Rediscover the joys of a real fire this winter with fireside antiques

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at fireside tools from yesteryear...

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 9:24 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 10:29 am
Brass coal buckets are a splendid example of a utilitarian tool elevated to be admired as an attractive ornament

I can’t deny it any longer, we’re definitely heading into winter. As I’m sure we all have our heating on by now, I thought we’d snuggle up to a nice toasty theme this week, looking at fireside tools and accessories.

With the incredible rise in popularity of wood burning stoves challenging the dominance of central heating, many of us are rediscovering the joy of a “real fire”, and fireside tools are becoming hot, hot, hot once more.

There is a plethora of antique accessories for both open fire and stoves: log baskets, fenders, firedogs, pokers, bellows, tongs, coal scuttle, shovels and fire tidies.

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Many of us will recognise this week’s picture: hands up who had the childhood chore of filling the coal scuttle? Common Victorian coal scuttles were round bellied open top copper designs, whilst poorer homes had plain tall, black cylinders.

The brass coal bucket pictured is a splendid example of a utilitarian tool elevated to be admired as an attractive ornament, reflecting the light from the fire (with a servant to do the polishing, naturally).

In very good condition, it is on sale at GB Antiques Centre for £70.

Coal boxes sat beside the fire and had coal brought in to them. Consisting of box frames covered in brass or copper, those embossed with detailed designs command higher prices today.

Beautiful wooden Victorian and Edwardian coal boxes had a flat or sloped hinged door, carrying handle, and a place for a shovel on the back. Crafted from oak or elm, some featured inlaid walnut or rosewood designs.

Being higher status and less hardy, only the plainest start below a hundred pounds these days, intricately decorated models can fetch thousands.

Next, you need a set of tools. Look for companion sets, traditionally consisting of a poker, brush, shovel and coal or log tongs, hanging on a matching stand.

Usually made from brass, copper or iron, prices are higher for complete sets in good condition, but a little wear can be attractive, particularly if you are buying to use.

Dare to think outside traditional Victorian designs, there are beautiful art deco and art nouveau tools to be hunted out, which suit the smaller fireplace or stove better than large, heavy sets.