Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Quest for the Holy Radiator

One of the ongoing restoration activities for Balintore Castle is "radiator quest". How does one locate, let alone transport, sets of matching antique radiators with which to heat the castle? Factor in "on a budget", and the word impossible comes to mind. 

You can expect to pay £400 upwards for a large working Victorian radiator in good condition. I spoke to the restorer of Gagie Castle, who said "When we started there were 4 radiators in the castle, by the time we had finished there were 70". I can testify as to how a castle swallows up radiators! You don't want to do the finance math.

However, occasionally sets of radiators that are being stripped out appear on eBay before they have got to a dealer, and one just hopes that one is around to spot them. Anyhow, this blog entry shows 7 satisfyingly behemoth radiators arriving at Balintore Castle (1860) from St. John's Minster (1855) in Preston. The date is perfect. 

St. John's Minster radiators on eBay

There has been a church on the Preston site since 1094. The minster status only arrived in 2003, when Preston was made a city, but from its origins the building has always been the parish church for Preston. The Victorian building was the first church to be lit by gas.

St. John's Minster: exterior

The seller said the new radiators that were installed look horrible, but service companies nowadays will not work with anything except a total replacement solution.

St. John's Minster: interior
Transporting the radiators was a nightmare, three companies in turn agreed to move the radiators and then each in turn chickened out. Finally, I got a local firm, Campbell Lemon, who has proven reliable in the past to do the moving. The small crane on the lorry was essential. We moved the two largest radiators into the entrance hall to get them out of the rain - they had never been stored outside. The two of us then attempted to move them by hand: there was no way this was going to happen and we laughed at the futility of our ambition. It would have needed at least 5 strong people for each one. And yes, the entrance hall was blocked for a considerable time afterwards! :-)

moving radiators into castle

The radiator style is Princess, a substantial two column design which is my favourite. I suspect this because the radiators in my Victorian primary school were gold-painted Princess radiators. Sitting on top of these mammoth radiators in the corridors on freezing cold days, is one of those joyous memories from childhood. I had bid on previous lots of Princess radiators but nothing had worked out, so this relativity large batch turning up at an affordable price was an opportunity not to be missed.

the two largest radiators in the entrance hall
The Preston radiators are so large that I suspect I may never find the like again, and I thought about installing them in some of the large principal rooms, which will need heavy duty heating. However, I have to think strategically and put the radiators in rooms which will be commissioned earlier rather than later, and the corridor from the front door to the kitchen wing and the servants' hall are prime candidates for heating. In fact, these two spaces swallow up all 7 radiators quite adequately! I obviously need yet more radiators.

The previous batch of radiators from Albertopolis, two of which are shown here will most likely be used to heat the entrance tower. In that way zones of the castle, at least, will have matching radiators. The odds of finding a castle-sized batch of antique radiators is vanishingly small.


  1. An excellent way to end the year 2017, David. Season's greetings.


  2. I have spent a terrifying amount of money getting the radiator system up and running in my 1894 house. And at last, at last, this Tuesday the boilers will be fired up again! So, crossing my fingers, all will go well!

    As such, your post is timely and I well appreciate your devotion to recreating a radiator system for your, ahh, humble abode!

  3. Fantastic to see them being reused. And yes, happy memories of sitting on these delights.

  4. Contact Pert Bruce, builders, Montrose. They own the old Sunnyside Asylum at Hillside by Montrose. The main buildings have period cast iron radiators which they may sell to you. I have been in Balintore in the sixties not long after the fireplaces were ripped out and shipped up north.
    Best of luck
    Ian Forrest

  5. Many thanks Ian, I have now emailed Pert Bruce!

  6. Wow Lucky find ! These are rare and maybe the temptation for people to sell them by weight for scrap is too tempting! For lifting here is a gadget that is great to avoid accidents,