There seem to have been a wide variety of shapes and sizes of Victorian and
Edwardian kitchen ranges - also known as 'kitcheners'. According to my
mother's recollections, each house in the
Victorian-style terraces where she
grew up had two: a small one in the kitchen
and a larger one in the scullery. I would love
pictures of what they were like, but although the terraced houses of the Edmonton
Huxley Estate are still doing good service as homes, they have all been modernised
inside. So no such ranges exist there any more to be photographed.
A kitchen range from the early 1900s and before.
Adapted from a sketch provided by Rosemary Hampton
from her book.
Click for a larger sketch showing labelled
parts of the old range..
Click for a photograph of an
actual old range.
However, I have culled the following information by discussing the sketch
on the right with Bill Hogg who was familiar with similar ranges as a child.
Since the sketch is of a double oven, it is probably reasonably similar to the
one in the scullery of the Victorian- style terraces. The one in the kitchen
probably just had a single oven.
According to my mother's recollections, the fuel in all the houses on her
Victorian-style terraced housing estate was coal. However, I understand that
elsewhere it could have been wood. The coal was put into the range with the
shovel and the top could be opened for the purpose. On some ranges, this top
hinged up and on others there was a round lid that could could be lifted. No
doubt there were other arrangements.
The cooking pots
The cooking pots were either cast iron or a cheap sheet metal. There were
no lightweight aluminium cooking pots in the early 1900s, and cast iron was
very heavy. In wealthier households, cooking pots were copper.
Adjusting the temperature of the ovens
According to my mother, the temperature of the ovens in her home could be
regulated with what were known as dampers which controlled the air flow to the
More generally, though, there were several ways to control the air flow:
Bellows. Photographed at Nidderdale Museum.
A quick way to get the fire to flare up was to give it a blast of air
The temperature could be raised on a longer term by lifting the lid of the fire. Another
way was by a sliding control
in the flue (chimney) at the back of the range. In some ranges this flue was
built in, i.e. hidden behind the back wall.
large ranges there was a system of levers to divert and adjust the flow of
air to heat
either or both ovens.
My mother said that when her mother wanted to build the fire up quickly.
She would hold a newspaper in front of the bars to get the fire to draw up,
which it did. Then as she could see the newspaper getting hot and going
brown, she would grab it, just as it was about to burst into flames and
throw it onto the hearth which had a metal dust pan. Needless to say, this
was dangerous as it required split-second timing.
Cleaning the range
Tin of 'black lead' used for cleaning and polishing cast
iron cookers. Photographed at the Cambridge and County Folk Museum.
The range was a cast-iron fire-oven combination which was kept clean with
black lead - a polish for cleaning and shining cast iron. According to Anne
Davey born Cole), this came in a tin with the picture of a Zebra on.
My mother's notes make it clear that the outer rims of the range in her home
were steel and kept bright with emery paper. I understand that, more generally,
the insides of the ovens were kept clean by heating them to a high temperature
and burning off the soot. The insides of the ovens may have been removable for
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.