Old-fashioned black grates

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Thread Topic: Old-fashioned black grates
Topic Originator: Mike Laughton
Post Date February 29, 2012 @ 8:41 AM
 Old-fashioned black grates
  black grates/fry-up
  black grates/scullery
 Old-fashioned black grates
 Old-fashioned black grates
  black grates/hard graft

Mike Laughton
February 29, 2012 @ 8:41 AM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

I wonder if anyone else remembers the old-fashioned black grates that used to be in the kitchens of  many homes in Stamford and local villages during the mid-20th century.
The grates were in three sections. The main coal fire was in the middle with a water boiler on the left and an oven on the right. The water boiler had a tap on the bottom to let the hot water out. But people also used to boil water by putting a kettle on top of the fire.
The oven was on the other side of the fire and this was used for baking jacket potatoes, rice puddings, steak and kidney pies and even cakes.
You couldn't control the temperature but mums who used them for cooking knew how to get the best results from them.
The grates were black and made of cast iron and every morning women would clean the grate completely and coat it with "black lead".
I think black lead was actually a form of liquid graphite and came in a small metal bottle like an old Brasso bottle. It may have been made by the same company as Brasso but the black lead bottle always had a picture of a zebra on the front.
Most of the homes that had the old black grates also had gas cookers but in some villages the old black grate was the main means of cooking food and heating water. (Dunno what they did in the summer)
Most of Stamford's black grates had gone by the late 40s and early 50s to be replaced by more modern fireplaces.
The last one I saw still in use was in Barrowden during the 1980s.
I couldn't find a picture of an old black grate on the internet so I have made a rather childlike and simplistic drawing to show what they were like.
Funny how many ideas from this old-fashioned grate have been used in that status symbol of the modern country kitchen - the Aga cooker.

Blacklead grate
by kind permission of Mike Laughton

March 3, 2012 @ 5:13 PM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

Mike,I can remember in my mid teens knocking about with Roger Nichols for a while,sometimes arriving at his house in Empingham Road early his Grandmother would ask if I would like a fry up.That was done on one of those grates and what a special treat it was.By the way Maurice and Derek are my cousins,well spotted!!!!!Phil

Clem Walden
March 4, 2012 @ 12:43 AM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

Hi Mike remember them well. We never had a kitchen as such it was always refered to as the scullery. Do you remember the scullery? We had a coal fire in the corner of ours that was used to heat all our water the fire was housed underneath a large copper like bowl. And my mum would always be black-leading the grate. The old scullery was used for washing-cooking-and dining. We also had a pantry and coal store within our old scullery. I suppose a scullery is the same as a kitchen but without all the mod-cons of today. Before I got married I don't ever remember  using the word kitchen it was always a scullery to me. I wonder how many of the forum readers remember the word scullery?  Blast from the past and great memories.

Mike Laughton
March 4, 2012 @ 6:10 PM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

HI Clem, Found the following about the use of the woed "Scullery" on the 'net:-
A scullery is a room in a house traditionally used for washing up dishes and laundering clothes, or as an overflow kitchen when the main kitchen is overloaded. Tasks performed in the scullery include cleaning dishes and cooking utensils (or storing them), occasional kitchen work, ironing, boiling water for cooking or bathing, and soaking and washing clothes. Sculleries contain hot and cold sinks, sometimes slop sinks, drain pipes, storage shelves, plate racks, a work table, various "coppers" for boiling water, tubs, and buckets.[1]
The term "scullery", in a modern domestic context, appears to be somewhat archaic, the room being more commonly referred to (at least in North America) as a utility room [2] or laundry room.
The term is, however, still to be found in modern use as an alternative term for kitchen in some regions of Britain,[3] typically Northern Ireland, North East England and Scotland, or in designer kitchens.[4]
In United States military facilities and most commercial restaurants, a "scullery" refers to the section of a dining facility[5] where pots and pans are scrubbed and rinsed (in an assembly line style). It is usually near the kitchen and the serving line.[6]
Etymology (according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary): Middle English squilerie, sculerie, department of household in charge of dishes, from Anglo-French esquilerie, from escuele, eskel bowl, from Latin scutella, drinking bowl.[7]
Also found a picture of a cast iron fireplace with oven although this is a lot bigger than the ones I remember.

Clem Walden
March 6, 2012 @ 4:18 PM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

Hi Mike, grateful thanks for all the research most interesting. I like the photo of the old cast iron fireplace with oven and agree with you the new modern Aga cooker must be an up-market copy? Regarding the old Scullery I understand when house building was resumed after the first World War 1919 construction of Local Council houses followed a typical tyical design/plan which was adopted by most Authorities.Two-up two-down or three-up three-down.Very basic constructions to save monies. The two-up/down would not have had a bathroom but would have had two B/rooms, Living room and scullery [as it was often referred to then] This housed a pantry larder-cooker-copper boiler- and store for coal & ash. If you were lucky to have a three-up/down you would have got three B/rooms first floor and on the Ground floor located within the hallway would be your bathroom adjacent to the  scullery. Most of these new Council house estates were constucted then followed this design/plan and in general were terraced type housing. I understand the costs in relation to the building of each dwelling was perhaps less than £10 in the 1919/20s. Different today the young have great difficulty even getting their foot on the first rung of the ladder. And the Countries Council Housing stock gets less & less.

March 8, 2012 @ 8:35 PM Reply  |  Email  |  Print  |  Top

There was no great attraction to a black stove if before you got your pocket money on a Saturday you were handed a brush, a cloth and a tin of blacklead and told to polish the stove; nor if you were first one up in the morning and had to light the fire and wait half an hour before you could make a cup of tea and fill your flask for work. The best thing was that they kept the kitchen warm in the winter. When we got a gas stove and could have a cup of tea five minutes after we came downstairs we really thought we had arrived!