Fireplaces: a History of the Hearth within the Home

When it comes to the winter months there is nothing quite like the heat of a fireplace to stave off the cold, and get you cosy and warm. Throughout history, fireplaces have been integral to the homestead, providing a means to cook and heat the home. Although the fireplace fell out of favour with the advent of central heating, there is now a fireplace revival, once again making a fireplace a must-have feature for your home. Here at Grate Fires we thought you might like to join us in exploring some of the rich history of the fireplace throughout the ages, and reignite your desire for fire today.

The medieval fireplace was more of a pit than any fireplace we would recognise today; build within the centre of the room to allow people to gather around it for warmth. It wasn’t until the 12th Century that the fireplace evolved into a more recognisable design, being built into the wall in a more familiar open style hearth set up, similar to the modern fireplaces we are accustomed to. These open hearths had large chimneys and no grates, unlike modern fireplaces.

The next breakthrough in fireplace design, after the evolution to the open hearth, came when it was finally recognised by the Adam brothers that the large chimney commonly used within fireplaces was actually letting more heat out than smoke. This led to an overhaul in design, making fireplaces that were used for generations. This new design was smaller, more brightly lit, and constructed from high quality materials.

During the 1600s the inner workings of a fireplace were revolutionised, transforming a fireplace into what we are now familiar with today. The grate replaced a pair of andirons; two iron stands used to support the logs within the fireplace and improve airflow. With the advent of the grate it was possible to contain the entirety of the fire kindling, coal and logs, allowing for better airflow and safety.


By the 1800s fireplaces were a two piece construct: the surround and the insert. The surround consisted of the mantel and side supports, usually made of wood or marble. The insert contained the fire, constructed of cast iron, and was often backed with decorative tiles. This was when fireplaces became about aesthetics as well as heat.

As the fireplace has evolved, gas fires and central heating have become the most commonly used method to heat your home. After World War II, central heating became almost ubiquitous, and fireplaces fell out of fashion.

Here at Grate Fires we celebrate the rich history of the fireplace, and hope that you too feel passionately about the history behind the humble hearth. When it comes to heating your home this winter, embrace the current fireplace revival, and rekindle your passion for the traditional fireplace. Whether you want a hole in the wall style, multi fuel and wood burning stove, a traditional gas and solid fuel fireplace, or a modern and contemporary gas fireplace, we can help you with the installation and aftercare of your dream fireplace. For fireplaces in London, you need look no further than Grate Fires for a great service you can rely upon.

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