A short and varied history

John Grundy
(first President of the IHVE 1898)

prepared and
      written by F J Ferris for the
      Heritage Group of the CIBSE
      February  2005


                     with acknowledgements to,

                             Edward L Jones of Tyldesley, Manchester                   
                     Gordon Fishwick of  Bolton, Manchester
Nigel Crisp of Hadleigh, Suffolk
                     Mike Penny of Cockfosters  London
Mike Haddon,  Wigan Heritage Service,
                                        Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust

                     British Library Patents Section
                     for their assistance and information.

The following website article about John Grundy is an ongoing Heritage Group project. More webpages will be added as further information is discovered.

John Grundy (senior & junior) were another two of the engineering pioneers who shaped the Heating & Ventilating industry, whose inventions during the latter half of the Victorian period led to dramatic improvements in the comfort levels of the congregations attending church services. The warm air stove apparatus they patented was installed in numerous ecclesiastical buildings throughout Britain. Many of these stoves are still in use today, a tribute to their engineering design and craftsmanship. When the Institution of Heating & Ventilating engineers was incorporated in 1897 John Grundy jnr was elected to become its first President for 1898.  The Heritage Group considered it a fitting tribute to prepare this article and record their achievements.

A special thank you is given to Gordon Fishwick of Bolton Lancashire who as an ex-employee of John Grundy Ltd has been able to provide the Heritage Group with many facts, memories, drawings and photographs about the firm. All this relevant information would otherwise have remained unknown as the majority of the firms documents and drawings were removed and destroyed when the firm closed.

John Grundy
& Family

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              John Grundy (1807 - 1879) was a Grocer and Flour Dealer who lived in Elliott Street, Tyldesley, near Manchester. He attended the congregation of Top Chapel where he was a Churchwarden and was most concerned at the discomfort he felt during the winter, in both the Shop and Chapel. So he set about resolving the problem and overcome this discomfort, and after some time came up with an idea. He asked permission to carry out an experiment in heating the Chapel by using the schoolroom conveniently-sited below the Chapel. He erected a central heating apparatus by using a stove, flues, chimney and ventilators and succeeded in warming the Chapel.
To manufacture and market the central heating apparatus the company John Grundy Ltd was established in 1857 with an address in Lower Elliott Street Tyldesley. To secure the success of the heating apparatus he applied for and was granted Patent, BP 2949 in 1864. He continued to improve upon the heating apparatus, increasing its efficiency and effectiveness, and additional Patents were taken out in later years.
John Grundy died in Tyldesley on 20th March 1879 his second wife Ann having died 2 months previously in January.  A monument dedicated to John Grundy and members of his family is sited at the entrance to Top Chapel in the graveyard with an inscription noting his achievement  for inventing a method of heating for the Chapel.

John Grundy (1844 - 1913) was the first son born to John and Ann Grundy.  By the age of 17 in 1861 he had joined his parents in their shop, also working as a Grocer.  However even with the establishment of the heating firm both John snr and John jnr continued to keep their old occupations, as the census of 1871 still lists both of them as flour dealers.

By the 1870's the firm had become a successful business which was changing the fortunes for him and his family. It is possible that John jnr decided the future direction and expansion for the firm should be concentrated in London. He married a Welsh girl Mary Davies from Brynmawr Breconshire in 1878. The census of 1881 shows that he has moved south with his family to a larger residence in Hackney London where their four children Annie, Herbert, Florence and Hilda were born.

They moved house again later in the 1880's into a more fashionable area residing at 30 Duncan Terrace, City Road, Islington London. This became his Head Office from where he controlled and operated his greatly expanded business.

Now calling himself a Heating and Ventilating Engineer, the firm opened new show rooms and work rooms at Torrens Street Islington, also 393a City Road London, and a West End branch  was opened at 57 Wigmore Street Cavendish Square.

The Grundy warm air stove heating apparatus proved a great success and was installed in several Cathedrals, and numerous Churches and Chapels throughout the country. To handle the increasing demand for this heating apparatus an iron foundry and works was built in Parr Street Tyldesley in 1886. The foundry gave the firm the ability to produce a greater range of heating equipment which now included such items as Ward Stoves, Fire-grates, cast iron pipes, fittings, radiators, ventilators and ranges. 

John Grundy Ltd became the manufacturer and patentee of :-

"Helios" (ref2) and "Sirius" smoke consuming grates for chimney pieces.

"Hestia" (ref1) slow and quick combustion portable warming and ventilating stoves.
"Calorifier" and "Grundy" smoke consuming central fresh warmed air heating apparatus for Public Buildings and Private Dwellings.

Confirmation that his business was now very successful is apparent by the presentation of 27 Medals awarded to the firm at various exhibitions and also the numerous testimonials written to him by satisfied Clients and Customers after the installation of his heating and ventilating apparatus in their building/s. From the first stoves erected in Churches, the type of buildings they now heated had expanded substantially to include Public Schools, Mansion Houses, Hospitals, Law Courts, Factories, Warehouses, Workhouses and Institutions.

He died at his home Mountfield, Wood Lane, Highgate, London on 27th April 1913. In his will he left the significant sum of £23,739 to his three survivng children. 

The trade names given to the firm's various heaters are either taken from Greek mythology or star signs. Someone in the firm was very knowledgeable and interested in the Greek Classics.

ref 1
.- Hestia in Greek religion, is goddess of the hearth, daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and one of the 12 Olympian deities. In later philosophy Hestia became the hearth goddess of the universe.

ref 2. - Helios is the young Greek god of the sun, and the son of Hyperion and Theia. By the Oceanid Perse, he became the father of Aeëtes, Circe, and Pasiphae. Helios was worshipped in various places of the Peloponnesos, but especially on Rhodes, where each year gymnastic games were held in his honour.

John Grundy jnr from his humble start in life proved he was a person with a vision. He saw the opportunity following the invention of the warm air stove, to continue in business in the Heating & Ventilating industry, and went on to create and Patent other inventions providing a lifetime of achievements.  His business of manufacturing different items of heating equipment proved very successful with hundreds of his stoves being erected, one as far away as the Falkland Islands, and the fact that some of his stoves are today still heating their original buildings is a tribute to his engineering design and craftsmanship. He was a true Victorian entrepreneur, and made an important contribution to the H&V industry. When the Institution of Heating Ventilating Engineers was incorporated in 1897 John Grundy jnr was considered a worthy engineer and candidate and was elected to become its first president in 1898.   


Number   2949  25th November  1864  Apparatus for heating                                        rooms or buildings

Number  5594   28th March     1884    Warm air fire grate

Number  7141   29th April     1889   Improvements in                                         Apparatus for Warming                                      currents of Cold Air

Number  8455   21st May       1889  Improvements in                                         Underground Air Warming                                                Apparatus

Number 15210  25th September  1890  Improvements in Open                                               Fire-grates

PATENT  No. 2949  dated  1864

A stove having at the top part a pipe connected by a flue to the chimney, and place the said stove in a chamber surrounded by brickwork, earthenware, or other suitable material, so as to allow a space between the stove and wall of the chamber. Near the bottom of the chamber there are apertures in the walls for the entrance of cold air to be heated by the stove when the fuel is in a state of ignition,  the upper apertures at the top of the chamber allow the egress of heated air, communicating with other apartments or with the atmosphere to take off the excess.

a  -  the bed plate, fire-box, and nozzle of the stove
b  -  the grate or fire-bars
c  -  the fire door
d  -  the flue or pipe leading to the chimney
f  -   the chamber
g  -  the walls
h  -  the ash-pit
i  -  the apertures opening into the chamber for the admission of cold air
k  - the pipes for the conveyance of the air heated by the heat of the stove
l  -  iron bars built into the brickwork  to support the bottom of the pipes

PATENT  No. 15210  dated  1890
The invention relates to improvements in fire grates. In carrying it into effect, the back is made preferably in one piece with its sides and smoke-nozzle. The smoke flue is led up inside the chimney for some distance, and for that distance the chimney being cut off from the flue proper, and being placed in communication with the open air and the room to be warmed, serves as a warming chamber.

Herbert Hamilton Grundy (1880 - 1932) the only son of John & Louisa Grundy, was born in Hackney London in the autumn of 1880. He was Educated at Islington High School, the Northampton  Institute and Northern Polytechnic.

From 1896 - 1900 during his training he was involved in erecting and supervising H&V work, afterwards working at the Grundy Foundry in Tyldesley near Manchester learning foundry work and pattern making.

Herbert joined the IHVE in 1903 and presented a paper to the Institution in 1904 titled "The Warming of Public Buildings by the Warm Air System considered from the Hygienic Point of View". He became President of the IHVE for 1915 / 1916, and gave as his presidential address a paper titled  "Short review of past activities".

From 1910 - 1917 he worked on the design and manufacture of equipment for a system of electrical heating using a method of thermostatic control. During this period he took out several Patents connected with his work.  He developed an electrical method of thermostatic control for equipment such as electric stoves, immersion heaters, and control valves for steam, gas and hot water distribution systems. Herbert patented a thermostatic apparatus for controlling an electric motor driven fan which could be used for heating industrial and educational buildings. He also devised a type of remote reading thermometer.

Upon the death of his father in 1913 he became Managing Director of John Grundy Ltd.

When the Great War started in 1914 John Grundy Ltd was placed under Government control and the firms production was then concentrated upon the maufacture of munitions for the war effort.

He died at the Great Northern Hospital Holloway, Middlesex on the 13th May 1932 at the relatively  young age of 51.

The List of His Patents

Number   24162  31st October   1911       Hygrometer
Number    5311   2nd March     1912       Thermostats

Number   18017   3rd August    1912     Electric Heaters

Number   15438   2nd November  1915     Measuring  plasticity of rubber

Number  110938                 1917        Thermostats

Number  158931                 1921        Thermostats  

Number  205625   25th October  1923       Drying foundry moulds
Number  210497   28th January  1924      Electric Heaters  for use with fans     

Most of Herbert Grundy's Patents relate to electrical appliances, the subject that occupied the majority of his inventive time. However one Patent he applied for departed greatly from all his other Patents and utilised the Grundy stove as a heater for drying cores and moulds in foundries, enamelled or Coated Articles and the like.

PATENT  No. 205,625   dated  1923

PATENT  No. 18,017  dated  1912

This invention relates to electric heaters and particularly to heaters in which means are provided for rendering the atmosphere humid when the heater is in operation, the chief object being to provide improved means for humidifying the atmosphere and to enable the degree of evaporation to be varied in accordance with requirements.


Part of Ordnance Survey Map of Tyldesley 1908

copyright of Wigan Heritage Service -  Ref No. 367 / 16

copyright Wigan Heritage Service   Ref No. 367 / 10

Large grinder body casting for the for The Churchill Machine Co Ltd

This grinder was said to be for finishing periscope tubes for submarines.
The steam traction engine was used to haul it to its destination as there were
no petrol wagons powerful enough to haul a 15 ton load at the time

John Grundy Ltd  1857 - 1974
(established 1857)

When the link between the Grundy family and the firm ended in 1932 with the death of Herbert Grundy, the firm continued with its 60 factory and 6 staff employees to advertise and manufacture the successful range of heating apparatus which carried on being installed in many more churches and other buildings throughout Britain. One of the firms marketting strategies was to post advertisement literature to vicarages listed in Crockfords Clerical Directory. This method must have proved successful as it is estimated that in the 110 years of the firms existence several thousand heaters were installed.  From the 1940's onwards
in addition to the heaters, the foundry also took on jobbing work for the Iron Works making a large selection of castings for items such as,

Rain water drainage gullies,   Manhole covers,   Fire Hydrant boxes,
Stop Tap boxes,   Crane Barrells for Wharton Cranes Ltd,
Brick Making Plants for Sutcliffe & Speakman,   Gear wheel blanks, 
Gas street lamps and Fire surrounds.

During the 1939-1945 war, drainage gratings were made for the RAF which were used for the removal of rain water from airfield runways.

In the early 1950's 3 large Igranic heaters were exported to South Africa for a tobacco drying plant in Luchenza.

During this time period John Grundy Ltd had a reciprocal agreement with the Blackburn firm Blakewater Foundry and they regularly passed work to each other until  the closure of the Blakewater foundry. The inscription wording on this access door at the United Reformed Church Hadleigh installed in the 1950's confirms that the Blackburn foundry was producing castings for John Grundy Ltd

The unfortunate combination of poor management, unproductive workers and a lack of capital funding for future investment, aggravated by the
recession in the early 1970's most likely brought about the demise and final closure of the firm. The closure of John Grundy Ltd in 1974 saw the iron foundry taken over for a short period by the Yorkshire firm Edgar Alan Ltd. Demolition of the foundry buildings in 1989 brought to an end over 100 years of iron making in Tyldesley.


The Grundy warm air stove heating installation from the examples seen to date, was erected in a separate space or room that then acted as a plenum chamber for the warmed air. This warmed air was then routed away from the plenum chamber through ventilating ducts which supplied the other parts of the building, and introduced the air to the rooms and spaces through gratings or grilles fitted at floor level. Grundy warm air stoves were erected in many Cathedrals and Churches throughout the country and some of these stoves still exist today. Many of the Grundy stoves although originally designed to be solid fuel fired were readily converted to oil or gas firing during the 1900's. The main competitors of John Grundy Ltd for warm air stove installations in that Victorian time period were Haden and also the Gurney stove which by comparison was of the stand-alone type, installed within the space being heated.  Whilst  both the Haden and Gurney stoves ceased being installed from the early 1900's the Grundy stove was still being made and installed right up until the very early 1970's.

The Grundy stove's catch phrase was their speciality


This photo shows a typical
small size  Igranic pattern
Grundy warm air heater
complete with double
flue outlet pipes
each fitted with
an economiser section.

The stove was installed
in 1968 suitable
oil firing.

Sadly the stove has now
been removed
and scrapped.

To view a larger size
Igranic pattern Grundy
air heater


This photo shows a very

early pattern of a Grundy
Warm Air stove which
was removed from the
Chapel and is now 
display in "The Way
We Were" exhibition
at the  Wigan
Heritage Centre Museum.

A technical description of the the Grundy warm air stove apparatus, its construction and operation is given in the book titled  "Hood on Warming Buildings" by Frederick Dye (an IHVE member in the 1899 list of members) published in 1897. Relevant details of the apparatus extracted from the book are as follows.


An example of  the plenum chamber arrangement for the installation of the warm air stove can be clearly seen in this Grundy drawing which dates from around 1890.




St Michael & All Angels 
Barnes London

The church of St Michael & All Angels in Barnes
London was built in 1893 and it was during this time
that the Grundy heater and its associated warm air
ductwork system was installed.
This is the oldest known Grundy Warm air heater
installation discovered to date. The system comprises
two Small Oval Hestia "Z" heaters which supply warm
air to the church through 2 floor gratings. A floor
grating for the return air is also fitted. Fresh air is
supplied to the heating chamber through an
underground builders duct.

Layout of plant room before erection of the second gas burner.

Replacement access door
fitted during the 1960's.

Central access door
to heating chamber

Original Victorian
style Grundy access door

Views inside heating chamber showing external finning on
the outside of the cast iron Oval heaters. Note outlet heating
duct at high level on left hand picture.

View of combustion chamber inside the stove.
Note the top side outlet for exit of the flue gases.

Plant chamber with both gas burners now fitted

 United Reformed Church  Hadleigh  Suffolk

One good example of a Grundy warm air stove installation can be found in the United Reformed Church at Hadleigh in Suffolk. The building's first stove / heater was installed in 1890 which was subsequently removed in November 1952 and replaced with a size 1-Large Oval Z type Hestia pattern. The stove was later converted to gas firing in 1983.

The stove's combustion chamber in 2005 was rejointed and relined with new refractory brickwork. The gas burner was refurbished. A selection of photos showing these works is show below.


Internal base of cleaned out stove

New refractory bricks

Refractory brickwork during erection

Gas burner refitted

The completed installation

Much of the original correspondence between the Church and John Grundy Ltd from 1889 still exists, which includes letters, receipts and drawings  and is shown below in the following webpage.

St Peter's Church, Yaxley
Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

The church of St Peter at Yaxley, just east of the Great North Road near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire has been described as "a large and noble cruciform structure of rubble with stone dressings, and consists of chancel and nave, both with clerestory, aisles, transepts, south porch and an embattled western tower, with pinnacles and octagonal crocketed spire" (Kelly’s Directory 1903).  This is a basic medieval church with the typical architectural layout of side aisles and chapels and built when thermal insulation and warmth in winter simply meant extra layers of clothing should be worn.

Since 1966 the church has been heated by warm air, provided by a John Grundy Igranic oil fired cast iron stove installed in a large floor pit in the nave, central to the building as a whole.  It is likely that this stove replaced an earlier one.  The Igranic pattern was the largest of the Grundy range of cast iron sectional stoves, having three flue outlets in its top section.  At Yaxley the outlets feed three finned economiser pipes positioned horizontally and in parallel under the nave floor which combine after about 3 metres to a single feed connecting into the vertical flue and chimney in the south transept wall.  The chimney can be seen in the exterior photograph shown above.

The stove and the economiser pipes are covered in the aisle by cast iron floor gratings, and the church is heated by the natural circulation of warmed air up through these gratings.  Although originally some cold fresh air from the outside was fed in through pipes under the aisles, the main air circulation is now achieved using fire proof screens which stand beside the stove and flue pipes, to draw down cool air at the sides of the pit into the base of the stove.  With some of the floor gratings removed the image shows the stove, economiser pipes and the screens on both sides.

The stove front and the oil burner are accessed via two cast iron trap doors in the nave floor as shown in the foreground of the photograph below. 

The three section stove front is the typical layout for Grundy oil or gas firing with the burner pipe closest to the stove floor. Above it the peep hole to monitor the flame and at the top the freely hinged ‘explosion release door’.  In the top left of the photograph is the cast iron plaque provided on most Grundy installations which gives reference details for repairs and renewals; in the Yaxley case showing the stove’s serial number of 159 and the year of installation 1966.

A selection of John Grundy Ltd
advertisements and other
advertising leaflets.


Rebricking and Rejointing
of the Combustion Chamber

After a number of years in operation for any warm air stove, it becomes necessary to carry out a complete renewal of the brickwork lining to the combustion chamber, due to the deterioration of the refractory brickwork inside the chamber. This is caused by the high temperatures and flame impingement. The high temperatures created within the combustion chamber will also cause the fire cement jointing between the horizontal cast iron sections to harden, eventually crack and become dislodged. These joints will all need to be resealed to prevent the products of combustion escaping from in between the sections out into the air ducts, which supply the warmed air that heats the building.    

The following series of pictures show the combustion chamber of a large size Grundy warm air stove being re-bricked and the joints between each of the sections resealed.

Old firebricks have
been removed and
the internal surfaces
of the combustion chamber
thoroughly cleaned

View through the opening for
the top explosion relief door
  showing some of the internal
joints between the sections
that have been resealed using
a suitable fire cement.

The new refractory firebricks are placed in an accessible position for the Service Engineer working inside the chamber to be able to use them for building the firebrick wall.

Service engineer Gordon Fishwick with the shaped firebricks necessary to close the gap
at the front of the chamber.

Disappearing into the
combustion chamber
complete the building
of the firebrick wall.

Working inside the combustion chamber
(not really suitable for
anyone suffering from claustrophobia).

The cramped working space and conditions can clearly been seen.

Another view showing
the restricted and
cramped working
space inside the
combustion chamber
when cementing the
firebricks into

Internal view
of the completed
firebrick lining.

John Grundy Ltd  in the 1930's published from their London Office a small promotional booklet advertising "EIGHTY YEARS of CHURCH HEATING"

A copy of this booklet was kindly loaned to the
Heritage Group by
Mr Edward L Jones of Tyldesley
who was employed by John Grundy Ltd for most of
his working life and was the foundry foreman at
the time when the firm closed in 1974

The following text is taken from the booklet.

Many important inventions had their origin in small beginnings, some the outcome of local discomfort endured through the ages almost without question.

The Grundy Warm Air system of Heating is a case in point. Until the advent of Mr John Grundy, cold feet were considered a natural accompaniment to public worship, a discomfort almost inseparable from Churchgoing in Winter. Indeed the radiant heat of the congregation assisted by that of a solitary stove was the only source of heat in most buildings.

The awakening took place when Mr John Grundy - a warden of Tyldesley Chapel, near Manchester- decided that something must be done about it. He devised a scheme of central heating for his Church, distributing heat to all parts of the building. This novelty so successful that it attracted the attention of the Clergy of neigbouring parishes, eager for like amenities.

So insistent was the demand, that Mr Grundy, realising that there was a great future for his discovery if he cared to exploit it, at once accepted the invitation from othe Churches and founded the firm of JOHN GRUNDY LTD, soon to become a household word in the heating world. Orders for the Grundy warm air central heating system positively rained in; applicants had to wait their turn, orders being attended to in strict rotation. It seemed as though the whole shivering world lay at Mr Grundy's feet. Each installation became its own advertisement. Churches and Church Halls throughout Great Britain and Ireland clamoured for the new heating system, and under the late Mr John Grundy, son of the Founder , the business grew and expanded in a very gratifying manner.

The private houses of the aristocracy next received attention, and warm air testimony came from the nobility, great generals, and more important still, great scientists. Professor Tyndall declared that it was only the Grundy System of Warm Air Heating that made continued residence in this country possible for him in the Winter.

Sir Henry Thompson, another great scientist, was so impressed with the Grundy Warm Air Installation supplied to him that he wrote a special account of it in his well-known book: "Diet in relation to age and activity." in which he pointed out that the Grundy System had the great advantge of circulating fresh warm air continuously, whereas hot-water pipes merely heated stale air. 
A very important development in the Grundy business was the launching of the Iron Foundry at Tyldesley. Henceforth independant supplies and the highest quality of material and workmanship were assured.

So important had the name of Grundy become in the heating world that when the Institution of Heating and Ventilating Engineers was inaugurated in 1898, it was considered essential that Mr John Grundy should consent to become its first president. The same office was filled in 1915 by the late Mr Herbert Grundy, the grandson of the founder.

Since the commencement of the business, thousands of Churches and other buildings have been heated, and the progress still continues. The principle of the Grundy Warm Air System is the same now as when the first Grundy's applied it so successfully, but all that modern engineering skill and science can do to increase its scope and efficiency, has been incorporated.

As with all valuable inventions success has led to imitation. America has copied Grundy, so has the Continent, but the British firm still holds pride of place by reason of the wonderfully effective design and durability of its products.

The principle of heating by warm air is simplicity itself, particularly in Churches and similar buildings where it can be accomplished by gravity only. In the small number of cases where gravity cannot be relied upon, the introduction of a fan is all that is necessary. Heating by warm air is so simple that many people cannot credit it and are apt to question uniform distribution.

In operation, air when heated becomes lighter than the surrounding atmosphere. It immediately rises at a high velocity in a perpendicular direction, until it reaches the highest point in any building. It then spreads in a horizontal direction, and descends at a very low velocity.

During the process the leading stream of air gives up some of its heat and becomes cooler and heavier. The incoming stream of warm and light air, being continuous, gradually displaces the cooler and heavier air, causing it to descend at a very low velocity, evenly throughout the building. Cold down draughts are thereby eliminated. The air descending at a very low velocity in addition to giving an even temperature throughout, at equal altitudes, ventilates the building - the slowly moving air being essential for good ventilation.

It is usual with the Grundy apparatus to arrange the control so that the attendant is able to circulate the air in the building by passing it over the Heater, or he can pass over the Heater new fresh air from the atmosphere only, thereby getting perfect ventilation when the building is in actual use.

When it is found necessary to instal a fan, this is only to ensure that a stream of warm air enters each apartment in the building after which the operation is exactly as described above.

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