The first fireplaces were basically
firepits. A fire-pit was a hole dug in the ground where
the land had been cleared of wood and grass. Stones were
put around the hole to create a kind of hearth. The fire
was made in the hole.
There were both pro's and con's to having an open fire
in the middle of your home - the heat was lovely but the
smoke was not! A way to control this smoke was to simply
cut a hole in the roof and let the smoke out that way.
This worked but was not efficient - it took a long time
for the smoke to clear and if the wind was against you,
you had real problems.
The chimney, followed shortly by the fireplace, was
invented in the 12th Century. For a long time they were
considered features found only in homes of the rich and
castles. Being made out of stone or brick, they were
expensive to build. But by the 16th and 17th centuries,
fireplaces slowly became more commonly found in the
homes of the average person.
A typical fireplace setup involved:
The Chimney or Flue
The long stone, or brick pipe or vent which channeled
the smoke up and out of the building.
The chamber at the bottom of the chimney-pipe, which
acted as a buffer against downdrafts.
The stone or brick platform on which the firebox and
chimney is built.
Advantages of the Fireplace
The fire was now safely contained.
There was a stone chute to carry away the smoke.
The damper could be closed during inclement weather to
stop rain and drafts coming down the chimney.
The fireplace could be used as a heater and a cooker
Pots hung above the coals could hold food and be kept