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The Anevay Blog

History of the woodburning stove

By Holly Jan 16, 2015 4:18:28 PM

Here at Anevay we like to keep you informed as well as warm and toasty, so today we thought we’d give you a little history lesson on the history of the woodburning stove.

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The stove keeping your home, van or tent warm is the product of hundreds of years of refining, designing and playing with fire. The ability to harness and control fire is actually a pretty awesome thing, and as the only species on our planet who does this, you could say that it plays a big part in our identity as humans. Fire has always been the heart, the hearth, of the home: it forms the centre of the living space for the family or tribe to gather round. It provides the essentials of life: warmth, and food, and light. Probably since the discovery of fire people have come together around a central fire to eat and keep warm, and it’s something that we still do even today. Perhaps there’s something primal in the enjoyment we find sitting around a bonfire with our friends and family, just the way that early humans would have done – it’s a practice that has remained essentially unchanged in over a million years!

FUN FACT: The word curfew, meaning a time you must be at home by, comes from the early method of preserving a lit fire. Long before stoves were invented, we needed a way to keep the fire burning on a low level through the night so that it could be re-stoked come morning. First, embers were buried in the ground to keep them alight, and this developed into a method involving raking the hot coals into a recess and covering with a metal lid, called a curfew or fire-cover. This was done at night, and during the reign of William the Conquerer bells were rung to signal that it was time to cover the fires – the first curfew!

It’s thought that the early rounded homes discovered by archaeologists were so shaped to surround the central fire, with a hole in the roof to allow the smoke to dissipate. The first instance of actual chimneys seems to be around the 13th or 14th century, when records show that some castles had chimneys in place made of brick. In other homes, chimneys were still made from wattle and clay until this was outlawed due to the danger of it catching on fire.

The creation of the very first woodburning stove is credited to the American president Benjamin Franklin. He discovered that by adapting the standard hearth and closing it in on three sides with sheets of metal, you could maintain a fire using less fuel and the resulting fire sent much less smoke into the room.

Eventually this evolved into a freestanding stove with four legs. In the 18th century the flue damper was developed, and the size of these new cast iron stoves was reduced for us in homes and kitchens. With the new design, the flat cast iron top of the stove made a convenient surface for pots and pans, and occasionally drawers were added for cooking and baking bread, as well as a pothole with removable cover to allow for cooking directly on the flames – just like our Traveller Stove!

Topics: fire, history, home, Outdoor Life, Traveller Stove, woodburning stove