Saturday, July 9, 2022

Octagon cast iron ovens

This unusual oven in the Kew Palace kitchen was made by the famous Carron Company of Scotland, and was restored in 2012 to its 1789 appearance under King George III (1738-1820). Cast iron octagon ovens were noted as early as 1751. The octagonal ovens were heated by the fire in the fire box, the ashes fell below, like later Rumford Roasters and other tin block ovens (pictures below).

The oven is composed of 8 sides of cast iron, thus the door is octagon shape. And it is heavy (much more than the block tin of Rumford Roasters).
Three octagonal ovens! Recently someone from the Carolinas sent me photos of a very similar oven, taken out of the bricks then nicely set back in the wall in a private house, c1760s. I took the pictures in this post ten years ago at Kew. A third setup, the oven section, is in storage near London. The two door rests/supports are longer on the third oven than Kew's, and interestingly the second oven (the US one, but probably made in UK) has a good sized bracket that moves 180 degrees to hold the door.

Shelves over a space with heated air. The cook was to switch the items on the two shelves so they would bake evenly.
Firebox to heat the metal of the oven, the air space in bottom third of oven, and the space/flue around the oven (between oven and bricks).
Firebox door frame and grate to hold charcoal or coal, then the ashes fall below into the ash box.
Damper at top was a sheet of metal (the US one has one end slightly rolled up), to be pulled out to open the flue. One Rumford style damper was an iron plate attached to a rod. Access door to the top of the oven.
It is hard to date metal ovens since some replaced existing brick or metal ovens, and others were installed during the original building of the kitchen.

Kew oven before restoration in 2012, screenshot from video: The Royal Kitchens at Kew: a building history by Historic Royal Palaces with Lee Prosser. HERE

OCTAGON OVENS 1751-1824 excerpts

1751 I went through a small village called Madely or Madely Wood.At the iron works here I saw octagon ovens of cast iron from three to four feet long, and about eighteen inches diameter, to be put at the back of kitchen chimneys. [Pococke]

Letter written at Holyhead (not where he saw the ironworks) by Dr. Pococke. Madeley Wood Company was founded 5 years later. Who owned furnace when he visited? In this 1801 painting showing the tapping of the molten iron, it was Coalbrookdale Company, founded in 1709 in town of Coalbrookdale west of Madeley.
1782 Birkenshaw Foundry Price List. Interesting copy of Emmet, Holden and Bolland, at their blast iron furnace at Birkenshaw and at their foundry in Halifax. Date, 1782.
Octagon Ovens, 12s. // Hud Ends or Side Ovens, 12s.

1824 Furnishing Ironmonger, Tinman, and Coppersmith
Large octagon oven and shelves from 7 0 0 … 8 0 0

[Complete Assistant]


Making a stove in sand at Hopewell Furnace post. HERE

Casting the past - Maintaining Scotland’s Iron Foundry Tradition: Laing Foundry. 1920. Andrew Laing. Hestechnicalconservation c2015. 12 min. HERE


Here are several blog posts and article with some details on metal ovens. Due to limited space, there is, ofcourse, information left out on the various apparatus and makers, so feel free to contact me for more infomation.
Rumford Roaster and... photos of pieces out of the wall! Someone from Massachusetts contacted me a couple years ago wanting to sell an oven that had continued to be used, detailed in this post with many images. HERE
Reip Oven. An article about Hampton (a 1790 mansion in Maryland, not the royal palace near London) - “A Federal-era Kitchen: Hampton’s Stew Stove, Metal Oven, and Hearth” in Food and Material Culture : proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2013  p248-255. HERE
Bouis Oven. Blog post on Federal-era kitchen apparatus in Gadsby's Indian Queen Hotel, Baltimore. 1815. Steam Kitchen (apparatus, not just kitchen using steam), Stew stoves, Smoke jacks, Sinks, Stove for irons, and more. HERE


-Coalbrookdale at night. (Bedlam Furnace). 1801. Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg. painting at The Science Museum, London
-The Complete Assistant for the Landed Proprietor, Estate and ... London: 1824
-Parker, James. Illustrated Rambles from Hipperholme to Tong. 1904
-Pococke, Richard. The Travels through England of Dr. Richard Pococke, successively bishop of Meath and of Ossory, during 1750, 1751, and later years. v. 1 1888. Letter written at Holyhead, June 17th, 1751. p231. HERE


Many museums, groups, etc. have taken a break for the summer. But the Oxford Symposium will be online!


©2022 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

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