Nothing beats having your favourite dish served up on a lovely warm plate. This desire for a hot plate is nothing new to British diners, and there are artefacts from the 18th and 19th centuries that suggest we were once even more preoccupied by a ‘hot plate’.
And this makes sense if we consider how cold British houses could be for much of the year. Until the later 20th century rooms were often poorly heated, even in wealthy homes. Households with servants urged their staff to hurry from kitchen to dining room so food could be served hot, or at least warm, on heated plates. Hot food was appetising and proof of a well-run home too.
The Victorians even had spoon warmers; a decorative container filled with hot water to keep serving spoons and sauce ladles warm.
Plate warmers were commonplace in the kitchen where they would be a simple construction from wood or metal. However, when placed in the dining room, where they could be seen by the guests, they were much fancier affairs. They would often be found in the drawer of a sideboard, or the inside of a pedestal. These fine quality Regency mahogany pedestals would have looked very grand in the dining room; one is lined with tin; hot coals would be placed in the bottom, and the door shut, allowing the plates to be heated.
Through the doors at Thakeham Furniture this week, we have this fabulous and extremely rare George III fireside plate warmer. A fantastic piece, in very good original condition, lined with tin on the inside, which would have faced the fire and had the plates placed on it. The original swan neck carrying handles meant it could easily be put in place by the fire, and taken away once the plates were at the desired temperature. It is a clever piece of design which would have looked attractive in the dining room and successfully heated plates without blocking too much heat from the fire and thus still keeping the dining room nice and warm!