Tools of the Trade: Equipment and Utensils
Our basement kitchen has been restored to how it would have looked in the 18th century, when the house was first built.
There are some similarities to a modern kitchen, but the ideal Georgian kitchen contained many utensils and equipment which are unfamiliar to us now. Some of these kitchen items have been replaced by modern technology, while others were used to perfect kitchen techniques that are no longer in fashion in today’s cooking.
The range in the centre of the room would have been built and lit in the early morning and then tended constantly throughout the day, probably by a junior servant such as a kitchen boy or maid. The fire would then be used to fuel other parts of the kitchen. To the left of the range is an oven, for baking bread. To the right, there is a boiler or kettle, where water would be heated for use in cleaning and cooking, and further on, four chafing stoves which were fuelled from below and acted rather like a modern hob. Above the range is a peculiar piece of equipment called a smokejack, a complicated mechanical system which would have been used for smoking pieces of meat. This perhaps gives you an idea of just how smoky the kitchen would have been!
Along the shelves, hooks and countertops of the restored kitchen are displayed a range of replica and original kitchen equipment which were in use in the 18th century. Some of these are not too unusual- such as bowls, pots, and wooden spoons- while others need a little more explanation.
Sugar nippers were used like scissors to cut small pieces of white refined sugar from the cones in which it was sold. These small pieces were then put into the sugar bowls used when serving tea or the sugar was ground with a mortar and pestle for use in cooking.
A Dutch crown is a very handy item to have in the kitchen as it means there is less clutter for the work surfaces. It is modelled on the style of the Dutch crown that was made in 1840, when King Willem I abdicated. Willem II and his successors chose not to wear the crown but instead to display it on a table during ceremonies. The kitchen Dutch crown can be used to hang pots and pans from the ceiling, or for hanging, spitting and roasting food, such as the woodcocks demonstrated in the kitchen’s interactive cooking display.
A chopper was a very important kitchen tool, used for chopping fruit and vegetables and dividing bread mixtures into loaf sized portions. It could also be used for chopping fresh herbs.
A spigot is a tap for a beer barrel. It would be hammered into the side and so allow the beer to be dispensed into a jug for serving at the table if so desired. Ones of varying size could be used on either gin or wine barrels. In grand households it would normally be the butler who tapped the barrels.
A Cameral is a piece of graduated wood that was suspended from the kitchen ceiling. With the aid of meat hooks food such as hams, vegetables and herbs could be hung.
The washing paddle or bat is a wooden hand tool shaped like a baker's shovel but with a much shorter handle. It was used to push out dirt from clothes by hammering them against a washboard or flat slabs in the laundry. Washboards were usually made from a rectangular wooden frame with a series of reliefs or ripples, mounted inside.
A chafing dish (from the French chauffer, "to make warm") is a kind of portable grate raised on a tripod, originally heated with charcoal in a brazier, and used for foods that require gentle cooking, away from the "fierce" heat of direct flames. The chafing dish could be used at table or provided with a cover for keeping food warm on a buffet.
A drip pan is placed under items that are cooking either in an oven or on an open fire. It is designed to catch the meat juices and so enable the cook to use a spoon or ladle to baste the meat. For dishes that do not require basting it could be used to collect and dispose of any unwanted liquid.
A pancheon is a wide mixing bowl used for making bread or separating the cream from milk.
A pig scraper was used to remove the hair from the carcass of a pig after scalding the surface of the skin with water. It could also be used for other scraping jobs in the kitchen.
A deadfall is a heavy weight that is tilted at an angle and held up with sections of wood with one of them serving as a trigger. When the animal moves the trigger, which might be baited, the weight falls. The weight must be at least five times heavier than the animal that is to be caught.
A mortar and pestle is a kitchen device used since ancient times to prepare ingredients or substances by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder. The mortar is a bowl, typically made of hard wood, ceramic or stone. The pestle is a heavy and blunt club-shaped object, the end of which is used for crushing and grinding.
Made of cast iron, the Salamander was used as a way to brown a dish on an open fire. Some had small legs on the underside of the handle to allow the flat surface to be rested on the fire.
Methods of measuring weight have been used since antiquity, and balancing scales of the 18th century had barely changed since the medieval period. However, in around 1770 Richard Salter invented the spring plate, which paved the way for modern electronic scales. The set of scales in the Mansion House kitchen is of the older type!