Calke Abbey Derbyshire

The present Calke Abbey building is an amalgum of the three buildings that have stood on the same site. The first was Calke Priory built in the 1100's. The second was a modernisation made during the Elizabethan period and finally the Mansion House as it stands currently was built in the  very early 1700's.

The house, gardens and estate were the home of the Harpur family from 1622 until it became the property of The National Trust in 1985.

The Abbey does not possess any original central heating. Other than the Entrance Hall, all the rooms are heated by open-fire places.

However, the cast iron stove fitted in the Entrance Hall is of particular engineering interest as it is of a pattern that uses a downward discharge arrangement for the removal of the flue gases. The installation of a vertical flue from the stove was impractical due to the location of the Saloon room above. The flue was therefore routed through an underfloor duct that connects with the open-fire place in the adjacent room that has a vertical chimney. The fire in the open-fire place when lighted would warm the chimney enough to provide sufficient draught necessary to induce and draw through the flue gases from the stove’s underfloor flue.

The heating effect from the stove is provided by radiation direct from the open fire and side panels, and by convection through the circular brass hit-and-miss grille fitted in the top of the stove.

This pattern of warm air stove with an underground flue system is a rare discovery and most unusual. Only one other example is known to exist, and that is located at the Argory, the National Trust property in Northern Ireland.     


The estate has several walled gardens Physic, Orangery and Flower with hot houses that contained and grew tropical fruits such as Oranges, Peaches and Pineaples.

The various buildings forming part of the gardens and its hot houses have several areas of engineering interest.  Different styles or types of heating systems serve the Orangeries, Pineries, Peach Houses and other glazed hothouses. The variety of heating arrangements in these garden buildings have created a timeline showing how the evolution of heating in hot houses progressed from the 1700’s and into the 1800’s.


  1. Direct fired brickwork furnaces with chimneys built into the walls that then radiated heat into the glass hot house.
  1. Direct fired brickwork furnaces with underfloor ducts constructed from brickwork and routed around the floors of the glass hot house.

  1. Wrought or cast iron (cockle) stove built into a brickwork structure. From the brickwork chamber surrounding the cockle ducts would then discharge their warm air through  underfloor brickwork ducts into the hot house.

  1. LPHW heating systems with either saddle or sectional pattern cast iron boilers. Cast iron pipework coils generally would be routed around the inside perimeter to provide the heating.

It is unfortunate that the majority of the heating system's ironwork had been removed from the Garden buildings. This occured before The National Trust acquired the property in 1985. Luckily though, much of the original brickwork for the furnaces,  flues and chimneys together with some cast iron pipework can still be seen.

Two saddle pattern boilers also still remain (Physic Garden and Orangery).

A Cockle warm air stove still preserved in a reasonable condition. This is a pattern of iron stove first provided by William Strutt for a heating system installed in the Derby General Infirmary in 1807. The Calke stove probably dates from 1836 when the cast iron dome was erected. Written records show the dome was erected by Harrison, who had his ironworks in Derby. It is also possible that Harrison cast the cockle stove in his ironworks to the design provided by Strutt.    

The cockle iron stove is completely enclosed within the brickwork furnace and unfortunately therefore, it is not possible to establish the internal structural arrangement of the cockle and its associated brickwork.

That this rare cockle stove still exists affords a wonderful opportunity to carry out remedial structural works to open up the brickwork and expose the front end of the cockle, to show its size, construction and shape.


To date five boilers or stoves have been discovered in the garden buildings:-
  1. Physic Garden - Robin Hood New C Pattern Beeston Boiler
  2. Physic Garden - Saddle Boiler
  3. Orangery         - Saddle Boiler
  4. Orangery         - cockle warm air stove
  5. Flower garden  - Robin Hood Junior Pattern Beeston Boiler

Thanks are given to Bill Moffatt who carried out the
research, enabling the following information
to be provided about each of the five boilers or stoves.

1.  This Beeston Boiler has been dated to after 1930. The New C pattern was first produced in August 1930 and was most probably purchased by Mrs Mosley then the owner of Calke Abbey.  The boiler has 6 sections and fed 3 circuits, a) Mushroom House, b) Vinery, and c) stove and Cucumber Houses. The boiler is sited in a floor pit and may have replaced the saddle boiler which was originally installed in the pit.  The three circuits were piped in cast iron with socket and spiggott joints.

2.  This saddle boiler was probably fitted in 1866 by Hernry Ormson a Horticultural Builder from Chelsea. Written records show he was paid £232 for a system which  heated the Vineries, Pine Stove, Cucumber House and Pitts, from an estimate he submitted in 1866.
A further estimate of £13-10-00 was submitted for heating the Mushroom House with the associated builders work amounting to £91-17-10.

3. This boiler was only discovered below the floor of the east stove house in 1998. It appears to be unrecorded in the Abbey's paperwork. It seems to date earlier than the saddle boiler in the Physic Garden, as its pipework connections are made of lead. It is not known which building it heated but it was most likely the East Peach House. The original pipework installation could well have been removed when the Peach House was reduced in size by Mrs Moseley during the 1930's.

4. This is a warm air stove (cockle) constructed of cast iron and enclosed within a brickwork chamber, of the type invented by William Strutt. Records don't show when the stove was erected but it is probably in 1836 when Harrison erected the dome of the Orangery. Harrison had his own ironworks and foundry in Derby and could have cast the cockle stove to Strutt's requirements. (Harrison installed the warm air heating system in the Church between 1827 - 29. This has now been removed). The mystery about the cockle stove is what it heated ? The only ducts found so far are routed into the small room at the west end of the present apple store.

The Orangery

View over top of cockle showing brickwork with
ventilation holes to allow heated air into the
surrounding warm air chamber

5.  This Beeston Boiler has been dated to after 1930. The Junior pattern was first produced in August 1930 and was most probably purchased by Mrs Mosley then the owner of Calke Abbey. The boiler is sited on the floor and unusually has been installed without the cast iron base stand which is a standard feature of Beeston boilers. Both the original clean out and ash removal doors have been replaced. It has two circuits which were piped in cast iron with socket and spiggott joints.

MAY  2007