This was at someone’s house I went to for lunch recently, in their conservatory. Now it’s used as an ornament, but it used to sit in someone’s flat. Apparently it was a small, coal cooker, used to cook your food and heat up tiny bedsits.
Up until fairly recently in the 20th century, it seems that the cooking area was relied upon as a source of heating for the home, and not just for the use of cooking. Before the invention of the cooker/range, chimneys were where things were cooked, and where everybody sat around as a source of light and heat. And even before that, an open fire was found in the great halls of old medieval buildings (the great hall was a large communal room where food was cooked over the fire in the centre, and also where everyone ate, socialised and slept. Later, with the invention of the chimney, this divided the great hall into the living area and the cooking area. Later on still, the kitchen in upper class homes was removed completely from the home, due to the smell of food and the “disgust” it induced in the wealthy classes – a tricky geographical location to serve dinner from without it going cold on its journey down to the dining area). After the range was introduced, there was then the battle between gas and electricity companies and their cookers, then the invention of the thermostat – something we all take for granted – and so on. Without completely re-writing a book I recently read by Dr Lucy Worsley, and getting myself sued for piracy, you can read the rest in more detail for yourself: If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home. It’s a really interesting, well written book, and enlightens you on the progress of things you never even think about.
Here is another picture of some funky, retro ranges I saw in the Churchill War Rooms yesterday, that they used in the kitchen of Churchill’s underground bunkers. Apologies about the quality; I was struggling with exposure vs shutter speed.