When I’m researching for a new story I like to flesh out the world in which my characters live as much as possible. Sometimes that means imagining their homes, and sometimes it means imagining what they might have been reading or talking about. This blog post about chimneys hits both!
It’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing historical so much, because I can rabbit hole down. I don’t know why I started wondering about chimney design. It might never make it anywhere close to a story or plot line, but it helps me get into my characters’ worlds when I know more about how and why their homes and lives were constructed the way they were.
From the Georgian Period forward, the majority of the London townhouses were heated by coal rather than wood. Thus, members of Society and visitors to the City “enjoyed” the ever-preent film of coal dust in the air. In the late 17th and early 18th Century, the fireplaces remained wood-burning elements within the households. These fireplaces were designed with wide chimneys and a brick hearth.
When coal came into use, a free-standing iron or steel basket was placed in the fireplace. These baskets usually had an iron fireback behind it. After 1750, these iron baskets occurred regularly in both country, as well as city, households. Quite often, down drafts drove smoke from these coal baskets into the rooms, and the heat escaped up the chimneys (i.e., the constant “smog” in London). A fireplace fireback is a heavy cast iron, sized in proportion…
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