Chimney Stacks and Pots
Few people collect chimneys (although there is bound to be someone out there who does) but there are people who do take more than a passing interest in chimney ‘spotting’. While chimney pots have a definite collectors’ market, a dedicated museum, and a society for their protection and preservation.
A brief history of chimneys, chimney stacks and chimneys pots
Dublin Chimneys have been an important part of buildings for centuries – particularly in colder climates where there is a need to retain heat but remove smoke, and prevent downdrafts. In British architecture, they were first found in castles (often these were just a simple chute with plain openings), and then in manor houses.
It was in manor houses that the first of what today would be called chimney pots appeared. And in the Tudor period it became fashionable to have very ornate brick chimneys and stacks. While much simpler versions of chimney pots became common on ordinary homes around the Elizabethan period.
A chimney is the entire structure that carries off the smoke from a fire. Rather oddly, to modern eyes, some early chimneys were made from wood – until the practice was outlawed by early fire prevention laws.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘Chimney’ originally meant a fireplace, and is thought to be derived from the Latin Caminus, meaning furnace, forge or oven. In Middle English it was ‘Chimenee’.
In modern English, a chimney stack is understood to be the part of the chimney or flue that is visible above the roof. However, originally, these were called chimney stalks, and a cluster of stalks was called a stack.
Chimney pots are a superstructure of the stack, ie. they sit on top of the stack.
The Victorian era was the ‘Golden Age’ for chimney pots. This is largely thought to be due to the amount of identical terrace houses that were built during this period – which led to people using chimney pots as a way of personalising them.
Even though there were literally thousands of different designs of chimney pots there are surprisingly few books on the subject. Indeed, ‘Chimney Pots and Stacks’ by Valentine Fletcher, published in 1968, is believed to be the first specialised book on the subject. And this was at a time when the Clean Air Act and gas fired central-heating meant log and coal fires in homes were going out of fashion – together with the need for chimneys and pots.
Valentine Fletcher coined the word ‘Caminology’ to denote the study of chimneys. However, there doesn’t appear to have been many (if any) later studies on the subject, and the word does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Although many of Hatfield’s old buildings were demolished to make way for the postwar New Town, there are still enough old buildings in and around the town to see a varied selection of types of chimney pots, and ornate brick stacks. And they are still being added to houses built today.