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The History of the Fireplace – a Timeline

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The History of the Fireplace – a Timeline

Posted on: 20th February 2019

The evolution of the fireplace has been staggering since they first started appearing in homes hundreds of years ago, so the team at Rotherham Fireplace Centre have decided to collate the various iterations of this beloved feature into a timeline.

The History of the Fireplace – a Timeline

Medieval Era: Fire pits

As the caption suggests, Medieval buildings used a fire pit for heat. Built in the middle of a room, there was a hole cut in the ceiling to allow the smoke to escape.

1185: The development of the chimney

As two-floor buildings became more popular, homeowners moved their fireplaces to the outside wall which led to the invention of the chimney. The earliest existing chimney can be found at Conisbrough Castle, which dates back to around 1185.

1600s: The walk-in

Fireplaces used to be cavernous things that served as the main heating point of a family home, particularly in America. Tall, deep and wide, these fireplaces were often without a mantel. They were made of stone or brick to retain heat better, and in Southern America, they were placed at the far ends of the house to keep homes cooler in Summer. In England, the fireplaces were smaller and more efficient.

1740: The Franklin Stove

Created by Benjamin Franklin, these stoves were made of cast iron, produced more heat and were installed in the centre of the room.

1783: The Centrepiece

It was around this time that fireplaces started to be seen as the centrepiece of the home, rather than a heating element. This is where decorative features like mantels and surrounds started to become popular.

1796: The Count

Sir Benjamin Thompson, also known as Count Rumsford, designed a new model of fireplace that inspired the models we see today. Lasting into the 1900s, Rumsford’s fireplace was smaller, taller than it was wide, and possessed a narrow ‘throat’ that quickened the removal of smoke.

1837: Decorative Designs

While the fundamentals of the fireplace didn’t change in this era, this was when the focus on decoration truly shifted. Overmantels, columns, decorative tiles and the first instances of fireplace inserts started to become very popular.

1900s: Modern Templates

Simplicity became the norm in the 20th century, with simple stone and brick surrounds increasing in popularity.

1912: Electricity

The first electric fire was invented in 1912, before becoming immensely popular in the 1950s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the ‘flame-effect’ fires, such as Dimplex’s Optiflame were created. Dimplex also claims to have made the first ‘realistic wood-burning flame effect’ in 1995.


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