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Almost every house that we walk into today benefits from the luxury of a central heating system. Some of these systems are powered by gas, some are powered by oil, some by hot water, and on the continent some are powered by steam. The end result is a lovely warm and dry house with radiators that exist as a feature or as a basic function. We owe this luxury to a series of different inventors throughout history who persevered, sometimes against the odds, to create what we now know as the ‘centrally heated’ radiator.

Example of a Roman Hypocaust at the Roman Baths, Bath
Example of a Roman Hypocaust at the Roman Baths, Bath

The earliest systems were the ones used by the Romans known as hypocaust systems. This system was used to heat buildings and was fired by charcoal furnaces with flues situated underneath the floor and inside the walls.

The first known enclosed hot water system was invented by Jean Simon Bonnemain(1743 – 1830) in Paris 1777. However revolutionary it was for its time, it was not a system for heating houses, but for incubating chicken eggs. Another early inventor was the Marquis de Chabannes who, in London in 1817, was discovering ways of heating large conservatories to assist the cultivation of grapes for his wealthy clients.
Hot water heating is said to have been first introduced into Britain from France c. 1816, and the Price Brothers of Bristol seem to have been largely responsible for the early pioneering in Britain. They secured a patent in 1829 for their first system, however it was slow to take off.  After this followed a very productive 60-70 year period of intuitive industrialisation of hot water and steam heating systems.
 

In 1831 an American inventor called Angier Marsh Perkins (1799-1881) was granted a patent in Britain for a boiler and expansion tube know as the Perkins Steam Heater. This, however ran at massively high pressure, and was not suitable for domestic settings. In 1841 Perkins developed a lower pressure system Perkins Hot Water Apparatus, and an understudy of his,  Joseph Nason, took what he had learnt and moved back to New York in 1842 and the Walworth & Nason company was established. This was the early beginnings of what was to become the American Radiator Co.

High pressure hot water heating coil & decorative coil cases. [Patent Apparatus for Warming  and Ventilating Buildings, AM Perkins, London 1840]

High pressure hot water heating coil & decorative coil cases. [Patent Apparatus for Warming  and Ventilating Buildings, AM Perkins, London 1840]

Franz San Galli (1824 – 1904)

Franz San Galli (1824 – 1904)

In 1855 a gentleman named Franz San Galli came up with a unique product named the ‘hot box’. This was the first product of its kind to resemble what we know today as a hot water radiator. He lived and invented his product in St Petersburg, and was soon to become a very influential character amongst the wealthy upper class Russian society at that time – they all desired what he had to offer in terms of heating their palaces and mansions.


Shortly afterwards in 1862 saw the first patented steam radiator in America by the successful partnership of Nason, Perkins and Briggs. However, an invention that has come to achieve more worldwide recognition than this is the Bundy Loop . Nelson H Bundy in 1872 developed a cast iron radiator design that had loops screwed into a cast iron base, designed to run from a steam system, and proved to be very successful in its day. This design was copied by many different manufacturers who introduced their own detailing in their patterns, and in Britain were used to run predominantly with hot water.

Figure showing the BUNDY LOOP - early cast iron radiator systems

(Figure showing the BUNDY LOOP)

During the 1890’s there were many different American manufacturers producing a variety of decorative designs using individually cast sections that were joined together in situ, and these were what were more commonly found in Britain. By 1892 the American Radiator Company had formed from three principal manufacturers.
By 1895 ‘American Radiators’ had opened its offices and showrooms in London, and in 1897 had purchased Britains Ideal Boiler Co. American Radiators also set up offices and showrooms in Paris and were becoming major leaders in the production and sales of cast iron radiators and boilers.  They set up a manufacturing plant in Hull in 1905, and from this point on, radiator manufacturing became big business in the UK, and saw the emergence of many large scale companies such as the Beeston Foundry in Notts. British designs until this time were generally plain and quite functional whilst the American ones were mostly ornate. Foundry technology soon improved in Britain, which lead to more elaborate castings, and the finer detailing of the columned radiators that predominantly have survived until today.

The Beeston Boiler Co - makers of traditional cast iron radiators in England

Beeston catalogue sample page 1

The Beeston Boiler Co - makers of traditional cast iron radiators in England

Beeston catalogue sample page 2

Click on thumbnail above to view more detailed image

Restored round top radiator from Reclaimed Radiators

Restored round top radiator from Reclaimed Radiators

Here at Reclaimed Radiators we are committed to giving these antique cast iron radiators a new lease of life – preserving a revolutionary period in UK Engineering history in the process.