Monday, March 12, 2018

Stew stoves (or stewing stoves) in two Hamptons

Hampton, north of Baltimore, was the large home of the wealthy Ridgely family  completed in 1790.  The more well-known Hampton Court Palace, west of London, contains the huge kitchen complex of King Henry VIII (1491-1547).

The waist high stoves elevated cooking from the more conventional floor level hearth. While used for centuries in many countries, most colonial and federal homes in America did not have a stew stove, and even fewer exist today.  

Several terms are used for the stove, with "stew stoves" often used in America, and "stewing stoves" in the UK.  Even more names were used historically and in other countries and areas of America.

There were many stew stove styles - configurations of where the fire was and the ash pits; various materials in making the base and covering the top; height, and location.  

Fortunately, you can see a few reconstructed stew stoves being used: Hampton Palace, Kew Palace, Colonial Williamsburg, Hermann-Grima House in New Orleans and others.

At the two Hamptons an iron grate fits into each hole and was held in place several inches below the surface. Charcoal or coal was burned on the round grates (square at Hampton Court), with the ash falling into the ash box with door (HCourt has arch areas below), where it could be easily removed and allow air to the fire. Trivets with short legs held pots and pans over the heat and allowed the smoke to escape.
Hampton NHS

Hampton Court

Although the rising carbon monoxide fumes could cause headaches, illness and even death, these negatives were outweighed by the benefits: a comfortable height, less fuel needed in the contained area which produced a more concentrated heat for cooking, making the kitchen less hot.

Hampton Court

An article I wrote about Hampton in Maryland - “A Federal-era Kitchen: Hampton’s Stew Stove, Iron Oven, and Hearth” in Food and Material Culture : proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2013 HERE

More details on grates and how they were used at Jefferson's home HERE
Past (and future) posts on different styles of stew stoves HERE
Last image is from William Henry Pyne's The History of the Royal Residences…v.2 London: 1819

©2018 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

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