No 10.  JUNE  2004

Building  Services  Engineering  Heritage  Group


Many people will have seen this lovely example of a Victorian Music Hall on last years BBC Restoration series. The Music Hall is to be the subject of grant applications from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland, which if successful will help towards the intention of restoring the auditorium to its late Victorian condition.

The Music Hall dates from 1857 and originally provided a wooden bench seated accommodation for 880 persons, with standing room for a further 300. When the new projection room was added in 1897 this brought about the need for the installation of electricity, which could well have made it one of the first buildings in Glasgow to have electrical lighting.

The Mechanical & Electrical Services

The Music Hall was originally gas light. The main features were three gasoliers at auditorium ceiling level with gas mantles located around the perimeter walls. Remnants of the old gas mantle piping can still be seen at gallery level.

The building was heated by coal fires and a few of their fire places can still be found there. The auditorium had a natural form of ventilation. The suspended ceiling is formed as an open box grid design with a mesh fixed above the grid. The heat from the people and gas lighting created sufficient stack effect for the vitiated air to rise and exit through louvred vents at roof level.

Three suspended tungsten light fittings of two different patterns are still in place. One is possibly an original 1897 fitting and the others date from the 1920’s. Red and white ‘Exit’ and ‘Gents’ illuminated signs can still be seen.

The Heritage Group have been invited to advise the ‘Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust’ on providing any information for identifying similar types of M&E services which could be inspected and replicated for this type of building.         

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Gaslighting – An Introduction to the “House of Sugg”.

By Chris Sugg  the Great – great – grandson  of  William Sugg, the founder of the firm.


The Westminster portcullis with the phrase “En Avant” was the logo of William Sugg & Co. Ltd during the Victorian era when it became arguably the most important manufacturer of gas lighting in the world.

Thomas Sugg, an ironmonger, is credited with “making and laying” the first gas pipe which was used for the first demonstration of gas lighting in the capital in 1807.  His son, William, formed William Sugg & Co. in 1837 and his son, William Thomas became the driving force after his father’s death in 1860 right through to 1907. 

The underlying principle of all of WT’s work was technical excellence.  The exponential growth of the Gas Industry, driven very largely by the demand for gas street lighting, produced the usual crop of cheap and nasty fixtures which were doubtless bought in quantity by unsuspecting customers who knew nothing about the subject.  With the earliest gas jets being formed from holes drilled in iron pipes, corrosion could quite quickly increase the size of the “jet” and thus the amount of gas consumed.  Possibly William’s first really important patent was for the non corrodible jet made of steatite, a naturally occurring ceramic which could be turned on a lathe and then fired to achieve an extreme hardness.  In classic style, the waste powder from this exercise was compacted into tins and sold as “Pearly Queen” tooth powder – doubtless sufficiently abrasive to remove more than just the normal level of dirt!

The demand for ever increasing levels of illumination on the streets could only be achieved by increasing the number of gas jets burning in the lanterns.  These open flame lanterns grew and grew to allow for the enormous heat produced by up to 20 jets.


The lanterns illustrated above reached 7ft in height and 46” across, requiring substantial and imposing lamp posts to support them.

Meanwhile the electrical industry had been developing.  Although the early arc lamps could produce huge amounts of light they were very unreliable and expensive to run.  The invention of the gas mantle turned the tables on the electricians, retaining the lead of gas for street lighting for something like another 50 years.  They also provided the death knell for the enormous lanterns which is why they are so rare today. 

The well known Windsor lantern introduced by William Sugg in 1898 was the first lantern designed specifically to use the gas mantle.   Sugg’s had manufactured no less than 50,000 Windsor lanterns by the time the 1906 catalogue was printed, a staggering number in 8 years and largely by hand.


Although there are many Sugg gas lights that came after William’s death, the Rochester and Littleton shadowless lanterns are by far the most popular and recognizable, particularly because of the huge numbers used by the railways and the surprising number that are still in use today, particularly in places such as Westminster and Covent Garden - still running on gas.

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HG members Mike Barber and Frank Ferris made a visit to these three National Trust properties in November 2003, to discover, survey and photograph for the Trust’s Technology Survey any engineering items of significant historical interest. Penrhyn and Powis both proved to contain a small treasure trove of H&V equipment.

Penryhn Castle finished c1840 for the Pennant family originally had a warm air stove providing heating to the ground floor rooms. Sadly all that remains of the original system is a few ornate pattern floor grilles. The brickwork vent ducts are still in use but the heating for these rooms is now provided by a modern style air handling unit.

Several old types of radiators were found and recorded, all of which appear to date from the late Victorian period.  One pattern of sectional radiator used composition type gaskets, with tie-bars used for assembly. This pre-dates the more common sectional pattern which  uses left / right hand threaded nipples for assembly. These radiators were manufactured by Haden’s of Trowbridge. Research at the Wiltshire record Office found Penrhyn Castle in a list of buildings heated by G & J Haden.

A well preserved cast iron saddle type boiler  still remains in the Kitchen complete with its mountings and connecting pipework. the boiler was used to heat the stable block.

Powis Castle was bequeathed by the Powis family to The National Trust in 1952. Quadrant style radiators of William Graham design are fitted in the Oak Drawing Room. the nameplates fitted to the radiator wheel valves identified Richard Crittall to be the installer of the heating system.

The derelict remains of a G & J Haden warm air stove was found which was used to heat the Orangery. Research again carried out at the Wiltshire Record Office found the stove to be number 556 ordered in 1841.

The old stable block still has the original ceiling mounted Musgrave & Co extract fan fitted complete with its DC motor, but now disused. For greater detail of the H&V equipment found at Powis Castle visit the HG website.

Chirk Castle sadly did not have the same amount of historical items, the heating system having been upgraded in the 1920's
and 1930's
by the firm C Seward's & Co. of Chester.
The property originally had its own gas producing plant, but now only the derelict buildings remain.
One unusual item found in the Laundry was a vertical pattern solid fuel boiler which provided hot water to the laundry sinks.

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Following the February AGM meeting of the HG a visit was made to the House of Lords Records Archive, to attend a talk explaining about the records held by the archive, and the progress being made to make them available on the Internet to provide easier access for researchers. Many interesting documents were made available for members to read, relating to Goldsworthy Gurney’s reports on his recommendations to overcome the ventilation problems in the House of Commons during the 1850’s.

An exciting find of a saddle shaped boiler was made during excavations being carried out for new construction works at Oxford Prison. A services drawing dating back to 1841 has been found which shows that it was a water boiler which heated the Cells by means of pipework supplying a heater battery sited in the base of the ventilation shaft.

In March HG members Mike Barber and Frank Ferris visited the Vaynol Estate in North Wales. This organisation is currently running courses for craftsmen who work on historic buildings. They have invited the HG to provide advice on how any historic engineering services should be retained within the restoration works of the building. Also how any new engineering services should be designed, installed and integrated sympathetically to suit the requirements of historic and listed buildings. Anyone wanting to make contact with this organisation should contact Brenda Rhodes, telephone No. 01248 - 670444. 

The late great poet laureate John Betjamin had an eye for the old warm air stove. In his poem ‘Christmas’ he writes

The bells of  waiting Advent ring

The Tortoise stove is lit again

And lamp-oil light across the night

Has caught the streaks of  winter       rain..........

The HG website continues to expand. More pages added to the Picture Gallery and Items of Interest.

Have you ever thought and wondered  “How did the Heritage Group get started”. Well now we know. In 1972 Mike Barber and the late Ken Dale coincidentally both wrote letters to the then IHVE Secretary. Both suggested that as it was the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Institution, a serious effort should be made to preserve the fascinating history of the building services industry. The rest as they say, is now history.

This is the Centenary year of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association. To celebrate this occasion a book titled "HVCA@100" has been published which is a "jumbo" sized pictorial history of the Association and the industry. The book's author is HG Chairman Brian Roberts, with Paul Yunnie the HG Vice-Chairman and MD of Andrews Water Heaters who were the sponsors of the book. The many and varied illustrations of people, buildings, systems and equipment have largely been taken from the Heritage Group's own collection and HVCA archives.

Pictured at the launch on the 10th March 2004 of the HVCA Centenary book (l-r) Brian Roberts Brian Townsend (President HVCA 2003-4) and Paul Yunnie.

The Ed has made contact with and visited descendants of the Phipson family. They have kindly provided copies of photographs or portraits of Wilson Phipson's father, older brother and younger sister. But that elusive likeness of Wilson is still out there waiting to be discovered. Visit the HG Website for details. 

HG member Ian Stewart has been in contact with the Britannia Music Hall Trust in Trongate Glasgow. See article on front page of Newsletter.


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