A short history



  •  the European connection
  •  a selection of photos taken at
      St Ann's Works circa 1948

      Researched, prepared and written

      by F J Ferris for the
      Heritage Group of the CIBSE
      December  2001

                          with acknowledgements to the
                          Linenhall  Library  Belfast,
                          Belfast Central Library and the
                          Public Record Office of  Northern Ireland,
                          for their assistance and information.

Photograph of the portrait of 
Henry Musgrave (1827 - 1922)

Businessman,  patron and benefactor
of Queens University  Belfast

painted by Henrietta Rae in 1918

Hung on the East Wall of the
Great Hall,  Queen's University  Belfast


The firm of Musgrave & Co Ltd like many of the old established industrial undertakings of the age, grew from comparatively small beginnings as a family business to the peak of its status over the 120 years of its operations.
The company first appears in the Belfast Directory of 1843 - 1844, where it is entered as Musgrave & Bros. Hardware Merchants, at 99 High Street. By the 1850’s they were well established, not only as Hardware Merchants but also as manufacturers of their own patent slow combustion stoves and patent stable and cow-house fittings.  Additional premises were a Warehouse and Offices in 99 and 63 High Street and an Engineering Works in Ann Street with a Foundry.
In 1865 the machining side of the business was sold to Richard Patterson & Co who took over the High Street premises. Musgrave Bros. then  relocated  their offices to their Ann Street Works where they concentrated on manufacturing their own products. During this time the company received the careful attention of John and James, Robert dying in 1867. The business developed rapidly and in 1872 was transferred into a Limited Company.

The Musgrave Bros. had been making slow-combustion stoves in Belfast from 1855, and in the 1880’s they introduced their Ulster convector stove. In 1891 production had reached about 100 per week, and Musgraves claimed that their Irish stove had become a household word on the continent. There must have been some truth in this, for by 1899 the firm established a branch factory for stoves at Mannheim in Germany, and showrooms in Frankfurt and Paris. Although this type of stove went out of fashion for a time it was also used for ventilating, as the heated air rose and drew in fresh air to replace it.
By the 1890’s business had increased so much that larger works had become essential. Ground was acquired and the works at Mountpettinger were built. By this time a large home and export business had been built up, principally for stable fittings and slow combustion stoves.
Between 1890 and 1914 large numbers of stables and stoves were sold throughout  the British Isles, Europe and the Americas. The company had a show room in Paris and agencies in most principal European countries. They were responsible for fitting out and furnishing stables for the Empress Frederisk of Germany, HM the King of Spain, as well as for very many members of the aristocracy of the United Kingdom and Europe, also to the cattle barons of South America.
In the last decade of the nineteenth century the Company began to manufacture centrifugal fans for the ventilation, in conjunction with their stoves and steam heaters suitable for the heating of Churches and other large buildings.  They also manufactured air washers that were crude by today’s standards but were in use in the first decade of the 1900’s.  Typical of these was the installation at the Municipal Technical Institute of Belfast.
In connection with a warm air heating plant installed at the Empire Theatre in Dublin in 1900,  Musgraves found it necessary to use a paddle type fan to accelerate the flow of air in the ducts. This was such an improvement that the firm incorporated fans in later installations, and began to supply their Ulster fans for many other purposes.
Also in these two decades the low pressure and high pressure heating department was expanded together with the structural steel side of the business. Both of these departments flourished and carried out many contracts in Northern Ireland.
As the rapid development and use of the internal combustion engine replaced horse driven transport the demand for the Company’s stable fittings practically disappeared so the Company then concentrated upon expanding the fan engineering side of the business until it was its main activity.
Centrifugal fans for all purposes and applications were designed and manufactured by the company, from  sizes as small as 100 cfm up to as large as 500,000 cfm with static pressures of 80 inches water gauge using a single stage. Higher pressures were needed for dust or grit collecting projects and the company manufactured a complete range of wet and dry collectors including the Lindereth high efficiency mechanical collector and the SF electrostatic precipitator.

The company maintained a technical staff with experts in all kinds of fan engineering, hot water and steam heating and structural engineering. There was also an experimental and Development section working to improve the company’s products.

This copy of a  letter sent by  the company in 1914 shows by the list of items the numbers and  varieties of engineering plant and  equipment they manufactured, together with the services that the firm  provided  in those times. 

The company continued its business and expansion into the first half of the 20th century opening several branch offices in England.  However, by the second half of the 20th century financial problems had set in, which disclosed that the company had for some time been financed by loan capital and that increased market competition was seriously affecting its trading position.

At the beginning of May 1965 the directors had decided to put the company into liquidation, cease trading and close down. The 400 strong workforce were duly informed which provoked understandable hostility from the Unions, who wanted the then Member of Commerce Mr Faulkener to intervene and find another company to take on the existing work in hand, and continue to keep the factory operating.
On the 20th May 1965 an Extraordinary Meeting  of the company was held at 2.30pm in the King George VI Hall in Belfast when a Notice of Resolution for the Voluntary Winding up of the Company was proposed.    The resolution said,
“Resolved that it has been proved to the satisfaction of this meeting that the Company cannot by reason of its liabilities continue its business, and it is advisable to wind up the same, and accordingly that the company be wound up voluntarily. And that Mr Arthur Stanley Boyd F.C.A. of State Building 18 Arthur Street, Belfast, be appointed Liquidator for the purpose of such winding up”
At the winding up meeting speakers expressed concern that the affairs of the company should be investigated, and an estimated deficiency of approx.  £450,000.00 was disclosed.
So a once capable, industrious  and innovative Company, which manufactured a numerous range of engineering products, that were sold around the world, came abruptly to an end, and ceased to exist after 120 years of association with the City of Belfast.



St Ann's Works and Foundry 1948

Dust Collection Equipment leaving the works

This branch of the  family history  commences with Samuel Musgrave of Lisburn born c1767 who died 9th February 1834 aged 66 years, who married Mary Riddle (Riddel) born c1785 and who died 14th March 1862 aged 76 years.
They had 12 children 9 sons and 3 daughters between the years 1804 and 1829 of whom only one died in infancy.  Remarkably none of their 11 surviving  children married so the family line died out when their last child Henry Musgrave who lived until 1922 died at the grand old age of 95.
Jane Musgrave  bap. 3rd July 1804  unm. Died 23rd June 1853 aged 49 years.
Thomas Cotts Musgrave  Merchant in Belfast  bap. 25th May 1806 unm. Died
1st May 1840 aged 33 years.

William Musgrave  Barrister at Law bap. 18th March 1810  unm. Died 12th  May
1872 aged 62 years.
John Musgrave  bap. 23rd May 1808 died 2nd February 1812 aged 3years 9 months.
Margaret Auld Musgrave bap. 11th December 1812 unm. Died 22nd June 1892 aged 80 years.
Eliza Riddel Musgrave  born 1814 unm. Died 3rd April 1904 aged 90 years.
John Riddel Musgrave  Justice of the Peace in Belfast and Deputy Lieutenant of Donegal  bap. 24th March 1817  unm. Died 29th March 1895 aged 78 years.
Samuel Musgrave FRCS Edinburgh. Justice of the Peace of Antrim & Down born 28th July 1819  unm. Died 19th April 1893 aged 73 years.
Robert Hamilton Musgrave  Merchant in Belfast born 1822 unm died 19th April 1867 aged 45 years.
Sir James Musgrave  Bt. Justice of the Peace in Belfast,  Deputy Lieutenant to Donegal and Belfast.  Chairman of Belfast Harbour Committee 1887 to 1903.   Created Baronet 1897   born 11th July 1823 unm.  Died 22nd February 1904 aged 79 years.
Henry Musgrave of  Drumglass House Belfast. Deputy Lieutenant of  County Donegal, Deputy Lieutenant to the City of Belfast  born 1827 unm. Died 2nd January 1922  aged 95 years.
Edgar Musgrave  born 1829  unm. Died 12th May 1912 aged 83 years.


The Musgrave family may be said to have begun their connection with Belfast at the beginning of the Victorian era. The Lagan was their natal stream. The Musgraves were a contribution by Lisburn to Belfast. The father Samuel Musgrave was a general practitioner, who began there in 1799. Dr Musgrave was about twenty when he started practice. His wife was Mary Riddle a daughter of William Riddle the founder of the Donegal Place firm. The Riddles were long settled at Coomber and an estate map of 1720 shows their property closely adjoining the village. The Musgrave firm was an offshoot of the Riddle (afterwards called Riddel) establishment.
The Musgrave family consisted of a dozen children.

When Dr Musgrave died at Lisburn in his 66th year in 1834 the family soon removed to Belfast and lived in Upper Arthur Street. By 1852 they were living at 1 Donegal Square South and after this period of residency they moved again to Drumglass House Lower Malone, which they built about 1855.

When young men, the brothers Robert Hamilton and John Riddel were in partnership with their Uncle, John Riddel at 54 High Street. With their brother James they founded the firm Musgrave Brothers and opened the establishment on the 30th May 1843 (which later became Richard Patterson’s of 59 High Street).
Here the ironmongery trade was carried on successfully until expansion of business brought the manufacturing lines and from 1860 onwards this branch was conducted at the Ann Street Ironworks until the limited company was formed.
John and James were the principals, Robert having died in 1867.

From this time forward the firm of Musgrave & Co Ltd created what was a new industry which attained world wide fame with the manufacture of stoves, heating apparatus, stable fittings and  high-class ironwork. Mr John R Musgrave was the chairman and director and represented his brothers interests in the company. The expanding business now removed to new works at Mountpottinger.
It was about 1854 that the other brothers Henry and Edgar Musgrave started the wholesale tea and sugar business.

The Musgrave family were benefactors of the City and its institutions.  Sir James Musgrave when he retired devoted a large part of his energy and abilities to developing the Port of Belfast, the possibilities of which he foresaw. The great scheme which he devised and which he lived to see completed. His name  Sir James Musgrave is for ever linked with the Musgrave Channel which he did so much to further from the time he was elected chairman of the Harbour Board in 1897 until a year before his death in 1904.  In recognition of these services the dignity of baronetcy was bestowed upon him. He also proved himself a firm friend of Queens College where he founded the chair of Pathology which bears his name.  Like his brother, Henry gave many benefactions to the City. When the estate at Carrick, Co Donegal was acquired a similar bold policy was adopted.

Their old fashioned courtesy and graciousness of manner, combined with a distinctive style of dress, gave the impression that in them was a link with the early Victorian period. Their unbounded generosity to charitable, educational and other worthy institutions will secure for them an imperishable memory.

HENRY MUSGRAVE  DL.     1827 - 1922

Henry Musgrave who died at the age of 95 in 1922 was the last of the 12 children of Samuel and Mary Musgrave. He was also the last surviving member of the band of Brothers. He was born in 1826 in Lisburn and with his younger brother was brought to Belfast by his Mother, elder members of the family having resided  earlier in the city. His early education was at Dr Blains School. On the occasion when he received the presentation of the freedom of the city in the City Hall in July 1917 he told the interested gathering of the excellent way in which his old school master opened the school by reading to all the assembled scholars favourite selections from well known authors. His schooldays over he had an unusual preliminary to entering upon a business career. His parents sent him and one of his brothers on a two months walking tour through Donegal, in which county the family had considerable property. This instilled in him a deep love of travel as he travelled later through America, Canada, Egypt and other countries. 
He served his apprenticeship with  Mr William Finlay in the tea and wine business and had a long and successful business career in Belfast.  About 1850 in partnership with his brother Edgar he established the business of H & E Musgrave, Ann Street. His public spirit was such that he did not neglect a fair share of public affairs. He had many business qualities and was the chairman of Messrs H & E Musgrave Ltd, Messrs Musgrave & Co Ltd, Messrs Riddels Ltd, Messrs John Riddel & Son Ltd and Messrs Murray Sons & Co Ltd.  He was an active member of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, life governor and member of the board of management of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Governor of the Belfast Royal Academic Institution and one of the trustees of the fund for the better equipment of Queens College.  His portrait hangs in the Examination Hall at Queens University.
He was a grand juror  and Deputy Lieutenant of  County Donegal and made High Sheriff in 1909 – 10. He had also been made a Deputy Lieutenant of the City of Belfast. He was lavish in his liberality. Many charities in the city benefited by his donations,  which were as widespread as they were generous. In recognition of his services to the city on the 1st March 1917 he was made an honorary burgess of the City of Belfast. The casket containing the certificate of presentation bears the arms and motto of the family, with panels at the sides containing beautiful enamelled painted views, of Queens University, Medical Ward of the Royal Victoria Hospital, the City Hall and Drumglass House.  He was the donor of the Statue of Brigadier-General John Nicholson  to his native town Lisburn which stands in the Market Square.  In connection with Queens University  he presented to their Library a collection of 98 volumes of  Irish Statutes extending from 1310 to 1831.

Trade advertisements issued by the firm

      7th December 

    Hood on 
by Dye 1891



The French

   Musgrave & Co. and the Perkins HPHW heating system.

The ongoing search  carried out by the Heritage group looking for Perkins heating systems, have made three discoveries of Musgrave's installing a Perkins HPHW heating system. All of these systems are installed in churches.
St Peter's Church   Broadstairs  Isle of Thanet  Kent

All Saint's Church   Llanelli  Carmarthenshire

Mt Pleasant  Blackwood  South Wales
The heating system in these churches date from the late 1800's and show how Musgrave's in very widely separate areas of the country can be found promoting the use of the Perkins heating system.  They also were kind enough to leave their nameplates for people in later years to be able to identify the firm that carried out the installation.

It can be seen from the previous Musgrave advertisement that they were manufacturing both the pipe and fittings.

St Peter's Church - Broadstairs


All Saint's Church - Llanelli

Mt Pleasant - Blackwood

A selection of the Warm Air Stoves  they  manufactured




A fine example of a Musgrave's decorative tiled pattern Slow Combustion Stove
The photo of the bottom clean out door is of particular interest.
See if you can identify the letters inscribed in the pattern. 

all images by kind permission of Vincent Smyth

 European Connection of Musgrave

A superb example of an ornamental Musgrave warm air stove most likely manufactured on the continent has been brought to the attention of the Heritage Group.

all five images by courtesy of Paul Arthur

This stove was purchased from an antiques shop in Vienna about 1985 and was said to originate from a house in Vienna. The only inscription on the stove reads "Musgraves Original". The stove most probably dates from around the very end of the 19th century, made from cast iron and has brass (or similar) decorative inlays. It is approx. 1 metre in height.

Another remarkable example of an ornamental Musgrave warm air stove manufactured on the continent in Mannheim Germany has been brought to the attention of the Heritage Group.

The origins of this stove have been difficult to establish. It is known that it was in use in a beer cellar in a Shengen-Danube region on the Continent many years ago. It was then rescued from this location.

all images by kind permission of Jilly Franklin

From the appearance of these two warm air stoves manufactured in the Musgrave works on the continent it is abundantly apparent that the ornamental and decorative appearance of the stove was of great importance to Musgrave.  No Musgrave stove has yet been discovered in UK that shows any sign of having such an ornamental appearance, although the catalogues do show some degree of decoration.

The wording 'Musgaves Original'  is common to both stoves.

This is fine example of a cylindrical Musgrave warm air stove
which carries the wording 'D2 Musgrave's Original'.
This wording has not been seen on any of the stoves discovered in Britain which were manufactured in Belfast Northern Ireland.

The stove favours the continental design approach of Musgrave's which is to have a smaller overall size with a greater emphasis on ornamental design.

The inscription reads D2 MUSGRAVE'S ORIGINAL
If anyone has a similar pattern or type of this stove
the Heritage Group would very much like to hear from you.

all images by kind permission of Phil James


the stove was seen in a restaurant in Brno, Czech Republic

This is another fine example of a cylindrical Musgrave warm air stove
which carries the wording 'M8 Musgrave's Original'

The stove favours the continental design approach of Musgrave's which is
to have a smaller overall size with a greater emphasis on
ornamental design.

all images by kind permission of Stephen Wadeley


Another fine example of a cylindrical Musgrave warm air stove.
This Musgrave Original D5 Stove has the provenance
of moving around Europe being manufactured in Ireland
then travelled to Croatia before WWII but is now
in residence in Slovenia

all images by kind permission of Tina Sever

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