78 Derngate Archive

78 Kitchen Furniture Article Volume 1 Issue 82 April 2013

9 Jul
David Walsh

We have finally in place one of the replica kitchen units. The work was carried out by Roger Coe Joiners, Bailiff
Street, Northampton.

The design is based on an original taken from the photograph of the kitchen circa 1917 and the description in the Ideal Home from 1920. Clearly not the best sources of information and as far as we know the original no longer exists. One of the problems with the original photograph is that object in the foreground obscure a good view and seem to be placed deliberately where they are most inconvenient!

The design was drawn up in discussion with the maker, taking the measurements using the 6’’ tile grid on the
back wall to indicate height and width and the tiles on the floor for depth. The paint colour is an informed guess based on the description in the Ideal Home written by Bassett-Lowke and a paint chart of the time sourced by our conservation specialists from Lincoln University, Crick Smith. The colour is called Neptune Green.

As part of the research I contacted the Milne Electrical Museum, sending them a copy of the original photograph to see if they could identify the appliances.


This is an extract from their reply: ‘Our best guess is that the electric item on the left of
the dresser top is a three heat oven and that on the right a warming cabinet. The third item on the right, we
think is a gas, four ring burner. The date is likely to be contemporary with the photograph or possibly just pre World War I. We believe that one of the first pressed steel ovens was produced in response to a naval requirement for light weight cooking appliances – for use on-board submarines, and that the ‘Belling Modernette’ represents the first
commercially produced, pressed steel oven, for domestic sale (available from c.1919). This implies that your oven and hot cabinet may be purpose made and not commercially available at the time.

From the layout in your photograph it seems likely that the electrical installation was provided for use during
the summer months. The glimpse of the range on the extreme right hand edge of the photograph would indicate that this was still the main means of cooking. Typically the cost of electricity for cooking purposes was very expensive when compared with gas. In 1906, (as an experiment) two Electricity Supply Companies in London reduced the price of ‘power electricity’ (as opposed to lighting) from 3d to 1d a unit, but even then the cost of the installation, and that of the appliances, meant that use was limited to the ‘well to do’. Perhaps the main reason for the installation of an
electricity supply, for anything other than lighting, was its cleanliness in use and to negate the need to light
the fire in the range. Possibly I should also add a sense of ‘one-upmanship’.

By reason of the foregoing it seems that you would be lucky indeed to find a similar item for display purposes and that it might be prudent to look out for a ‘Belling Modernette’, as being not too far out in date. Alternatively, the occasional electric hot-plate, of a similar era, may yet become available. It is worth pointing out that, even the plugs and sockets were not standardised at that time, each socket and its plug being made as a matching pair.’ A subsequent email stated the following: ‘I have attached a scan of an electric cooker taken from a publication that dates c.1909.