A Brief History of the Fireplace

A fireplace has been a focal point of the home for centuries, and played an even more important role in periods of history when homes had no central heating. Many modern homes know the style and luxury that an antique fireplace can bring, but they’re also highly practical; providing light and heat during cold and dark winter months. From ancient fire pits to the modern gas and electric fireplaces we see today, the style and structure of a hearth has changed considerably over the years. If you want to know about how fireplaces have evolved through the centuries, see our brief guide below.

Early days

The earliest fireplaces were very basic, consisting of little more than a scraped out fire pit in the middle of a living room, where family members would gather round for cooking and warmth. The majority of the population lived in simple, small huts, with a hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape.

By 1066, the design had evolved from a fire pit to a fireplace which could be inserted into an outside wall, making it easier to install fireplaces in every room. The construction of two storey houses also led to the invention of the chimney, to direct smoke up and away from the rooms below.

Coal and stoves

Fireplaces remained relatively unchanged until the 17th century, when they began to resemble the modern fireplaces we see today. The fire grate was invented by Prince Rupert of the Rhine in 1678, which allowed air to circulate underneath and fuel the fire more efficiently.

In 1742, Benjamin Franklin invented the groundbreaking freestanding cast iron stove, which allowed fireplaces to give out double the heat while only using a quarter of the amount of fuel as previous models. This was followed by Rumford Fireplaces in 1796, a design by Count Rumford which featured a tall, shallow firebox to allow smoke to escape more efficiently.

1900s and beyond

The advance of central heating meant that the function of fireplaces shifted, from a purely practical source of heat to a stylish interior design feature. Fireplaces could now be fuelled by wood burning, gas or electric, and increasingly futuristic designs were available, such as the first suspended, 360 degree pivot fireplace in 1968.

The 80s and 90s saw a shift towards more sustainable solutions, with the rise of models like the flame effect gas fireplace, which provides a safer and more energy efficient option.

If you’re looking for the perfect fireplace for your Cheshire home, get in touch with Fireplace Superstore. We stock a wide range of gas and electric fireplaces and surrounds, in materials including marble, granite, limestone and cast iron. Give us a call today to help us choose the perfect fireplace for your home, or browse the range of products and services on our website.