Popular kitchen and domestic bygones

graham paddison
graham paddison

Antiques in the kitchen seems an unlikely idea – but they can be pretty hot.

I suspect that our great-great grandparents would have been highly amused by the thought that anyone would ever be interested in the humble, everyday artefacts of their kitchens.

NDTP D+A Staff ps1408-9a'D+A Staff Driffield Pictured By Pam Stanforth ps1408-9a'Phil Ellerington

NDTP D+A Staff ps1408-9a'D+A Staff Driffield Pictured By Pam Stanforth ps1408-9a'Phil Ellerington

The idea that someone would pay up to a couple of hundred pounds for one of the scuttles they used to hump coal, would have left them open mouthed…particularly when the buyer does not even have an open fire! The suggestion that someone would have viewed a roasting jack as a decorative item would no doubt have reduced them to helpless laughter.

The fact is that these once ordinary objects often made of very good quality brass and copper, do now have a quaint appeal and seem to us highly decorative. As an example we have a picture of a fine late Victorian roasting jack which will soon no doubt be restored to a gleaming and attractive golden colour which will catch the eye wherever it is displayed. A roasting jack by the way is a sort of vertical spit which is operated by clockwork. The meat hangs from the rotating jack inside a brass case called a bastener which is suspended in front of the open fire.

From a collecting point of view the Victorian kitchen provides a lot to go at. Because these everyday utilitarian objects were both well-made and common there are still a lot of them around and we would very rarely have an auction without a good selection on offer.

It also means that by and large things are not going to be terribly expensive. At the top end of the range items such as brass or copper coal scuttles can realise between £100 and £200 depending on age and condition.

Fashions however have changed in recent times and coupled with the cleaning implications of old metalware, prices are considerably less than they were, say fifteen years ago. Genuine antique copper kettles now realise only £30 or £40 and copper and brass bed warming pans can make as little as £10. 19th Century scales are still popular – a basic set with iron weights and a tin tray will sell for £20 to £30 and a fine set with brass tray and selection of graduated brass weights up to £100 or more.

However, so diverse is the modern interest in collecting that even apparently inconsequential objects will be snapped up by collectors – or decorators. Such things as pie and cake tins, rolling pins, bread boards, baking and cooking tools of every description are all worth a few pounds. In the middle come things like the roasting jack, brass saucepans and cooking pots, trivets, ladles and large cooking tools which all make up to £20 each.

A copper saucepan dating from the 19th Century and complete with its lid, will make much more (up to £60) and if it bears a crest and there’s evidence it came from a stately home that would enhance the price considerably.

The Victorians were great ones for gadgets and anything that could come into this category is likely to appeal to collectors. To control wasps and flies, Victorian kitchens were quite often equipped with a glass trap into which the unsuspecting insects were lured with sweetened water. These now sell for £20 to £30 but so successful were they that modern versions are now available to exactly the same design.

I am sure that lady readers will not misunderstand when I say that, in the 19th Century, kitchens were places of very hard work – in the case of large houses staffed exclusively by servants. That being the case there were few comforts or decorations – so embroidered and framed warnings against waste or idleness are particularly desirable from a collecting point of view.

These objects can still have a major decorative impact in the modern kitchen and their quaintness and charm should ensure they remain in demand as the years go by. Who could fail to remember the “Smash” television advertisement and the amusement caused by an old fashioned masher?