Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - Economy in Coal

[-back to main menu-]

Volume 1



THE price which coal has now attained, after a steady rise almost unexampled in any article of household consumption, makes its cost a very serious part of the expenses of middle-class and poorer households, and should direct attention to simple means, by which an economy of from 25 to 40 per cent, in the domestic consumption of coal cart be easily effected.
    Many grates are far larger than necessary, and by the insertion of cast-iron "cheeks" at each end, may be filled with only two-thirds the quantity before required, without any loss of heat. A still better plan, where room enough can be spared, is to insert cheeks of fire-clay or brick, and to put in the back of the grate also a slab of the same. By even the slab at the back alone, the quantity of fuel required will be diminished considerably, while the heat will rather be increased than otherwise.
Ashes should never be thrown away, but carefully preserved and mixed with an equal quantity of coal-dust or small coal, and then slightly damped. Use this compost at the back of the fire, where it will burn brightly and pleasantly. Many servants know this, but will not do it unless compelled, though it would really save them the trouble of sifting ashes.
    But the chief of all means for saving fuel is the following :- Cut a piece of sheet-iron one-eighth of an inch thick, of a shape and size to reach within one inch of each side of the grate bottom, and to project one and a half inches in the front. Lay this over the bottom grating. In making the fire, half fill the grate with coals ; then put some shavings or paper, and over this some sticks or bits of charcoal. On the top lay a few of yesterday's cinders, and finally some pieces of coal, not shovelled on, but carefully laid by hand. Many servants will ridicule thus lighting a fire "at the top," and will tell you the fire will not "catch" downwards through the coal. But try it, and you will find that this plan not only saves an incredible quantity of coal, but that it saves the housemaid trouble, and the room is far better warmed. The fire is to be replenished at the bottom, by putting pieces on the ledge and pushing them in, also wherever an opening occurs among the live coals, but never on the top. The shovel and poker must, in fact, be discarded, and only the tongs used. At least one-third of all coal used in sitting-rooms may be saved in this way, the reasons for which are very simple. The coals are kept quietly glowing, instead of burning fiercely away without giving any more heat ; and all smoke (which is simply fuel wasted) has to pass through the fire, and is consumed to profit, instead of going up the chimney.

[--grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, 
(ie. where new page begins), ed.--]

source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s