Lighting & heating

Foot warmers: hot coals, hot water

Thumbnail image for Foot warmers: hot coals, hot water

Ceramic hot water bottles were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As well as filling hot water containers to warm your bed, you could buy earthenware bottles to use as foot warmers or hand warmers too. Earlier foot warmers used to hold hot coals, or glowing wood, not warm water. In the same way, […]

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Tiled stoves, winter warmth

glazed tile stove

Tiled stoves were a wonderful way of heating homes in Northern Europe. I’ve often wondered why the British never used them. The settlers in North America hardly used them either, even in regions with bitter cold winters. At first they seem to have followed the British idea of having a fire to warm yourself by, […]

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Early American candlestands: light at the right height

Threaded candlestand adjustable

When you’re working by candlelight you want as much light on your sewing or reading as possible, but you don’t want to waste candlewax or tallow. It helps if you can raise or lower the light to suit the task, or to allow for the candle getting shorter. Colonial Americans and their descendants left behind […]

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Muff warmers & other antique hand warmers

stoneware hand warmer for muff

A hundred years ago a woman going out in the cold of winter could tuck a miniature hot water bottle inside her fur muff to keep her hands warm: like Maw’s Dainty Muff Warmer in the photo. This kind of hand warmer was on sale in late Victorian and Edwardian England. The Thermos Hot-water Muff […]

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Household expenses for a “middling” 18th century family

18th century family budget

What could you afford if you were of “middling station” in England in the 1760s and 1770s? You would have plenty of beer, ale, meat, and soap, but no wine, according to a detailed budget in Madam (Mary) Johnson’s book on household management. She suggests the mistress of her middle class home will spend £16 […]

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