St. Leonard's Church. 
 Rodney Stoke.  Somerset
 
Built circa. 1175


 

The Church underwent  a major restoration during the late victorian period, which was designed  by the Architects  Messrs Benjamin and E B Ferrey of London with the builder Mr H Hawkins of Glastonbury. The details of the restoration works are described in the Daily Bristol Times & Mirror newspaper dated Friday 15th August 1879.
The slow combustion stove for heating the church was installed during the restoration works  c. 1878 by Parritt of Bolton and is fitted in a pit formed below floor level in the side aisle.    Access to the pit for the Stoker was by three steps at the church entrance door end of the pit.   The  stove heated the church by convected warmed air  rising through the floor gratings.  Parishioners have vivid memories of the stove's combustion fumes filling the church whilst the Stoker endeavoured to get the fire to draw.   This problem was caused by the long length of horizontal flue pipe run below the church floor needing to be warmed up, before the flue rose vertically up inside the church tower.
 
The stove was manufactured by Musgrave and Company of Belfast.   The Musgrave name can be read on the stove's hinged top door shown in greater detail below. How this  parish church in Somerset came to have a stove made by a Northern Ireland firm would be interesting to know.



In the Church can also be seen a excellent example of a Portway Patent Tortoise Slow Combustion Stove Size 2.   Charles Portway designed and hand built his first Tortoise stove in 1830 in Halstead Essex. He started a foundry which by 1900 had produced over 100,000 stoves. The success of a solid fuel stove was judged by its slowness to burn one filling, thus extracting the maximum amount of heat from the fuel. The Portbury stoves burnt so slowly they were named 'Tortoise' stoves. Each stove was produced with the motto "slow but sure combustion" displayed on the top or front.

CIBSE HERITAGE GROUP
APRIL  2002