I have become a bit nerdy about nineteenth century gas cookers… it started with a post I made a few weeks ago about an advert in a 1912 cookery book… and now I keep investigating the different companies who made them – an interesting development in trades and skills, from being blacksmiths, to being iron workers, to foundry owners…
Here is a post I wrote a few weeks ago:
We have such hi-tech equipment in our kitchens with all sorts of new ways of cooking, microwaves, halogen hobs, sou-vide… but in 1912 you may have been delighted to have installed in your kitchen this fine appliance, a Fletcher Cooker. it offered everything that we still want, perfect cleanliness, exact results, saving of labour, most convenient, improved quality of cooking… and then something we may not have considered less loss of weight in cooked food, and greater comfort… not sure how you get greater comfort with a cooker, but the last great advantage is what everyone wants, saving of money!
The Fletcher cookers, and other kitchen equipment, fires, water-heaters and even laboratory equipment, were manufactured in the Palatine Works in Warrington. Thomas Fletcher was born in 1840 and started his professional life as a dentist, a very different occupation from dentists today! He became a manufacture of dental equipment and by 1881 he was listed in the census as a gas engineer & fitter maker of dental materials; he employed ten men, two boys and a girl. He and his wife Mary had quite a large family, Alice, Charles, Ernest, Lucy, Mary and William.
Thomas acquired the business of the Scottish brothers Alexander and William Russell and became Fletcher Russell.The Russells also had an iron foundry, employing 53 men and 85 boys at the Pendleton Iron Works. In the 1881 census, In Salford Alexander was living at 23 Seedley Grove in Salford, with his sister, Elizabeth Neil and her family, husband Alexander (how confusing that must have been!) and his own wife Annie, and his two children Fergus, Helen, William and Mary.
At 25 Seedley Grove, just next door was Alexander’s brother William and his wife Margaret, their son William, his mother Mary, and the children of his sister Elizabeth Neil, Alexander, Archibald, John, Mary and William. So let me get this straight… the two brothers named William and Alexander between them a son each called William, a daughter each called Mary, a mother also called Mary, a brother-in-law also called Alexander, as well as a child called Alexander… good heavens…
Ten years later Alexander was still an iron founder, and was in the same area but a different street, and his family had increased; as well as the four children, he now had Alexander, Annie and Cowan, and his mother-in-law Helen. Living next door to him was brother William was an artistic iron founder – which maybe meant he was making things from wrought iron? He and Margaret had another little son, James. Alexander Neil had an iron founder stores & high castings, and was living with his children and wife Elizabeth, including little daughter Ellen.
The prosperity of the families really does, I think, demonstrate, the advantages of cooking by gas!