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The History of the Solid Fuel Stove

The History of wood burning stoves and fireplaces

Way back in the 16th Century before any substantial numbers of people moved the fire in their home against a side wall to be vented up through a chimney, most fires were central to the living area.

Families would live and sleep around a central fireplace no matter what type of home they lived in. This applied from the smallest and poorest cottage to the largest of castles in the land.

Historians have reported that the earliest fireplace known to man is located on the island of Malta, part of the Ggantija temples that date back as far as 3600 BC. The Ggantija Temples are two prehistoric temples on Gozo, this is the second largest island in Malta. One of them is the oldest stone structure in the world, it predates Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids by hundreds of years. They are round in shape and contain statues of goddesses, the Ggantija temples were built to worship the Great Earth Mother and would have most likely included an oracle. The site was a place of pilgrimage for the early inhabitants of Malta.

Excavations carried out in 1827 suggest that the temples had a dome shaped roof with an open central passage to allow light in and smoke from fires out.

From these early times until quite recently, it made perfect sense for a solid fuel or wood burning stove to be positioned at the heart of the living space, being the focal point of that living space. The fire would give warmth to the dwellers and be ideal for cooking meals over.

Even in present times, many hearths are now the focal point for the efficient, modern wood burning or solid fuel stove.

How the Solid Fuel and Wood Burning Stove Works

In the past as already mentioned, fires were in the centre of the living area and most probably in a fire pit or just surrounded by rocks to contain the embers. As methods of heating and cooking progressed, people began to enclose the fire in some sort of container, this was to become the first stove as we know them today. These stoves were connected to a chimney that generated a draught, pulling fresh air through the burning fuel in a controlled manner. This meant that the temperature of combustion would rise to a point of about 600 deg C where efficient combustion could be achieved.

One of the very earliest examples of a solid fuel or wood burning stove was the fire chamber, where the wood burning fire was enclosed on three sides by stone walls and covered by an iron plate. Eventually in the year 1735 the French architect Francois Cuvilliés designed a stone construction with several fire holes that was covered by perforated iron plates, this was known as a stew stove.

As the end of the 18th century approached, the design was improved and solid fuel and wood burning stoves began to gain a reputation for being heat efficient. Benjamin Franklin, the President of the United States of America developed his own cast iron solid fuel and wood burning stoves with much improved heat efficiency in the year 1744.

In modern times, as the worlds population started to become concerned about the environmental issues of deforestation, air pollution and climate change, a new generation of improved and very efficient solid fuel and wood burning stove designs began to appear on the world market, these are the wood burning stoves we use today all over the world.

There are many new methods that are being adopted by solid fuel and wood burning stove manufacturers to achieve this efficiency One such method is known as airwash. This is achieved by drawing air across the stove's doors to create a barrier between the burning fuel and the glass within the door of the stove.

This process effectively preheats the air and the combustion temperature is increased further and it helps to keep the door glass clean.

How a Modern Solid Fuel and Wood Burning Stove Protects the Environment

The advancement in the heat efficiency of these solid fuel and wood burning stoves meant that the user could spend much far less time gathering or buying wood and other solid fuels and at the same time, reduce air pollution and, by using sustainable sources of wood, remove any undue concerns about deforestation.

Solid fuel and wood burning stove that are available today feature airtight construction which uses both steel and aluminium parts as well as cast iron. They also have firebrick linings for improved heat retention, and some even have catalytic converters which are designed to burn waste fumes. All in all, this means that modern wood burning stoves are very efficient indeed and much better for the environment.

Stove: What's in a Name?

It is believed that the word stove is derived from the old English word stofa, meaning any individual and enclosed space such as a small room.

René Descartes, who is often labelled as the “Father of Modern Philosophy”, and probably most famous for the quotation “I think, therefore I am”, noticed that he got his greatest philosophical inspiration while sitting in his solid fuel and wood burning stove heated room.

So from the earliest fireplace in a cave like temple on the island of Malta, to the most modern solid fuel and wood burning stove today, you can be assured that the stove has stood the test of time. More and more people are either changing back to, or experiencing solid fuel and wood burning stoves for the first time. This is most likely owing to the massive increase in the price of the electricity and gas that we have relied on so much since we began to move away from the solid fuel and wood burning stove.

Further information

If you would like to know more or are interested in a quote we would be happy to help. Phone us on 01923 661 614, email us at info@ansellchimneys.co.uk or fill in our free quote form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Ansell Chimneys

t: 01923 661 614

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