The Rumford Stove #Historical Research
The Heart of the Home
I’ve been in the midst of a kitchen renovation and have been thinking a lot about how lucky we are with our modern conveniences. Without a kitchen, I’ve been prepping food the way a Regency heroine’s cook might have done, on the tabletop. (Or my mother or grandmother, come to think of it!) Fortunately, I’ve had the use of a microwave oven. But like most Regency cooks, I haven’t had a cook top with burners.
Though I have a fireplace, I opted for carry-out dinners (another convenience lacking in the Regency) instead of cooking over the open hearth.
Inventor of the Kitchen Range
Credit for the invention of the modern kitchen range goes to a Georgian era inventor, Benjamin Thompson, aka Count von Rumford or just Count Rumford.
Rumford led an interesting life. He was born in America, sided with the British during the American Revolution, and moved to England at the end of the war. In 1785 he relocated again to Bavaria. There he served the ruling prince and began his studies of heat. In 1791, he was made a Count of the Holy Roman Emperor and took the name “Rumford” from Rumford, New Hampshire, before returning to England.
Rumford built on the work of Benjamin Franklin in improving fireplace design so that less heat went up the chimney. The Rumford Fireplace was more energy efficient, allowing more radiant heat into the room and less smoke.
He followed his fireplace with a kitchen range.
Here’s a description:
“A typical Rumford arrangement consisted of a brick range, enclosing and separating a series of fires, above each of which a pot or stew-pan fitted into a circular, iron-rimmed opening. The heat of each fire could be separately regulated by varying the draught through its ash-pit door and the smoke was carried away by flues leading through the brickwork to the main chimney. Any temporarily unwanted fire was capped with an earthen-ware cover and its draught almost cut off. In this way it could be kept alive, but burning hardly any fuel.”
I’ve seen a depiction of the Rumford stove in the past; it took up a lot of space. Unfortunately, I can’t find that image!
But, I found the picture below of an existing Rumford roaster at the Rundlet-May house, courtesy Historic New England website via Pinterest.
I can picture a wealthy Regency hero having one of these in his townhouse or manor house. And maybe the heroine will be one of those quirky ladies who’s not helpless in the kitchen.
Other references (in case you’re interested):
Just for fun, see also: https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/one-can-never-have-enough-saucepans-the-duties-of-an-18th-century-cook/