A Quick History Of The Inglenook Fireplace

The Inglenook Fireplace served as the only way to heat homes and cook food, up until the 19th century. Here's a quick look at the history of this classic!

When lighting the wood burners in your Staffordshire home, have you ever stopped to think about when and how the fireplaces that we now take for granted every day actually came to be.

While we’re so very used to the luxury of having central heating, woodburning stoves, gas fires and so on, we haven’t always been so fortunate. In fact, the earliest versions of fireplaces were just piles of logs on a hearth in the middle of the floor, with the smoke escaping through a vent or hole in the roof.

The inglenook fireplace (inglenook meaning chimney corner) first started becoming more popular in the mid to late 16th century. Before this they were the sole preserve of the wealthier in society, as well as monasteries and similar.

This kind of fireplace served as the only way to heat homes and control damp issues, as well as cook food, up until the 19th century, which is when cast iron heating and cooking appliances started to become more affordable, although the poorest still had to rely on fireplaces for their survival.

Again, we take construction standards for granted these days but years ago, heat loss from buildings was a huge problem thanks to a lack of insulation and draughts coming through doors and windows.

While some rich folk would have had glass in their windows at home, again the poorest out there would have had to struggle on without… which is why having a fire burning continuously during the winter was such a good idea back then.

These kinds of fireplaces were often built with space for people to stand or sit as close as they could to the fire itself in order to keep warm, with the alcoves lime-plastered and lime-washed in order to reflect both light and heat back into living spaces.

The style of these fireplaces is generally quite grand in appearance, primarily because they’re so wide, deep and high. It’s quite possible that a house you buy in the future could have one of these hidden in the walls, because after central heating became commonplace in the 1950s many people decided to block up the original fireplaces in order to make space for more modern appliances.

Most of the time, it will be obvious if there’s a fireplace tucked away somewhere. If your home dates back to before the late 1930s, see if you can feel a line from fireplace opening by running your hand along the chimney breast. If you hear a difference in sound when you knock on the wall, you might be in luck.

Don’t just get the hammer and chisel out just yet, however… you should talk to a surveyor before doing any work on the fireplace to make sure you won’t cause any structural damage by opening it up.


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