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Open Features: The Yorkshire Range

Frank Healy recalls the days when the centrepiece of many a Yorkshire home was the kitchen range.

Working Lunch on BBC2 this week featured a new business which makes Yorkshire ranges. For those of us of a certain age these ranges were a normal, indeed you could say an essential, part of our homes.

With nice modern kitchens people often forget it was not always so. Food was cooked over an open fire and it was not until 1780 that Thomas Robinson designed the first kitchen range when foundries began making good-quality cast iron. There was a central grate, a closed oven with a hinged door on one side of it, and a tank containing water which was being heated on the other side. Many of my age will remember that these ranges were polished with black lead until they shone brilliantly.

As a child I remember that, together with a gas ring, the range provided our only means of boiling water or cooking a hot meal. The boiler provided water for washing clothes and our weekly bath in front of the fire.

Refinements to the original ranges enabled better control of the heat. Dampers were fitted, and a boiler delivered sufficient hot water for it to be circulated upstairs. This was long before immersion heaters.

When I was a lad my grandmother had a pub. We lived in a cottage at the rear. I was fascinated when dray men delivered beer to the pub. Big barrels were dropped down into the cellar. Those barrels looked enormous as the men moved them around. To a little lad many things look enormous. They grow smaller as you grow older.

One of the pub's customers made me a sack cart, scaled down to my size. I had hours of fun wheeling empty beer crates round the yard. This was in Laisterdyke, Bradford. We were not far from a gas coking plant in Planetrees Road. Two lads who lived nearby told me one day to bring my cart. They were off to the coke plant.

Coal was expensive and in short supply. This was around 1946 or 1947. I think it was still rationed. However you could buy as much coke as you needed. It was cheaper than coal and burned hotter. One of the boys, Ken, who years later was to marry my sister, and Eric Greaves, along with others, had got together enough money to buy some coke. They needed my cart to move it. They went round the streets selling it. We did regular trips.

In those days kids played out together. Parents who were not working kept an eye on the children of those who were. When it was time for tea my mother would come looking for me and my sister. She would find us looking as black as the ace of spades from the dust. We got our backsides smacked and the lads delivering the coke got a rollicking for allowing us to get into such a state. Next time there was a load of coke to be delivered the boys borrowed my cart, but my mother wouldn't let me and my sister go with them. Spoilsport!

If you fancy getting yourself a Yorkshire Range then why not have a look here.

http://www.yorkshirenet.co.uk/yorkshirerangecompany/

One thing I can guarantee is that sitting round a fire watching the flames is far more relaxing than watching TV. And many older Yorkshire folk claim that Yorkshire puddings can only be made properly in the oven of an old-fashioned kitchen range.

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