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5412660AA HOUSE GARDEN
Coal and bricks used to warm beds
By JEFF LILLY
Hot stuff: Having a cover on one's
hottie can reduce the ''ouch factor''
when first getting into bed.
Electric blanket fire: Avoid this scene at your home by ensuring you store and use your blankets safely.
ALL RIGHT, we have had our first icy
blast from the south, and there will
be more to come. There is nothing
quite so delightful as leaping into a
warm bed, or quite so conducive to
a good night's sleep.
The art of warming beds has quite
a history, if you look into it.
Hanging a warming pan near the
hearth is not just a decorator's idea,
although you still see these antiques
in some houses. The idea was that it
could be filled with glowing coals or
wood embers from the fire before
being taken away to warm the bed.
A hot stone or brick often served the
The well-known brass or copper
warming pan on a handle was not
the only way of doing this.
There were even wooden frames
designed to hold pots of fuel inside
Bedpans usually had no air holes,
so that the embers would die out
without scorching the sheets.
Warming pans on a handle were
designed to move it up and down
the bed before someone got into it.
When Charles Dickens' character
Mr Pickwick called a long-handled
brass warming-pan ''a useful, and...
a comforting article of domestic
furniture'', he touched on all the
snug cosiness we associate with
being tucked up in a warm bed.
Mind you, one 18th century
doctor disliked warming pans,
though he thought hot sand was a
helpful alternative to embers for
anyone who could not bear a cold
bed: ''People in health ought never
to have their beds warmed; not only
because the fumes of the coals are
in some degree noxious, but
because warmth thus applied
enervates the body.
''If, however, invalids and sick
persons cannot from custom
dispense with bed warming, one or
two quarts of sand, made red hot in
an iron pot, and put into the
warming pan, will be void of all
-- Dr James Makittrick Adair, Essays
on Fashionable Diseases: the
dangerous effects of hot and
crowded rooms, c1790.
Most of us have grown up with
the ubiquitous hotwater bottle, or
hottie. Containers using hot water
were used as early as the 16th
century, with the advantage that
they could remain in the bed with
the sleeper. Prior to the invention of
rubber that could withstand
sufficient heat, these early hot water
bottles were made of a variety of
materials, such as zinc, copper, glass,
earthenware or wood. To prevent
burning, the metal hot water flasks
were wrapped in a soft cloth bag.
Modern day conventional hot
water bottles were invented in 1903
and are manufactured in natural
rubber or PVC, to a design patented
by the Croatian inventor Eduard
Penkala. Their use has declined
somewhat, because modern homes
are better heated, and they have
had to compete with electric
There has been a recent surge in
popularity in Japan where they are
seen as an ecologically friendly and
thrifty way to keep warm.
Some newer products function
like the older bottles, but use a
polymer gel or wax in a heat pad.
The pads can be heated in a
microwave oven, and they are
marketed as safer than liquid-filled
bottles or electrically-heated
Electric blankets first appeared in
the 1930s and became very popular.
However there is a greater need for
care, as many house fires have been
started by old or damaged ones.
Energy Safety (NZ Govt) has some
excellent advice on safety, usage
and storage. The recommendations
include the following:
Pre-inspection to ensure there is
Using it to warm the bed and
turning it off before you go to bed,
to avoid overheating (which can be
fatal for the elderly)
Ensuring it is laid out properly and
Not going out with it switched on
Not allowing it to get wet
Not putting clothes or other
things on the bed while it is on
Not buying used or second-hand
Getting it checked by an
electrician if you have any concerns.
Well, as for me? Think I will just
make do with my faithful old hottie!
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