed about 200 kg of coke a week and was said to be capable a heating a space of 120 000 ft3. It was very heavy, at a time when there was a popular belief that heat output depended on the mass of metal in the stove.

By 1897 (the year of the founding of the IHVE) a London Warming advertisement claimed ‘over 10 000 churches, schools, government and other public and private buildings successfully warmed by our system’. This included some 22 cathedrals; working examples (converted from solid fuel) can still be seen in Hereford, Chester and Ely Cathedrals and in Tewkesbury Abbey.

Sturtevant fan
Sturtevant fan

Primitive wooden fans are depicted in 16th century German woodcut illustrations showing mine ventilation methods. These paddle-bladed fans were enclosed in a square wooden casing and cranked by hand or driven by windmills. A hand-cranked fan was installed in the House of Commons in 1736, but the forerunners of today’s centrifugal fans only appeared from the mid-19th century.

Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant, the American fan engineer, was the most important name in ventilation during the second half of the 19th century. However, he started out as a cobbler and shoemaker. Concerned with the heat in his workshop, in about 1850, he rigged up a stand with a disc fan run by a belt connected to a foot pedal. He formed the Sturtevant Blower Company in Boston in 1855 and developed various types of fan. Later, as B. F. Sturtevant, the firm produced large centrifugal fans with matching steam engines and drives. (Electric motors for fans came only into common use in the early 20th century).

By the turn of the century, Sturtevant was producing fans with cased air heaters attached and also dual-duct apparatus. The business prospered and sold fans for ventilation, exhaust systems and for boiler mechanical draught applications, virtually monopolising the supply of boiler fans for American ships. The business opened offices in London, Glasgow, Stockholm, Berlin, Milan and Amsterdam. Where Sturtevant led, others were to follow and efficient centrifugal fans became an essential feature of HVAC installations.

Lancashire boiler
Lancashire boiler

In 1698, Savery produced a steam boiler to operate ‘The miner’s friend’, a water pump used in mines. In 1705, Newcomen and Cauley designed a boiler to drive Newcomen’s steam engine. By 1725 the Haystack and Wagon boilers were in common use and held their place for the next 70 years or so. They all had one thing in common. They were inefficient because the boiler sat above the fire, and much of the heat and hot gases never came into contact with the water-backed surfaces.

The real breakthrough came in 1803 when Richard Trevithick introduced the internally fired Cornish boiler with a single internal flue running centrally through the length of a horizontal cylinder (the boiler shell). This design became known as a furnace-tube boiler, and wholesale manufacture seems to have started around 1810.

However, the growth of British industry, particularly the demands of the Lancashire cotton industry, led for calls for larger and more powerful boilers.

The problem was neatly solved by William Fairbairn (later Sir) at his Manchester factory. In 1855, he modified the Cornish boiler design by making it longer and of larger diameter. Importantly, he provided two smoke tubes to create the Lancashire steam boiler. The Lancashire boiler was an unqualified success, and it was manufactured in the thousands by many companies and shipped around the world for both heating and process applications. It remained in common use for over the next hundred years, and many examples survive today.

The hypocaust

This underfloor heating system is said to have been devised by the Roman Sergius Orata in about 80 BC and was described by Vitruvius in his book De Architectura in 16 BC. Hypocaust heating was used by the Romans in their villas throughout the colder climates in Europe and Britain as they expanded their Empire. This was the first widespread central-heating system and remained in use throughout much of Europe for over 400 years. It is, at last, enjoying a revival.

There were three kinds of hypocaust.

• Floor heating only

• Heating via floors and walls

• Warm-air system in which the air was admitted to the room through holes in the floor. (Does that sound familiar?)

In the earliest form, the floor of the room was supported on pillars less than a metre high, which many of us see when we visit Roman sites where the walls and floors have been destroyed, leaving the familiar stacks of tiles or bricks.

Part of the space below the floor served as a furnace chamber, with the fire stoked through a hole in the external wall. The hot gases circulating below the floor warmed it. Around the second century AD, the hypocaust pillars were abandoned, and smoke ducts were formed in the subfloor, radiating from the furnace and connected to wall flues (by the earliest ductwork contractors?).

Fine examples of the hypocaust can still be seen in Britain at Chester, Bath, and Chedworth Villa in Gloucestershire. There are also hypocaust remains at Rockbourne Villa in Hampshire, in Newport Villa on the Isle of Wight, and at the Fort of Chesters on Hadrian’s Wall.

Tortoise stove
Tortoise stove

The Tortoise stove dates from 1830, when the first was hand-built by Charles Portway to heat his ironmongery store in Halstead, Essex. After making a second stove for a neighbour, Mrs Portway suggested he go into business manufacturing and selling them, so he established a small foundry and went to work.

This proved so successful that in the next 50 years over 17 000 of his stoves were sold and provided low-cost and economical heating to many thousands of people.

A solid-fuel stove may be judged by how slowly it consumes the fuel, and these first stoves were successful simply because they took so long to burn one filling, thus extracting the maximum amount of heat from the fuel. So slowly did Portway’s stoves burn that they were named Tortoise stoves, and each was produced with the motto ‘Slow but sure’ proudly displayed with the trademark. This made them possibly the first heating appliances where economy was a featured selling point.

The basic Tortoise was adapted for other uses. Catalogues of the day show heating stoves, laundry stoves and harness-room stoves. They also found favour for heating of churches, halls and domestic premises. Over the period to the turn of the century the stove was improved and refined to make it even more efficient and economical. In the early 20th century minor internal modifications were made to keep the design up to date with regulatory requirements. Production continued for the next 80 years or so, and quite a number of Tortoises can still be found today.

Perkins high-pressure apparatus

Jacob Perkins was born in Massachusetts in 1766. In 1816 he moved to England and secured a number of patents relating to boilers, steam engines and, most notably, a vapour-compression refrigeration machine.

His son, Angier Marsh Perkins, born in 1799, also settled in England, where he devised his system of high-pressure hot-water heating. It used 25 mm seam-welded wrought-iron pipe of 6 mm wall thickness screwed together and tested before installation to 210 bar. About a sixth of the pipe was coiled and placed in a furnace. After filling all the pipework (except an expansion tube) with water, the system was sealed. When the furnace was lit, the heated water expanded, compressing the air inside and pressurising the system. A sufficiently high pressure was reached to sustain a flow of some 200°C.

In 1840, Perkins published his booklet ‘Patent apparatus for warming and ventilating buildings’ in which he describes his furnace and lists numerous buildings where his apparatus had been installed. He also describes a heat-regulating device. His system was installed at the Royal Society for Arts, the London Patent Office, two sections of the British Museum and in Strathfieldsaye (the country seat of the Duke of Wellington). However, the very high operating pressures and temperatures reached by his system caused considerable concern, so he introduced a safer medium-pressure system that soon displaced the original. The system eventually fell out of favour because of the high premiums charged by the Fire Assurance Companies, but the principle paved the way for the large HPHW systems of the mid-20th century.

Haden stove
Haden stove

In 1797 the brothers George, James and John Haden, with their father George Senior, were working at the world-famous firm of Boulton & Watt at the Soho Manufactory in Birmingham. The brothers all worked for the Engine Company. After serving their apprenticeships George and James worked as erectors for the improved steam engine of James Watt. In 1814 George went to Trowbridge for the firm, later being joined by James. In 1816 the pair formed their own company of G&J Haden to act as agents in the West Country for Boulton & Watt.

A natural development of the engine work was the installation of steam systems, both for process work and heating in the mills.

The heating-stove business seems to have been initiated by James, with the encouragement of Matthew Boulton, and taken up enthusiastically by both brothers. For the next 20 years or so James travelled the British Isles meeting prospective clients, giving them estimates for heating stoves and fixing them or supervising their installation. Throughout these travels he sent a stream of letters back to George — ordering stoves and their fittings and telling what prices to quote and how much to pay contractors.

Their early clients were mostly the landed gentry and nobility, and the orders flowed in by personal recommendation. The work was later expanded to include churches, schools and various kinds of institution. The Haden warm-air stove brought warmth and comfort to the privileged class, but also to many of the middle and working class in their religious and educational activities. It was the forerunner of the larger, more powerful heating stoves that appeared in the second half of the 19th century.

Many hundreds of Haden stoves were supplied, the most prestigious warm-air installation being for George IV at Windsor Castle. When this project delayed the work of other customers, he delighted in writing letters of apology: ‘But I have been much occupied fixing stoves for His Majesty at Windsor.’ A few Haden stoves still exist, and the company, now Haden Young, continues.

To vote for your favourite entry in the H&V07 Hall of Fame, use teh link below.
You can also register to visit H&V07 and RAC07

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