Obituary: Geoffrey Ward

GEOFFREY WARD transformed the humble domestic radiator from its utilitarian origins into a designer object. Today his creations heat Stansted Airport, Glyndebourne opera house, and some of the nation's most fashionable bathrooms, living rooms and cloakrooms.

He elevated a bland heating device into an art form, an aesthetically pleasing vehicle for warming both body and soul: "Beautiful radiators are not a passing trend," he said. "People are conscious of how a thoughtful, stylish design can enhance their living and working environments."

Curved radiators, cactus-shaped radiators, radiators designed like abstract modern art - Ward, through his company Bisque Radiators, designed them all. At the top of the Bisque range is the X-tream, a series of sweeping pipes in the shape of an X, that retails at more than pounds 2,000.

It was while on a cycling holiday from Bordeaux to Biarritz in France some 18 years ago that Ward stumbled across his idea to revolutionise the nation's domestic central heating arrangements. He spotted and purchased a towel radiator.

Returning to London with the new gadget, Ward displayed it in the window of his bathroom shop in Kilburn, where it attracted growing interest from passers-by. Within a year the demand was so great that Ward revamped his shop, throwing out his bathroom suites and finding manufacturers who would interpret his up-to-the-minute radiator designs.

It was a bold decision. Few were prepared to take this upstart plumber and his "heating art" seriously. Being "Mr Radiator" was not the coolest sobriquet in town, as he once explained: "I tried to borrow a small amount of money from the bank at the time and they just laughed at me and said go away." Other problems surfaced: an attempt to open a "central heating outlet" in the centre of Bath met with objections, while many die-hard traditionalist plumbers informed home owners that the new-look products couldn't be connected into their pipes.

Before long the bank realised the error of its ways: "Within six months they were asking, `How much do you want?' " Similarly, the residents of Bath, duly placated by the "designer concept", were won over, and gradually members of the plumbing trade accepted the move forward. Finding suppliers who met his high standards was not easy either, and even today much of Bisque Radiators' Stock comes from Switzerland where Ward found he could rely on an outstanding level of service.

His efforts were recognised when on 2 April last year the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced that Bisque Radiators' Hot Springs range had been selected by the Design Council as a contender to be displayed in the Millennium Dome at Greenwich.

Geoffrey Ward was born in 1944, the son of a one-time head keeper of London Zoo. He studied at Haverstock Comprehensive School and took a City & Guilds in plumbing at Hackney Technology College. With a pair of friends, he established Bisque Solar Installations Ltd and secured a contract to instal solar panels in the newly emerging city of Milton Keynes. Ward said: "I spent 10 years building up the business, moving from replacing tap washers to installing bathrooms and central heating systems. We eventually employed about eight plumbers and carried out contracts for house builders, housing associations and local authorities. All through those years I heard that one continuous cry, `Aren't there any nice radiators?' "

The first turning point for Bisque - named after the ceramic term for naturally sun-fired - came with a visit to their premises in Belsize Road by an officer from Camden Council: "He pointed out that we should not be using designated retail space for offices. So we hived off part of the front downstairs, stuck a couple of bathroom suites in it and pretended it was a bath-room showroom."

It was into this window that Ward, his company now called Bisque Radiators Ltd, placed his French towel rail. Meanwhile, he kept what one reporter described as a "Battersea Radiators Home" upstairs where slightly damaged radiators were stored and rented by film companies wanting something a little different on their sets.

Designers and developers began flocking to his door as people began spending more money on a radiator than on a complete bathroom suite. Ward explained: "A few retailers are turning over pounds 20,000 to pounds 30,000 just on our radiators."

Journeying to inspect a possible West Country site in Bristol, Ward fell in love with Bath and in 1986 acquired premises in the city centre, to where he soon moved Bisque's head office. The topography of the area proved ideal for his regular cycling trips, although he frequently journeyed much further on his two wheels. In 1995, he met his partner Hazel Pennington on a bike tour from Prague to Venice.

With damp towels and wet coats consigned to the history books, Ward could only look forward, yet he remained frustrated by the attitude of many to such an essential part of their domestic furniture: "I still see so many expensive interiors with a boring radiator in them. People just don't know that they can have something better."

Geoffrey Ward, plumber and radiator designer: born London 12 April 1944; married 1965 Ivorene Davies (one son; marriage dissolved 1984); died Bristol 19 February 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?