A short history about


  •  the members of the Family
  • references from 1840
  • a list of their Patents
  • copies of their Civil Engineers certificates
  • the PERKINS HPHW heating System
  • Churches still heated by the Perkins System
  • Perkins heating systems in South Wales
  • Perkins heating systems in Ireland
  • Kew Architectural Conservatory
  • Operating & Maintenance Instructions


The Perkins HPHW Heating Systems

Perkins Heating Systems in England

Perkins Heating Systems in South Wales

Perkins Heating Systems in Ireland

Researched,  written  and prepared by
F J Ferris for the Heritage Group of the
CIBSE  October  2002 - 2009

                       with acknowledgements to

             The Institution of Civil Engineers,
             Wiltshire Record Office
             Baker Perkins Historical Society                      
             Birmingham Library Patents Office,
            British Library

             The Institution of Mechanical Engineers

             for their assistance and information.      



This is a short article about the Perkins family.  Four generations of the family, all engineers, inventors, patentees and authors which spanned over 170 years. Each family member was directly involved with heating and ventilating of buildings. They also all carried out pioneering research into the production of artificial cold.


acob Perkins (1766 - 1849) was born in Massachusetts USA on 9th July 1766. His direct descendant line can be traced back to have been born in Newent Gloucestershire in 1590, who emigrated with his family to New England in 1631. Jacob was a prolific inventor, and before he was 21 years of age he had invented and constructed machinery for producing several articles of utility and luxury. Under the old confederation, the State of Massachusetts established a mint for the striking of copper coins, and he was employed by the Government to assist in doing this. The old Massachusetts cents, stamped with the Indian and the Eagle, were produced by him and can now only to be seen in collections. One of his most important inventions was the stereotype plate for impressing (engraving & printing) bank-notes upon steel plates.

At the age of 18 he had invented a machine patented in the USA in December 1794, which cut and headed nails in one operation, the title to which invention was only sustained by a lawsuit of 7 years duration. The nail machine was first erected at Newburyport his native town and afterwards at Amesbury on the river Merimac. He also erected a mill and water wheel there which at that time were considered wonderful examples of engineering.

After a disasterous damaging fire in Newburyport which destroyed many buildings he took the design of a pump he had previously invented and built it into construction of a fire engine. He was awarded a USA patent in March 1813 for the invention of the pump. A firm was formed which produced the fire engines and hose pumps. The pump was later used for pumping out the bilges of ships.

Jacob is credited with the design of a warm air central heating system erected in a Massachussets Medical College in Boston in 1815. The 2 storey building was warmed by a single stove sited in the cellar. The warm air stove was surrounded by a brickwork chamber, from which large diameter pipes were fed into each room through which the warmed air was supplied.

Whilst working in Philadelphia he met and became friendly with Oliver Evans (1755 – 1819) who was experimenting with the use of steam at high pressure and also whose ideas maybe led him to conceive his refrigerating machine. One of his patents BP 6662 1834 was described as Improvement in the Apparatus and Means for Producing Ice, and in Cooling Fluids. The machine involved was constructed by John Hague in London and used ethyl ether, to produce a small quantity of ice. It was notable for the use of a weighted expansion valve. 

Jacob sailed for England in May 1819, (leaving his family to join him later) with the prime purpose of interesting the Bank of England in his bank note machinery which he brought with him. he explained the system to the directors of the Bank of England but could never get the authorities of the Bank to adopt it while the Patent was still in force. The private banks however sustained him and he was able with the help of capitalists who purchased an interest in the invention, to create a manufactory for the making and printing of bank-notes.

He secured 11 patents between the years 1819 and 1836 some relating to boilers and steam engines.

In 1820 he presented to the Society of Arts several valuable and well-matured inventions, which were published in the Transaction of that Society and for which medals were awarded to him¹. His method of generating high pressure steam at a time when it was considered to be dangerous to exceed 5 lbs per sq inch (psi) was the wonder of the day. In 1824 he discharged bullets under a pressure of 1500 lbs per sq inch from a steam gun which was exhibited at the Adelaide Gallery in the Strand. The Duke of Wellington reported that the effect of steam at 1500 psi was equal to that of gunpowder, in discharging bullets of one ounce weight. The committee however, did not recommend any experiments to be made at the expense of the Government.

In 1843 he designed the hot-water heating for the royal Saloon built by the London & Birmingham Railway. It consusted of a boiler fired by four oil burners with a ring of pipes within the double floor of the voach. the pipes were covered by a brass grating. the boiler and water tank were mounted beneath the coach. te coach itself was provided with quilted furniture for sound and heat insulation.

Successive disappointments at length led him to retire in 1834 from active pursuits, and the last 15 years of his life were passed in retirement.

He was elected as the 36th Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 27th February 1821 having been proposed by Thomas Telford, Joshua Field and Thomas Mawslay.   He contributed a paper entitled “On Locomotive Engines and the means of supplying them with Steam” presented on the 7th February 1837.

He died in London at 84 years of age on 30th July 1849, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery London.

¹  The large silver medal for his          “Method for Warming and Ventilating Rooms”

                                                                               “ Ventilating the Holds of Ships”

                                                                           “Method of fastening the Scams of Hose for Fire-Engines, and  of connecting two or more lengths of Hose together”

         The Large Gold Medal  for his         “ Improved Ships Pump”          

       The Vulcan Gold Medal for his       “ Method of drawing off Waste Water from Water Wheels”


Portrait of Hannah Perkins with her
grandaughter Maria Louisa Bacon
painted by the artist Chester Harding

Portrait of Jacob aged about 58 painted
by the artist Chester Harding c.1824

The list of his Patents is impressive in their engineering diversity.

Number   4400       11th October 1819    Machinery and implements applicable  to ornamental turning and engraving.

Number   4470       3rd June 1820            Construction of fixed and portable pumps

Number   3732     10th December 1822    Steam engines

Number   4792       17th May 1823           Heating, boiling or evaporating by the steam of fluids in pans, boilers or other vessels

Number   4800        5th June 1823           Steam engines

Number   4870    20th November 1823   Construction of the furnace of steam boilers

Number   4952      15th May 1824           Throwing shells and other  projectiles

Number   4998      9th August 1824         Propelling vessels

Number   5237     11th August  1825       Construction of bedsteads,  sofas and other similar articles

Number   5477     22nd March  1827       Construction of steam engines

Number  5806     2nd July  1829              Machinery for propelling steam engines

Number  6128     2nd July   1831             Generating steam

Number  6154    27th August  1831        Generating steam; applicable to evaporating and boiling fluids for certain purposes

Number  6275     9th June  1832             Blowing and exhausting air; applicable to various purposes

Number  6336   20th November 1832     Preserving copper in certain cases from the oxidation caused by heat

Number  6662   14th August   1834         Apparatus and means for producing ice, cooling fluids

Number  7059   12th April    1836           Steam engines;  generating steam; evaporating and boiling fluids for certain purposes

Number  7114    13th June  1836             Apparatus for cooking

Number  7242      3rd December 1836     Steam engines; furnaces; and boilers, partly applicable to other purposes

For more information about Jacob Perkins
his ancestors and descendants visit internet website


ngier March Perkins  (1799 - 1881) engineer, inventor, author and patentee, was named after his uncle Angier March and the second surviving son of Jacob and Hannah Greenleaf. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts USA on the 21st August 1799. He sailed for England and arrived in December 1821, and thereafter for some time was associated with his father in perfecting his method of engraving bank-notes, and also of using steam under very high pressure. Following the subject of high pressure steam he developed and patented a method of warming buildings by means of circulating hot water through small diameter pipes in a sealed system. The first building to be heated by this type of system was in the horticultural hot-houses at the house of John Horsley Palmer (the then governor of the Bank of England) in Fulham London in 1832. This method of heating came into extensive use and was the foundation of a large business carried out first in Harpur Street, which then moved into Francis Street and finally into Seaford Street, Grays End Road.

He inherited much of his father’s talents for inventions and like his father before him he took out many patents between the years 1831 and 1864. BP 6146, 8311 and 8804 all relate to the high pressure hot water method of heating and subsequent improvements.  His patent in 1843 for the manufacture of and melting of iron by the use of superheated steam was remarkable insomuch as it evidently contained in it the ideas of the subsequent discoveries relating to the conversion of iron into steel, and the elimination of phosphorus and sulphur from the iron.

His attention to detail combined with his inventive powers rendered a great service to the mechanical world. Few of his inventions were the subject of patents, but the left and right hand thread screwed joint  which was patented by him, has to be admitted to have been essential in its use for hydraulic work. As a method of joining two pipes together and forming a sealed joint capable of bearing the same pressure as the pipe itself shows it to be both simple and effective.

In later years the system of circulating water in a sealed system, heated up to 2000 psi pressure was applied to the heating of baker’s ovens. This method was extensively adopted, as it possessed the advantage of being easily regulated.  It was patented in 1851 BP 13509 and was later much improved.

He was elected  the 587th member as an  Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 5th May 1840.

He married Julia Georgiana Brown in 1831 and they had four children, Angier Greenleaf, Loftus, an unknown daughter and Louisa Jane. In the census of 1881 he is recorded as living in Hampstead London with his son Loftus and his wife Emily, and their two children Loftus Patton jnr. and Ludlow Patton.

Angier March died on the 22nd April 1881 in Hampstead London at the age of 81 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery London.

The list of his Patents

Number  6146    30th July 1831             Apparatus for heating air in                                                                                               buildings

Number   8311   16th December 1839    Apparatus for transmitting heat by circulating water

Number   8804   21st January   1841     Apparatus for heating by the circulation of hot water; construction of pipes for such and other purposes

Number  9664    16th March     1843    Manufacture and melting of  iron; applicable for evaporating fluids, and heating metals

Number  10778     21st July 1845          Apparatus for heating air in buildings

Number  13492    5th February   1851   Railway axles and boxes

Number  13509   11th February    1851  Constructing and heating ovens.

Number   2755     6th December  1855  Apparatus for Generating Steam

Number   2757    6th  December  1855   Warming buildings and                                                                                                              apartments  by hot water

Number    954   29th April   1858           High Pressure Steam Engines

Number  2124    21st September 1858   Surface Condensors

Number  2017     21st August  1860     Apparatus for distilling sea &                                                                                                            other  water

Number     342   9th February   1862    Warming Rooms and Buildings

Number 2253   15th September 1864  Constructing ovens and applying                                                                                      wrought iron tubular apparatus for circulating hot water to heat the same


oftus Perkins  (1834 - 1891) engineer, author, inventor and patentee was born on the 8th  May 1834 in Great Corham Street,  Russell Square, London. At a very early age he entered his fathers manufactory and during 1853 – 1854 he practised on his own account as an engineer in New York.  Returning to England he remained with his father for 8 years until 1862 working on the steam gun and other inventions. From 1862 until 1866 he was in business on his own in Hamburg and Berlin designing and installing many systems for warming buildings in various parts of the continent. Returning to England in 1866 he entered into partnership with his father and worked on the design and construction of steam engines, boilers and especially in developing the use of high pressure steam as applied to steam engines. The partnership continued until his father’s death in 1881.

He inherited much of the inventive capacity of his father and grandfather, and from 1859 onwards took out a very large number of patents. The main subjects to which he directed his activities were the use of high pressure steam as a motive power, and the production of artificial cold.

A description of Loftus written by his assistant Charles J Hayward who worked with him on many of his experiments says,

"He was a man with brown eyes, well proportioned in build and a great chemist and engineer. He had a large moustache and Dundreary whiskers, who always wore a double-breasted blue suit, and in the Works, a peaked cap with silk oak leaves around. In the winter he used to wear a Canadian fur cap. He came into the Works one Sunday morning dressed in white flannels with a white peaked yachting cap. He smoked 13 ounces of tobacco a week - he always carried a pouch with 4 ounces of tobacco in it. His type of tobacco was "Branksome's Light Virginia".

In conjunction with his friend Dr Williamson he took out three patents in 1859 and 1860 for surface condensers, steam engines and boilers. In one of which he says “Our chief object is to employ steam of very high pressure; as for example of 500 psi. or more or less and to expand this steam several times, and then condense it so as to obtain a great amount of power from a small quantity of steam”. He devoted many years of his life to this subject. His labours in this subject are shown in two papers read before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1861 and 1877 and published in the “Proceedings” for those years.  Among his many inventions is his patent in 1867 for water meters, and one in 1868 for wrought iron metal wheels, the spokes of which consisted of hollow bars or tubes screwed into the nave or tyre. A large number of gun carriage wheels were constructed using this principle for the Government, and though they stood the most severest of tests nothing more was heard of this invention.

Another of his inventions described in 1891 in Fletcher's book "Steam Engines on Common Roads" says,
"it was a novel form of road locomotive made in 1871 by Messrs Perkins and Son, Seaford Street, Regent Square London, which was shown at work in the grounds of the International Exhibition at South Kensington in June 1873. The engine was of the compound type, the diameter of the high pressure cylinder being 1 3/4 ins. the diameter of the low pressure cylinder 3 1/2 ins, and both cylinderswere 4 1/2 stroke. The engine was worked at 450 psi. steam pressure and at the time of the exhibition it ran at a speed of 1000 rpm, and had been often at work during the period of two and half years, and was declared to be in as good condition as when new. The design of the locomotive was somewhat similar to Cugnot's made as far back as 1770 ............ The engine was mounted upon three wheels , a single broad wheel 2 feet diameter at the front acting as the driving and steering wheel , fitted with a rubber tyre , and two trailing wheels behind. The engine, boiler and all the machinery was placed on a frame encircling this single driving wheel and turned with this wheel when the steering gear was actuated. One important feature of the arrangement was that the engine always pulled in the direction in which it was steered and all the weight so placed was utilized for tractive purposes. The boiler was constructed of thick wrought iron tubes with welded ends, and the consumption of coal was only 2 lb per indicated horse power per hour. No exhaust blast was required in the chimney. The engine drew behind it a carriage on which an atmospheric surface condensor was placed, composed of a large number of small tubes into which the exhaust steam was turned. The engine was practically noiseless, and it emitted no smoke. It moved at the rate of eight miles per hour, and readily passed over rough places, was steered with facility, and quickly turned about in any direction.This road locomotive was for sometime used by the Yorkshire Engine Company, Meadow Hall Works Sheffield. In October 1871 the engine drew a wagon load of passengers weighing 33 cwt from St Albans to London 21 miles at seven miles per hour running time, there being numerous stops for vehicles to pass. The india rubber tyre on the driving wheel was run 1500 miles without any armour on, and we are informed that no wear was apparent as the engine only weighed 3 1/2 tons. A special chain armour invented by Loftus Perkins was prepared and used occasionally. This is the smallest road locomotive we have noticed of the compound type, and this high pressure and high speed miniature engine was said to develop 20 indicated horse power".   

Loftus Perkins inventions have frequently been described in The Engineer.  It is perhaps appropriate  to refer to one described in the January 2nd 1880 issue of The Engineer. With a view to obtaining greater economy, the Tyne General Ferry Company in 1879 fitted one of its old boats – “The Lady Jane” – with the Perkins steam engine and renamed her the “Loftus Perkins” in honour of the designer.  The Loftus Perkins a very remarkable Tyne ferry boat was worked with compound engines on his system with boilers tested to 200 psi.

His yacht Anthracite, constructed in 1880 was fitted with engines working with steam at a pressure of 500 psi. and it is probably the smallest ship of that time ever to have crossed the Atlantic  steaming the entire distance. The Perkins engine company published a number of reports upon her performance, drawn up respectively by Sir Frederick Bramwell, by a committee of officers of the U.S. Navy and by Sir Frederick Bramwell and Mr William Rich conjointly.

He continued with the experiments which had occupied the attentions of his father and grandfather which was the production of artificial cold which resulted in the “Arktos”  a cold chamber suitable for preserving meat and other items of food. It was based on the separation of ammonia gas from the water in which it is dissolved, the liquefaction of the gas, and the subsequent revapourisation of the ammonia, with the reabsorption of the gas by the water. This was his last great work, and his unremitting attention to it inevitably caused a breakdown in his health.

He became a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1861 followed by Membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1881.

Loftus died on 27th April 1891 at his home in 148 Abbey Road Kilburn London at the relatively young age of 57. Compared with both his father (82) and grandfather (83), maybe, just maybe, his addiction to tobacco and his heavy pipe smoking compounded by the stress of his great work load contributed to his early death. His Will was proved on the 28th May 1891 in the sum of £1829. A very modest sum when considered against the inventions, Patents and other business interests he achieved during his working lifetime. He was survived by his wife Emily and  their two sons Loftus Patton and Ludlow Patton.

Both of his sons worked in their fathers business which by then had been made a limited company.

It would appear that after the death of their father and a lapse of several years,  some form of discord occured between the company and the two brothers, as they both left the firm to establish their own careers.

  He was a prolific inventor and made
Patent applications
the years 1859 and 1879

The List of his Patents

              Number  1940  25th August 1859      Mills

Number 2208 29th September 1859   Steam Boilers

                 Number  2686  28th November  1859  Machinery for Propelling                                                                                                                Vessels

                 Number  2285  20th September  1860 Surface Condensors

                 Number 2392  3rd October  1860        Steam engines

                 Number  636  7th March  1865        Apparatus for heating and cooling                                                                             atmospheric air other aeriform                                                                                 bodies and for heating ovens                                                                                     and for heating buildings

                 Number  3050 29th October 1866   Improvements for actuating the                                                                                valves of water meters and                                                                              other meters, and of engines for                                                                                obtaining motive power

                 Number 1379  27th April  1868      Manufacture of wrought metal                                                                                                            wheels

                 Number  1381 27th April  1868        Tubular Steam boilers

                 Number  2436  8th September 1870  Locking gear of the fore                                                                                             carriage of Wheeled vehicles

                 Number 1508  24th May  1870      Connections for fire engine hoses                                                                                      and other pipes

                 Number 1379 23rd May 1871          Wheels for traction engines

                 Number  1822 12th July  1871         Steam Engines

                 Number  2818  21st October 1871   Locomotive  and traction engines

                 Number  2819 21st October  1871   Marine and stationary engines

                 Number  3845  18th December 1872  Locomotive engines

                 Number 2616  3rd September 1872  Packing rings for pistons               

                 Number  224  20th January 1874  Steam-engines etc.

                 Number  507  6th February 1877  Steam-engines and valves

                 Number  2301 8th June 1878    
Propellors for ships

                 Number 5243  23rd December  1879 Wearing surfaces of steam                                                                                                               and other engines


oftus Patton Perkins (1868 - 1940) the eldest son of Loftus was born in Kilburn London in 1868 and in his younger years followed the engineering path of his father working in his business. In the 1901 census Loftus then aged 33 years is recorded living with his wife Henrietta in Willesden London, and giving his occupation as Mechanical Engineer. By the time of the 1911 census their only child had died and he still gave his occupation as Mechanical Engineer.

Loftus soon showed that he possessed another talent. In 1883 he prepared an advertisement extoling his ability as an artist who would undertake commissions for clients. Watercolour paintings have recently come to light which span the years 1907 to 1933. He became an accomplished artist as the watercolours shown below beautifully illustrate. The watercolours titled Thames Barges painted in 1926 and London Bridge painted in 1933, opens up a new line of research for the Group to determine how well he was known as an artist in that time period, and to establish also just how many other paintings by him still exist. Also to determine whether he no longer traded as a Mechanical Engineer.

A selection of 9 postcards painted by Loftus between 1907 and 1934 has been acquired by the Group which shows his continuing dedication to watercolours.  The theme for all these postcard paintings are maritime settings, which must have been his greatest interest. Four of these paintings are shown below.

Loftus Patton died in 1940 in London, aged 72 years.

Copy of the watercolour painting kindly provided by James Buttram.

Copy of the watercolour painting kindly provided by Mike Alderson.

Research continues by the Heritage Group to discover more historical facts about his life, employment, career and family.


udlow Patton Perkins (1873 - 1928) the second and youngest son of Loftus was born in Kilburn London in 1873 and followed the engineering path of his father working in his business, which by the time of the death of his father had become a limited company.

In the 1901 census Ludlow then aged 28 years is recorded as living at 21 Herbert Street, Moss Side, Manchester, giving his occupation as Mechanical Engineer. Coincidentally, residing at the same address is George F Buck. who was probably related to the William Edward Buck with whom Ludlow made the Patent application.

He moved to Lancaster in the year 1902 having previously lived in Manchester where he was for a number of years associated with Hy Wallmark and Co Ltd and also with Joseph Adamson and Son, of Hyde in Cheshire, with whom he was interested in the high pressure stopped-end tube boiler. His speciality was steam at very high pressures and on this subject he was very authoritative. He was a director of the Lune Valley Engineering Company Ltd of Lancaster and later practised as a Consulting Engineer, devoting his time and energies to the development of refrigerating apparatus.

In conjunction with William Edward Buck, Engineers of Carisbrooke,  Battershall, Worcestershire they applied for and were granted British Patent No. 22272 dated 1892 titled  "Improvements  in devices for the diffusion of transference of heat”  This Patent gave improvements to the basic Perkins tube which had previously been the subject of earlier patents taken out by his grandfather Angier M Perkins and great-grandfather Jacob Perkins dealing with hermetic single phase and two phase heating tubes.

In 1907 he married and from the 1911 census can be found still living in Lancaster giving his occupation as Civil Engineer. They had no children.

He died on 18th October 1928 at Lansdowne House, Regent Street, Lancaster at the early age of 56 years.

So with both sons Loftus Patton and Ludlow Patten having no children the
four generations of the Perkins family as Engineers finally came to a close.


The first three generations of the family are all buried in Kensal Green Cemetery London together with their wives and other relatives, in an imposing 3metre high grave marker monument, surmounted by a draped urn. The people buried there all died during the Victorian period.


    The Perkins HPHW Heating System

In the early 1800’s in pre-Victorian Britain central heating systems were slowly coming into fashion with steam or warm air always being used as the heating medium. The use of hot water as an alternative form of heating medium had not yet been considered.

In 1827 an American family named Perkins arrived in this country from Massachusetts USA. Jacob Perkins  (1766 – 1849)  and his son Angier March Perkins (1799 – 1881) both with their  families.  Jacob and Angier were Engineers and inventors who had already experimented with using hot water in sealed pipework systems to create heating systems capable of operating at high temperatures and pressures.

Angier Perkins continued this research with his experiments in England and by 1831 was ready to apply for a patent for his invention. His first British Patent 6146 dated 30th July 1831 was listed as “Apparatus for heating air in Buildings” which was to be the first of many. This new method of central heating was to circulate hot water through small diameter pipes at high temperatures and pressures.  The Perkins Patent for their heating system was considered an ingenious and useful invention by the Privy Council who on the 10th March 1845 granted a five year extension of the Patent, from the termination of the present Patent.
This new development in the heating of buildings quickly found favour with businesses and the aristocracy. During the 1830’s many of these systems, which had then become known as “The Perkins System”, had been installed in buildings throughout the country. The Lists of Contracts ranged from Public Buildings, Private Mansions, Churches, and Manufactories to Hothouses, Greenhouses and Conservatories, in towns and cities as far apart as the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh and Ireland.       

The system is simple in its design and is formed as an endless loop of pipe, part of which is coiled around inside a brickwork furnace. The pipework is hydraulic quality tubing with  the system closed and sealed. Sealing the system allowed it to operate at working pressures of up to 300 pounds per square inch and temperatures as high as 300°F.

Isometric layout of  2- circuit pipework distribution system

The system used gravity as the means of circulating the hot water around the pipework. The length of each circuit was therefore limited by the small diameter pipe size and needed to be kept to a maximum of 500 feet. Up to 15 per cent of this circuit was coiled inside the brickwork furnace.  Should this length of pipework not be sufficient for the heating of the building then the endless loop was made longer in multiples of 500 feet with each circuit length returning to the brickwork furnace.

Each sealed circuit needed to be fitted with an expansion tube which had to be fitted at the top (the highest point) of the system. These closed expansion vessels allowed the heated water to expand into the vessel from the bottom and compress the air inside the vessel, thus exerting an artificial pressure on the water. Most systems were initially filled from the bottom of the pipework circuit until the top-up fill point was reached. 


The tubing used is of small size approx. 1" outside diameter with the lengths of tubing joined together with right and left hand threaded pipe sockets. The sockets were of unusual design in that no jointing material was needed. The sockets used a metal to metal joint with one end of the threaded tube being chamfered. This was then pulled tight up to the flat faced end of the other length of tube.

In 1839 A M Perkins wrote to various people, companies etc who had had the Perkins system installed during the 1830's inviting a testimonial.  Many people responded and these two are a sample of their replies.

Letter from Mr T Bevington of King William Street London. 6th August 1839.

"The warm water apparatus you put up for me in January 1835 which warms my countryhouse and seven warehouses has completed the object to my entire satisfaction, being both economical in fuel and cleanly in the use"

Letter from Messrs Smee & Son Wholesale Cabinet Makers & Upholsterers.
23rd September 1839

"The Patent hot water apparatus for warming our workshops and ware rooms and for heating our feather store, have been quite successful during the period we have used it, namely five years. We think it more than probable had we the same business to do again, that we should still adopt the same method; and we shall with pleasure show anyone the apparatus if it will be of service to you. Our apparatus is a quarter of a mile on extent"


The Perkins high pressure high temperature (HPHW) hot water heating system did however have some problems early in its life. These are quite forcibly described in a letter written to the editor of THE TIMES newspaper which appeared on Saturday 20th November 1841.  The letterwriter supplies a list of buildings which details a number of them that had experienced fires supposedly caused by direct contact with the very high surface temperatures of the pipes.

Wilson.Casey and Phillips,   Spitalfields      - Warehouse set on fire by pipes becoming red hot

Sir Hussey Vivian. Glynn House                                           -ditto-

Mr Barbour Manchester                                                          -ditto-

Craft and Steel,  Manchester       Manufactory destroyed by fire in consequence of bursting of the apparatus and the fire being scattered; the damage estimated at £20,000

Museum of Natural History  Manchester.       Set on fire in several places by the pipes becoming overheated.

Birch chapel Manchester             matting and cushions burnt by pipes becoming too hot

Unitarian Chapel  Manchester                                -ditto-

Williams, Deacon & Co           pipes set fire to joist of building; speedily extinguished without damage.

Lothbury Church                       Expansion pipe burst and scolded the charity children.

Lady Cockerill   Seinscote             apparatus burst twice during the night and caused great alarm     and some damage.

Sir T Cullum    Bury                     apparatus burst twice and destroyed much glass in the house.

Mr Ingliss  Dulwich                        burst in furnace with damage.

Camberell Workhouse                      burst with much damage.

Timothy Smith & Co  Birmingham                            -ditto-

Horticultural Gardens Chiswick                     -ditto-

Mr Hemming  Dulwich                                                -ditto-

Sir J Lubbock        Mitcham Grove                             -ditto-

Guardian Fire Office                                                      -ditto-

Mr Debouverie    Englefield                                          -ditto-

Lord Beresford   Bedgebury                                           -ditto-

Inner Temple Hall                                                             -ditto

Duke of Wellington   Strathfieldsays                                -ditto-

Marlborough House                                                           -ditto-

Why these systems went out of fashion most likely is to have been the increasing popularity of low pressure hot water heating systems which had greater flexibility to suit the more complex buildings of the 20th century. The discovery of the reason for the likely cause of its fall from grace still remains a matter of interest to the author.  Another possible reason could be, that insurance companies were increasing their premiums for insuring this type of system due to the incidence of fires caused, or maybe they were even refusing to provide cover.

It states in the letter to The Times  It is a subject which alike concerns the fire insurance companies as well as individuals; and it is a well known fact, that since the commencement of the present year, in consequence of the fires which occurred in Manchester, as already stated, many insurance companies both in London and in the country have refused to insure at any premium whatever buildings heated by some of the plans which have been here described”

Looking at the list of buildings damaged, one of the buildings mentioned was the Guardian Fire Office, and this could not have been good news for the Perkins company.  However, these problems must have been overcome as Perkins’s systems were still being installed into the 1890’s and beyond.

However, Angier March Perkins responds to the letter writer's allegations giving a robust defence of his invention of the High Pressure heating system.

To read the letters and responding replies visit webpage  The Times Newspaper

JUNE  2003

The following article is taken from the Gardener Magazine written only months after Angier March Perkins in 1831 had received the Patent for his new mode of heating.   It is therefore an indication of how this new method of heating was attracting wide interest in the horticultural  world.

The Gardener Magazine  April 1832 page 236
Miscellaneous Intelligence ART 1 General Notices
Mr Perkins Mode of Heating by Hot Water

This is one of the most extraordinary improvements that have yet been made in heating by this fluid. The advantages which are expected to result from it are, great economy in the first erection as there is no boiler, and the pipes in which the water is circulated are not thicker than a man’s thumb, a power of conveying heat to a greater distance than by any mode hitherto in use; of producing a much higher temperature than has hitherto been done by either water or steam even to the extent of 400º or 500º; lastly a more universal applicability of hot water as a medium for conveying heat.

The words of Mr Perkins patent are   “……The object of my improvements is to obtain considerably higher degrees of temperatures to the water circulated, and thus I am enabled to apply my apparatus to a variety of purposes which require the heating medium to be at a degree of temperature higher than that of boiling water. And my improvements consist in circulating water in tubes or pipes which are closed in all parts, allowing a sufficient space for the expansion of the water contained within the apparatus, by which means the water will at all times be kept in contact with the metal, however high the degree of heat such apparatus may be submitted to, and yet at the same time, there will be no danger of bursting the apparatus in consequence of the water having sufficient space to expand …..”
Mr Perkins has employed his mode of heating in the Bank Of England, in his own manufactory in Fleet street, in some other houses and manufactories in London, in the Elephant House at the Zoological Gardens in the Regents Park, a range of Hothouses at Mr Palmers, Parsons Green Fulham.
We have seen the apparatus at work both in the Zoological Gardens and at Mr Palmer’s and we are so highly satisfied with the plan that we shall have our hothouses and Greenhouses heated by it before this magazine sees the light.
It was our intention to employ Witty’s Smoke Consuming Furnace to heat water which we intended to circulate by the syphon mode; but Perkins method will not cost above a third of the expense which this would have led us into and what is an object in all small green-houses it occupies very little room.
Perkins fireplace is also calculated to consume the greater part of the smoke; not perhaps so completely as Witty’s but still much more so than by any other mode, hitherto brought into notice which can be applied upon a small scale. To Gentlemen residing in the country, Perkins mode of heating presents an additional advantage in point of economy; and this is, that the pipes being small and consequently light (in comparison with the cast-iron pipes 4 ins or 6 ins diameter usually employed), can be sent to any distance by coach; while the mode of joining them being entirely mechanical, they may be put together by any person who can use a screw-wrench.
But we shall have a great deal  more to  say on the subject in our next number when we shall
be able to speak from personal experience. In the meantime it may be more useful to inform

our readers  that Mr Perkins has  made arrangements with manufacturers Walkers & Son of
St John’s Square Clerkenwell for manufacturing  and putting up his apparatus.



The Heritage Group have been very fortunate to be given an old Perkins system maintenance instructions information card which was originally displayed in the furnace room of a building. These instructions have been prepared by the firm Alger's of Newport who were responsible for the installation and refurbishment of many Perkins HPHW heating systems.  The transcription of the maintenance instructions is as follows.    




          1,     Thoroughly clean out the fire box and flues of furnace and the ash pit.
        NOTE. – It is impossible to obtain the heat with a dirty fire-box; a dirty ash pit may cause the fire bare and plates to burn out in a few hours.

        2.   Fill apparatus thus:-  remove cap from air pipe on expansion tube first, then cap from filling tube  ( NB – Caps must not be changed); add water as required, replace cap on filling pipe then on air pipe. It will suffice if this is done weekly : Note - the apparatus must be thoroughly cold when this is done.  If there is more than one expansion, all caps all caps must be taken off before filling in water and the water must always be allowed to settle.

          3.    If apparatus is fitted with tank and valve, valve must always be covered with water. A line is painted on tank below which level the water must not fall when apparatus is cold. It would be well for attendants to examine valve every 2 or 3 weeks to make quite sure that both top and bottom valves are working freely and to lubricate valves with Vaseline. Note - the apparatus must be cold when this is done.

           1.    Add fuel as required

           2.    Keep the bars free from clinker.  Keep the ash-pit thoroughly clean.

         3.    Keep  a window, door or ventilator leading to the furnace room always open, so that the air can freely get to the fire.

           1.    Never touch the caps on air pipe and filling pipe while the apparatus is at work.
          2.   If the fire is to be maintained during the night, nearly close the damper and the ash pit door and charge the furnace with small broken coke.
        3.    If there is a tendency to down draught when lighting the fire, warm the flue by burning paper or shavings close to the nearest cleaning door.
         4.    During FROSTY weather the fire must be kept in DAY and NIGHT.  If FROST  has occurred since the fire was last lighted it must not be lit again until you have made quite sure that neither the boiler nor pipes are frozen otherwise it might cause an explosion.
         5.    A knocking noise in the pipes while heating or cooling indicates the presence of air, and the necessity of the apparatus being re-charged, in such case apply at once to the manufacturers. Noise in the pipes is sometimes caused by having a very small bright fire in furnace and then filling up with new fuel. To stop this only add a little new fuel at a time until it burns brightly, afterwards fill up. It is also caused by having a very fierce draught when the fire is burning strongly. To prevent this reduce draught by partly closing damper and ash pit door. Any defect in the furnace should be repaired immediately.
           6.    Any leak must be immediately stopped.
          7.   In the event of any repairs or alterations being required, no one unaccustomed to this form of apparatus should be called and if tampered with by inexperienced  men damage can be easily done, and useless expense thereby incurred.
         8.   These systems should receive attention and circulations re-charged hydraulically every two or three seasons.

Apply direct to the Manufacturers

160  Dock Street   NEWPORT

A second Operating & Maintenance Instruction Leaflet was given to the Heritage Group which interestingly covers what Perkins called their Medium Pressure Heating System. This uses a cold water storage cistern as the fill and expansion device. Two expansion relief valves are fitted within the cistern.


CHARLES RITCHIE, CE.  16 Young Street Edinburgh
and Aldine Works Fountainbridge




1.    It is most important to attend to the supply of water, as the working of the apparatus depends on it. The expansion cistern (A) should be kept two-thirds full of clean soft water; the water when heated, will rise or expand one or two inches, and will fall to the first level when it cools.  The cistern should be occasionally examined by the person in charge of it (say once a fortnight), to see if the water is alright and that the valves are in proper working order.  The weight on valve (B) in the cistern and the under valve (C) must not be touched when the fire is on.  They should be kept clean, so as to rest on their seats, and touched occasionally to prevent them getting gagged. This must only be done when the fire is not lighted.

2.    Should the water rise high, or overflow in the cistern (A), it shows that the furnace is over-heated, or the valves out of order – when it should be immediately cooled, and the cistern examined.

3.    The cistern and water should be kept clean, the dirty water being drawn off by the cock at the bottom, two or three times a year.


4.    In lighting the fire at first, the furnace should not be loaded with fuel before the circulation of the water has commenced, which is known when the flow pipe (F) feels hot to the hand.

5.    When the fire is well lighted, fuel should be gradually put into the furnace, taking care never to fill it up so as to choke the openings in front of the coils;  and by feeding it as required, a regular heat will be maintained.  To ensure a good draught the furnace bars must be kept clear.  The draught must be carefully regulated by  damper (D) and the ash-pit door (P), to prevent overheating of the pipes. Should the draught become bad, it shows that the furnace flues, or the vent, are obstructed by soot, which should be removed.

6.    The flow pipes (F), when rubbed with a file, should always continue a white colour when in working order – if they get yellow or blue, it indicates overheating, or want of water, and the fire must be immediately drawn off.  The flow-pipes (F) are those which come out of from the upper part of the furnace.

7.    The full effect of the apparatus is not attained until the return-pipes ( R ) are hot;  but they should never be so hot that they cannot be held in the hand.  They must always be kept hot during the continuance of heating.  The return-pipes ( R ) are those which enter the lower part of the furnace.

8.    The clinkers ashes and soot should be removed by the doors (H) and (P) before the fire is lighted; the bars are easily cleared of clinkers while the furnace is hot; the soot should be removed from the outside of the coils by the cleaning-doors (G).

9.    The cleaning doors (G) must always be kept shut while the fire is on; also the door (H), which is only for clearing the furnace-bars.


10.  Care must be taken that the pipes or cistern do not freeze in frosty weather – to prevent which a slow fire must be kept on all night during the continuance of the frost. Filling the furnace with fuel, but with only sufficient draught to ensure combustion. This may be done, especially on Sundays in warehouses, and in churches during the week.

11.    The best fuel is gas-cinders or coke, but any fuel will do, not being bituminous or liable to clog the furnace bars.

To keep the apparatus in good working order, it should be pumped out every season.

In heating Churches, the fire must not be allowed to go out from the time it is first lighted till no longer required. Before service the temperature of the church should be raised to about 50°F; the fire may then be lowered but not neglected during service.

P.S.   No one but the individual appointed should be allowed to interfere with the furnace at any time.


The above apparatus consists of an endless tube of wrought iron, filled with water and closed in all parts, hung exposed on the skirting of the rooms to be heated, or behind gratings, or placed in cells, enclosed in ornamental cast-iron covers. A portion of the pipe is formed into a coil and placed in a furnace of wrought iron or brickwork.

The pipes being of small diameter a very small quantity of water is required to fill the apparatus.

An expansion cistern is placed above the highest level of the circulating pipes, and is kept partially filled with water.  The object of this cistern is to allow for the expansion of the water as it becomes heated, and being self-acting, to supply the pipes as they cool.

Jacob            Angier            Loftus            Loftus Patton           Ludlow Patton


An interesting alteration / addition to a Perkins HPHW system

A visit to the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels in Eaton Bishop Herefordshire was thought necessary
as an on-line photo of the Perkins HPHW church heating system showed several Cast Iron sectional radiators
had been connected into the pipework system using mild steel welded flow and return pipework connections.
It is difficult to understand the Contractor's thinking that it was acceptable to make welded flow and return
connections into hydraulic pipe of very small diameter and bore. Perkins systems were designed and installed
before electricity was invented so they worked on the principle of gravity circulation at high temperature and pressure.
How the Contractor decided where to position each radiator and which of the many sinuous pipe coils were to be the
flow & return connections, must have been pure speculation with no understanding of the system's design and the
hydraulic pressure gradient throughout the system. Possibly an area of blank wall space looked quite suitable with
the heating pipework passing conveniently underneath. When the Contractor cut the holes into the hydraulic
pipe to make the welded connections, did they remove any swarf from the drilling or welding operation. Were
the metal cuttings and welding spelter rubbish just left inside the pipe to be circulated around the system.

We shall never know.

Do these sectional radiators achieve a hot surface temperature similar to the boiler flow temperature.
An interesting question that requires an answer.   

Note how the f&r have been offset to avoid having to disturb the pipe sockets

Note how the flow connection is cut too short and has pulled the top pipe
out of the bracket. No return valve.

Note the use of GF compression tee fittings. No return valve.

The GF tee fitting in close-up
Whether any of these radiators reach an acceptable surface temperature is a question that needs to be answered.

AUGUST  2003
Updated September 2019