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Saltram House

The 3rd Earl of Morley (Albert Edmund Parker 1843 – 1905) was a particularly valued customer of Garton & King and I have used such letters and plans that are available to me to illustrate the diversity of the works undertaken at Saltram House, Plympton, Devon in the late 19th century.

Saltram House

Major works included the implementation of a plan to convey water by pipe to Saltram House which, as we shall see, involved excavations over some 28 or more chains in length. (80 chains = 1 mile). This would enable Lord Morley to have installed a system of nine hydrants, hoses and nozzles; the risk of fire was obviously something that particularly concerned him at that time, though the number of Country Houses in Devon lost to fire amount only to eight of which seven suffered this fate in the 20th century.

Fire fighting in the 1890s was primitive to say the least. Appliances, such that existed, were horse drawn and manned mainly by volunteers and as the horse or horses weren’t waiting 24/7 in their stables for a call out they could not necessarily be called upon to cease their other responsibilities (milk delivery, cartage etc) at the drop of a hat!

Other works were undertaken in the Stables complex, in the kitchens and there was also the provision of a substantial Safe Door to protect the valuable silverware and other objects.

The plans for the supply of water to Saltram House were drawn up in February / March 1892. The pipework required for the works was to be shipped from Scotland by the Clyde Shipping Company to Plymouth and by rail to Plympton. Henry J Waring and Company were the Agents.

Letter re shipping pipework for Saltram House

The planned reservoir is north of Higher Woodford and the initial planned route of the supply is shown on the map that covers the complete proposal marked “The Right Honorable the Earl of Morley, Plympton St Mary, Plan for conveying water to Saltram House.” The plan dates from about February 1892. Alterations and amendments were inevitably made and there is some reference to the scheme and the subsequent installation of the Hydrants, canvas hoses & nozzles mentioned in Lord Morley’s letters.

Pipeline Plan, Section 1  Pipeline Plan, Section 2
Pipeline plan sections 1 and 2
Pipeline Plan, Section 3  Pipeline Plan, Section 4  8
Pipeline plan sections 3 and 4, and a plan of the site

Lord Morley’s letters are difficult to decipher, an example I have posted but I have rewritten a few that give some indication of the work involved though there are some words in the originals I can’t make out!

Dorchester House
Park Lane W
7 March 1892


W. Newbery forwarded me your estimate and specifications for the proposed water supply at Saltram.

The plans and the specifications appear to me to be quite satisfactory and to be clear and well drawn and I quite agree that the 4” pipe should be carried from the reservoir to the point near the garden. The 3” was only a tentative suggestion and if, as you say, it would materially impair the efficiency of the scheme it would be a pity to adopt it for the sake of saving £30 or £40. The cost is more than I expected and instead of the £500 at the outside it will, before all is completed, be nearer £600 if I rightly understand your estimate.

Thus I take it:

Your estimate for all work  280
42 and a half tons of 4” pipe viz 220

There’s excavating and filling    
Building manholes (materials? )
??? 3" and 2" pipe taken ??? ???

I have not yet an estimate for this (?) so I have just chosen a rough estimate as far as I can judge it. Are these figures correct? And will anything further be required beyond the hose in the house?

Please answer these questions and when I have your answers I will decide finally whether I can afford to execute the works and will give you definite instructions.
(??) Of course you have quite satisfied yourself as to the sufficiency of the force of water for the hydrants which will be fixed in the top storey of the house.

Yours faithfully

10th (maybe 16th) March 1892


I return enclosed the section that you were good enough to send me. It makes it quite clear to me that the fall is ample to give a good force of water for all purposes for which I require it.

Your explanations also make any points in your estimate on which I required confirmation quite clear and I am quite satisfied on all points and should be prepared to give you final directions to proceed at once with the works but before I do so I think it would be right for me to inform the Local Sanitary Authority that I must withdraw the offer I made to them two years ago with regard to the Water Supply of a portion of their district. This notice I have given today.

So I hope to be in a position to give you orders in a day or two. I will telegraph to you, I hope tomorrow, to enable you to close with your offer from Glasgow , which I observe is open for 7 days.

Yours faithfully,

W. J. King
Lockinge House
13 March 1892


I telegraphed yesterday as I knew you would be anxious to close with the Glasgow order.

I have now quite made up my mind to execute the works and have told Mr Newbery to arrange with you when they can be commenced, and when Sheer (?) will be ready to do the excavations.

Yours faithfully

17th April 1892

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged for your letter. I was anxious to see you here when you paid your next visit – and I ????? that in speaking to Pearce that a visit from you would soon be due. It is unlucky that I must be in London on Tuesday next.

The other day, which you propose, viz Monday March 25th will suit me perfectly and shall be very pleased to see you then.

The work seems to be progressing well, and as far as I can judge, will when completed be very satisfactory.

Pearse tells me that it is proposed to carry the main when it enters the house at the back door under the paving of the kitchen passage. It would be much better if it could be carried above ground, there are, I know, difficulties, but I wish you would consider if there are any means of meeting these difficulties.

Yours Faithfully

24 August 1892

Dear Sir

I am extremely sorry that I missed you yesterday. Had I had the least idea that you were coming I would have put off any other engagement.

I am delighted with the satisfactory results of your work here. As you were told we tried two of the hydrants the other day – and the force of water which they delivered certainly exceeded my expectations.

As far as I can judge at present the work appears to have been extremely well done in all respects and the supply of water which the drought has tested to the extreme has held out well – you were of course informed that another source of supply which I have lately opened with a view of taking to the reservoir promises to double our supply.

Altogether I am very much pleased indeed.

I shall not use the new supply for drinking or cooking purposes for some time to come.

I will go over the hydrants with Madge and decide what additional hose I may require in accordance with your suggestions.
Meanwhile I should be much obliged if at your earliest convenience you would be good enough to send me your account for the works which are now practically completed.

Yours faithfully

26th September 1892


I have now carefully gone over the Fire Apparatus and have measured from each of the nine hydrants the distance which they should each command so that every part of the house including roofs should be within easy reach immediately.

I find that for the nine hydrants I already have 8 lengths of hose. Viz: 3 of 60ft, 3 of 40ft and 2 of 31ft and four nozzles so I have one hydrant without any hose attached to it and five without nozzles.

I think I should have nozzles for all the nine hydrants so I should require 5 more nozzles.

As to hose I should like to have one 60ft length for the hydrant which now has none and three additional 60ft lengths i.e. one for each set of three hydrants, all with proper unions.

Then each hydrant should have its two iron spanners for tightening the unions. You have supplied 6 so I should want 12 more. In short I should require:-

5 Nozzles
4 x 60ft lengths of the canvass hose with proper unions.
12 iron spanners for these.

These additions would make my apparatus very complete.

You suggested the probability of slightly altering the bore of the nozzles so as to give additional force to the jet of water. Do you recommend this? The force of the jets already tested seemed to me satisfactory but you are a better judge than I am on this subject so I will leave the matter to your discretion. I think it would be useful to mark on each length of hose the number of feet to which it extends. How could this best be done? Could the figures 60ft and 40ft be painted conspicuously on the canvass? If so will you do this on the new hose?

I shall not want straps to hang the new hose. I propose to lay them flat or flaked (????) (I think this is the correct expression) on brackets extending from the wall thus arranged the hose can be run out more easily and rapidly.

The water supply works very well and the supply is sufficient during the dry season, there is always an overflow from the Reservoir at night and I have not yet introduced into the reservoir the new spring that I have tapped.

Yours faithfully

28 Sept 1892


I am much obliged for your letter.

I quite approve of your suggestion to alter the bore of 3 (would it not (be) better to say 4) of the new nozzles / 1/16th of an inch.
I shall be very glad indeed if you would, as you suggest, come down with Madge, and thoroughly test all the appliances and when you do so by all means ask your son to come over and see the trial.

Either of the days you mention, Friday or Saturday week, would suit me but Saturday would be much the most convenient for all (me) (us) ?? so please let me know on which of the two days I may expect you.

Yours faithfully

So now you know more than most about the works carried out at Saltram in 1892!

However there are three other areas that the Company were potentially involved in. The first is dated between 1883 and 1885 – then the company briefly traded as King & Munk and shows the design and style of a suggested stove / range for the house’s kitchens – the drawing is a work of art in itself. Was it installed ?

Suggested stove design for Saltram House

Still about the same time is this Heating Plan for the House, its title (which I have cropped) states “Plan of Hot Water Work in Saltram House executed for the Rt: Hon: Earl of Morley”. I presume ‘executed’ means that the work was completed.

Plan of Heating installation at Saltram

Next is the Strong Room Door , unfortunately the last two digits of the date have been torn off but it was probably undertaken between1885 and 1899, which doesn’t really narrow it down much! The Door was fitted to the Plate Room Closet though I don’t know exactly where that is!

Plan for fitting the Strong Room door

Moving on to The Stables. The Portsmouth Latch was a Garton & King invention which was endorsed by Lord Portsmouth (Eggesford House) as it was a cunning and ingenious device that enabled humans to enter and exit stables but not horses. Here is an image of them fitted to a stable door at Saltram (they can be seen to this day) and the promotional leaflet of the period.

Door fitted with Portsmouth Latch Catalogue details of the Portsmouth Latch
The Registered Design of the Portsmouth Latch

Finally, not a very good view of the stables taken about 4 years ago (2014) and a page from the G & K Stable Fixtures & Fittings Catalogue of about 1900 – bearing in mind the division is paneled on the far side it would still seem to exactly match the design shown (middle design) and so draw your own conclusions as to the whether the work might well have been carried out at Saltram by Garton & King.

Stall Division at Saltram House stables  Catalogue details of Stall Divisions

If YOU have any information or Archive material relating to Garton & King that you can share, please contact me – or post a comment here on the site in the Guestbook.

June 2019
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See also:
The Little Bit UnusualMixed Bag
Devon & Exeter HospitalPower to the Pumps
The Horse EconomyHeating Equipment
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