The Kitchen

Welcome to the




The Industrial Revolution brought many changes to people's daily lives, including changes in what people ate and how they preserved and prepared food. Although often overlooked by historians, these changes eventually led to a new cuisine and social concepts.

The British Empire was largely built upon the increasingly important spice commerce, and as more and more British citizens began to use imported, exotic spices, traditional British cuisine and British culinary habits also changed. Spice boxes, for keeping a variety of these condiments, became standard items in most kitchens.


Before the Victorian Era , food preservation techniques such as salting, pickling, drying, and smoking had changed little. The theory of canning was first developed in the 18th century with "dried soups" that were made by reducing stocks to a "glue" that could be reconstituted when needed, but they never attained much popularity outside the navy. However, by the 1880s, largely in response to Pasteur's theories about disease and putrefaction, scientists experimented with chemicals to kill germs and bacteria in food. These early attempts often proved fatal to those who ate the "preserved" food, but legislation to control the use of chemicals for preserving food was not developed until 1901. The first tin cans in which preserved foods were packaged came with the simple instruction,"Cut around the top outer edge with a chisel and hammer". It is little wonder that a new kitchen device, the can opener, soon was invented.

Storage of wine in bottles remained virtually unchanged during the 18th and 19th centuries, but new kitchen tools associated with it were always being invented or improved. The corkscrew was patented in the 19th century in England.

Until the 19th century, kitchens changed very little. The open fire with its complementary oven was the only cooking system available since the Middle Ages in all Europe, but in prosperous mid-eighteenth century houses, the demand for excellent baked goods and puddings led to more efficient cast iron ovens.

By the 19th century, kitchen ranges (both open and closed) were introduced not only into upper-class houses but also into the houses of the middle and poor classes. Over open fires most items were usually suspended from iron hooks.  A tool called a bottle jack, had in internal timer which controlled the height at which a cooking vessel was suspended above the fire.

Open fires and kitchen ranges were very labor intensive. Coal had to be carried in and ashes later removed, and someone had to rise early to light the stove and tend it during the day. It was difficult to control the temperature for even cooking and baking. These problems were partly addressed when gas was first introduced in the 1880s into urban England on a wide scale. Thereafter, coal gas stoves were used for cooking while open fires and ranges were used to heat rooms and to provide hot water. Gas stoves allowed for better temperature control and a clean fire, and despite the fact that they often imparted an unsavory flavor to food, their use spread very rapidly in urban areas between 1880 and 1930. In many households, however, the closed ranges often coexisted with the gas cooker (gas ring).

The change from gas stoves to electric stoves and ovens began in the 1890s, but its progress was slow because of electricity's high cost and the general unavailability of electrical supplies in much of Great Britain.

The changes in kitchen technology discussed above also resulted in changes in kitchen staffs. At the beginning of the 19th century a middle class house may have employed from three to ten servants, but by the end of the century and beginning of the 20th century, gas and electric stoves had dramatically reduced the size of the serving staff required in a household of the same size.







The Parlor
The Garden
The Ballroom
The Dining Room
The Kitchen
The Music Room
The Dressing Room
The Nursery
The Library
The Emporium
The Front Porch
The Study
The Privy
The Chapel
The Boudoir

Kitchen Links

Up Kitchen Tools B&B Recipies