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Wednesday 19 November 2014

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire …

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire… 

Sorry for the seasonal opening. It’s a bit early for that kind of thing, isn’t it? Nonetheless, it is an enduring yearning, isn’t it? The homeliness of your home, how welcoming it is, is often measured by your fireplace, your hearth. That’s why the writers of seasonal songs often allude to the fireplace.

And this connection between hearth and home has ever been so. Anthropologists looking at the earliest habitations of mankind will always take the presence of fire – or in its most primitive form, a fireplace – as evidence of settlement. Mankind has clearly valued the fire as a friend and ally since the earliest times. These times themselves reach further back. The discovery of the remains of what are being called ‘human-controlled fires’ in South Africa recently dating from a million years ago have added 200,000 years to the timeline of mankind’s use of flame for comfort and, some argue, cookery.


Clearly our dependency on the ability to control fire has shaped the way we have gone about designing our homes. Even if we flash-forward through the millennia to relatively recent times, we still find that our Stone Age ancestors had the fireplace firmly at the heart of the home. Later Neolithic houses have been unearthed which show that the fireplace was a stone box, designed to contain the fire. It was the Romans, of course, that applied some thought to the clever use of fire and the distribution of heat with their fancy hypocausts delivering hot air up through the floor.

But generally speaking, the open hearth was the main way of heating dwellings of any size for centuries. The smoke would go up and out through the roof (if you were lucky) or, from around the 12th century and if you were a rich show-off, you might even have had a chimney.

Ah chimneys. They soon turned from being symbols of affluence to symbols of industry. How chimney sweeps came to be known as lucky is a bit of a mystery. Mostsources point back to a story about King George and a horse. And where would Mary Poppins have been without her friend Bert the chimney sweep (even if his mockney accent was a bit unusual!) For the rich, of which Mary’s employers certainly were, the fireplace could be a lavish bit of one-upmanship. Fireplaces themselves became ornamental and desirable. Architect Robert Adam made his name designing the great fireplaces of Georgian Britain. An Adam fireplace was a very desirable showpiece in the well-to-do home of the 18th century.


These days, you don’t have to engage a great architect to have a feature fireplace. A Bio Fire will bring all the homeliness you need and there are lots of traditional and modern designs you can choose from to suit your home décor. Best of all, you don’t even need a chimney. Sorry Bert! Whether or not you choose to wear the usual seasonal knitwear as you warm yourself and enjoy the flicker of a real flame is entirely up to you ;-)


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