We thought that given how chilly it’s been that we’d look at one method used during the eighteenth-century to keep warm at night or when travelling; warming pans (for the bed) and foot warmers for everyday use and for when travelling.
During our research, we came across a blog post in which the writer set out to correct the misnomer about these warmers using coal. The writer personally tested out warmers and concluded that coals wouldn’t have worked and that in fact hot stones would have been used in them. Whilst this makes far more sense, not only from the perspective of mess but arguably, more importantly from the angle of safety it doesn’t appear to have been the case in the Georgian era as these newspaper extracts show.
London Chronicle or Universal Evening Post, May 19, 1774
On Monday last the following accident happened at Spalding as an elderly gentleman was going to bed, attended by her servant maid. Near the top of the stairs her foot slipped, when she fell upon the girl who was so terribly burnt by the coal in the warming pan, that she expired in 24 hours.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, April 17, 1762
On Wednesday the 7th instant a dreadful fire broke out at Capel St. Andrew’s near Oxford, occasioned by boy 14 years of age carrying some coals in a warming pan into a field where cows were kept, and going through a barn yard in his way the pan burnt him so that he was obliged to let it drop amongst the straw, which soon took fire and communicated itself to the barn with so much fury, that in a short time it was consumed, together with two stables, a granary and cart lodge. The fire flew so far that it burnt down the house a quarter of a mile away.
Public Advertiser, Saturday, December 15, 1787
On Sunday last the following incident happened at Much-Wenlock: Elizabeth James, about twelve years an apprentice to Mr Lea of that place, after having warmed her master’s bed the preceding night went downstairs to deposit the cinders out of the warming pan: and it is supposed fell asleep near the fire. About three o’clock in the morning she awoke with her clothes all ablaze; in this situation, the poor girl ran upstairs into her master’s room, and alarmed him, who seeing the unhappy state she was in, immediately arose and administered every assistance in his power to relieve her, but all in vain, she being so desperately burnt that she expired about two o’clock in the afternoon the same day.
Clearly both the benefits and worries about the use of coal in such appliances was of concern to people as these adverts show for new and safer types of pan
General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, Friday, January 15, 1779
By the King’s Patent
Steel warming pans made and sold by Thomas Howard (inventor and patentee) at his warehouse No. 11 St Paul’s Church-yard and nowhere else in London.
The inconveniences arising from the use of copper and brass warming pans have long been so obvious, that this invention needs only making public, to introduce in into general use.
It is well known that copper or brass, when heated emit a ‘pernicious effluvia’, which, as well as the Sulphur arising from the coals, are not only very offensive, but exceedingly prejudicial, particularly so to persons of asthmatic or delicate conditions. All which complaints are (by this invention) totally removed. They are likewise more cleanly, smooth and durable than any other warming pans.
NB Price from twelve to sixteen shillings.
Now this option sounds perfectly feasible and safe.
Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, Saturday, January 6, 1787
Mr. Redman, an ingenious tin-man of Salisbury says that, ‘two quarts of sand, heated in an iron pan until red hot, and put into a warming pan, will warm a bed equally with live coals, without their ill effects; and that a bag of heated sand put in the bottom of a coach will keep it agreeably warm a long time’.
Whitehall Evening Post, December 22, 1785
At this season of the year when the excessive damps, produced from the vapours of the earth have such a visible effect on the human body generating colds and putrid disease of the most fatal kind; the following, which has been tried in the circle of a few families, would doubtless have its use if more generally adopted, as it is not only a specific preventive, but is the surest palliative in asthmatic and consumptive constitutions. When the air is thick, foggy or moist, let small lumps of pitch be thrown into your first in such degree and so frequent, as to keep up an almost constant smell of bitumen in the apartment. In rooms where fires are not frequently used, a warming pan throwing into it small lumps of the same particularly before going to bed, might be applied with conveniency. Houses newly painted are best purified in this manner, and the more so as neither injures nor soils.