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.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
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.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments