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Cooking on an open fire
in the early 1900s and before

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The Victorian-style terraced houses where my mother grew up were state of the art at the time with their 'kitchener' kitchen ranges, but many working class families in older properties lacked such modern conveniences. My mother wrote that one of her grandmothers lived in little more than a hovel and cooked on an open fire and had to use a candle at night to see if the water was boiling. I wanted to know how this sort of cooking worked.

Fortunately there are still a few old village-style workers' cottages open to the public which allow some understanding of the lives on the people who used to live there. Discussions with Bill Hogg have further clarified my understanding.

The process is best explained through the following pictures.

A cast iron contraption for heating cooking pots and a kettle over an open fire, common in the early 1900s and in previous centuries.

oid cast iron cooking pots on a cast iron trivet.

Cast iron cooking pots on a trivet. This kept the pots tidy and protected the surface below when they were hot..

Photographed at St Fagans National Museum of Wales.

The photo top left (or above if you are viewing on a narrow screen) shows a cast iron contraption for heating cooking pots and a kettle over an open fire. The height above the fire - and hence the cooking temperature - could be adjusted by the altering the lengths of the suspension chains. The contraption could be swung round over the fire for cooking and away from the fire for loading and unloading. The photo below shows the contraption mounted on the fireplace and swung away from the fire.

Photographed at St Fagans National Museum of Wales.

An open fire as used for cooking in labourers' cottages and working class households in the 1700s, 1800s into the early 1900s

If you have any information to add or perhaps a photograph, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster