Heating Through History

It’s been bitingly cold recently and it makes you wonder how people coped before central heating.  How did our ancestors keep warm and out of the freezing winter temperatures?

Going back to the time of the building of Stonehenge, fire was the only source of heat when temperatures dropped. In the centre of each Neolithic home would have been a well-stoked fire which would be the focal point for the family to cook and warm themselves. Of course, for those uncomfortably cold nights – animal fur and hides would have been used as clothing and blankets.

During Roman times, the ingenious method of under-floor heating was invented. The harsh winters of Britain may have come as a bit of a nasty surprise to wealthy Romans, so the hypocaust system became the answer to their chilly problems. The hypocaust was a clever early central heating system that involved a furnace lit with a fire and spaces created between walls and under floors where the heated air could circulate. As you can imagine, it was an expensive and fuel heavy system under available to the very wealthiest. Thankfully, our homes are cosy these days but if yours isn’t as toasty as it should be, it could be a problem with your boiler. To check the health of your boiler, think about Gloucester Boiler Installation at http://www.hprservicesltd.com/gloucester-boiler-installation-and-heating-systems/

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Less well-off Romans could retreat to the public baths to warm up. With hypocausts serving hot rooms, some areas would have had sauna-like heat. Many Roman baths featured warm and cold rooms, along with sudatoriums (sweating rooms) like a sauna. These baths were hugely popular and played a large role in the cultural life of all Romans.

Britain is proud of its large number of castles but spare a thought for those medieval residents who put up with cold stone walls, unglazed windows and small fires to heat up vast halls! This explains the big woven tapestries that were hung on walls and over windows to try to insulate the space as much as possible. Fires would be lit and kept burning for months, which not only increased the fire risk but wouldn’t have been good for ventilation either.

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Jumping a couple of hundred years into the future, Elizabethan architecture shows huge recesses where massive fireplaces would have been installed and ornately decorated. This is probably the first time that heating a home also became a fashion statement. Chimney stacks were added to castles to improve ventilation and fire risk.

The Victorian era saw coal become the fuel of choice with some large estates burning up to 30 tonnes of coal a day to keep the buildings warm! A boiler room was needed under the house which had hot water boilers to be fed for heating up dozens of different fireplaces.

These days gas is used for central heating, piped directly into our homes so we don’t have to suffer the shivering cold of a stone castle or the smoky conditions of a constantly burning open fire in the middle of our homes!

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