Fire was one of human’s most important discoveries and with its discovery came the age old tradition of enjoying first fire pits and eventually fireplaces. It is not only a very sociable way to pass a cold winter’s night, but also still plays a large part in the family bonding process for many cultures in South Africa. It should therefore come as no surprise then that if South Africa is seen as the cradle of mankind, it is also seen as the home of some of the best fireplaces in the world.
The journey from fire pit to modern marvel of the home
Prehistoric man discovered the use of fire millions of years ago, and with it came the building of fire pits in the ground. These fire pits became the focal points of villages, communities and entire tribes. They were a place of meeting, a place of worship and a place of jubilation. This was because not only did they give entire societies the chance to meet and eat in a safe communal area, but for the first time in man’s early history it gave them the first sign that they had control over what is still seen as one of the most destructive elements on earth – FIRE!
These fire pits were often built in the centre of villages and at later times even in large communal huts directly beneath a smoke hole in the roof. Smaller versions of this communal fire pit were often used in single or family dwellings as well, but this design was not adequate and did not prevent the smoke from blowing back into the hut or home. This was both dangerous and unpleasant to any persons using the building and ultimately led to the invention of the chimney. This helped to vent the vast majority of the smoke from the fire inside the building into the air outside of the building.
It was not until 1678 however that the true modern fireplace was first seen in Europe when the then nephew of Charles the First of England had the idea to raise the grates of the fireplaces on his estate to create a venting system. This not only improved the efficiency of the fireplace, but also the efficiency of the chimney systems employed at the time. To this day Prince Rupert is still regarded as the father of modern day fireplaces thanks to his ingenuity and love of a little bit of winter warmth.
The next “big name in fireplace history” is none other than one of the founding fathers of United States of America and one of the greatest thinkers, mathematicians and engineers of the 1700’s – Benjamin Franklin! He developed a new style convection chamber for fireplaces, named the Franklin Stove, that improved the heating efficiency of fireplaces and wood stoves. He also further improved fireplace the airflow design first created by Prince Rupert in 1678 by designing a system that pulled air from a building’s basement and vented it out through a larger chimney at the top of a building.
The next major development in the history of fireplaces came a few years after those made by Benjamin Franklin. These were the final improvements that finalised a fireplace design that essentially stayed the same until the introduction of the original BioFire fireplace in 1967. These final fireplace design improvements were made by a Count Rumford and he designed a fireplace with a tall shallow firebox that further improved the drawing of the smoke up and out of the building. This design improvement also helped to increase the amount of radiant heat projected into the room by an individual fireplace and is now considered the foundation of all modern fireplace designs.
Nowadays fireplaces evolved to suit our needs and can now be customized according to our specifications. This write-up was originally posted on www.designerfireplaces.co.za. Since we have been following this leader in the modern fireplace industry we can really recommend that you contact them for fireplaces in Cape Town or fireplaces in Johannesburg and surrounds.
Source: Designer Fireplaces