“This was real kitchen bling!”
VFC says: This guest post was written by Roger W.
After reading the post about the kitchen of Windsor Castle which ends with a line-up of pot bellied pans it occurred to me that many interested in copper pots may never have had the opportunity to get a close look at one. They were as far as I know only ever made in England and fell from favour about 150 years ago. The few examples at Windsor Castle are displayed on high shelves even in the 1878 photograph (on the right). Pans of this type are not especially rare nor do they have much financial value, but I think they are of historic interest.
In this spirit the two pans pictured below are exhibited as interesting relics. They were made of surprisingly thin copper and as such rather fragile when compared the pots we are used to. The condition of these is not unusual for bellied pans. Neither has a stamp.
|Small (on left)||Large (on right)|
|Height||15cm (5.9 inches)||14.5cm (5.7 inches) without lid|
|Diameter at rim||13cm (5.1 inches)||14cm (5.5 inches)|
|Maximum diameter||17.8cm (7 inches)||21cm (8.3 inches)|
|Weight||900g (2 lbs)||1300g (2.9 lbs)|
The handles are forged from wrought iron and strongly resemble the shanks of a gardening tool or a shepherd’s crook.
I have some antique cast iron pans that I use which have this type of hollow tapering handle and they never get too hot to hold. Some owners may have added a wooden handle if using on an open grate.
The sides have a cramp seam running down at the handle and the base is let in the usual way.
Because they are so thin the rim is rolled over an iron ring which accounts for a significant proportion of the weight.
The lid on the larger pot is very close fitting. It consists of a shallow dome with a step around the edge.
Inside is a collar of copper with a flange edge turned out and the top part is folded over this flange and simply crimped on.
These were only ever suitable for boiling water or thin liquid. The English tend to thicken stews with a starch slurry just before serving, so thin walls were not a problem at the time. A wide base makes for quick boiling but I can see why cooks preferred the easy access of a cylindrical pan — it must have been hard even to see inside by candlelight.
I think the original owner must have been quite wealthy, this was real kitchen bling and if it was good enough for the Queen then very desirable!
VFC says: Roger, thank you so much! I certainly had not seen these pots close up and I am glad for the chance to look at and learn about yours. John Fuller Sr. in his wonderful The Art of Coppersmithing wrote in 1893 about how these saucepans were cut and shaped completely by handing during the mid-1800s. Apparently, he not only made them for others, but also cooked with them:
The writer has one made by himself in the year 1856 which was in constant use up to 1872, and is apparently as good as when new, if retinned and made fit for use.
As excerpted in the Windsor Castle kitchen post, Fuller claimed that the English-style bellied saucepan fell out of use starting in the 1860s as demand increased for straight-walled pots he called “stewpans.” He wrote a little more about the transition:
As previously stated, [straight-sided] stewpans seemed to take the place of [bellied] saucepans in a great measure after their introduction, because they were handier and more easily made; then, again, there were long and rapid strides being made in the perfecting of cooking apparatus in general, all tending to a complete revolution of culinary apparatus and methods.The general progress in education and the advances made on every hand were felt by the braziers, as well as others, and the surrounding influences compelled them, though a little reluctantly, to keep pace with the advancing tide about them and acquiesce in the demand for more tasty and shapely goods.
In this case, I think “tasty” and “shapely” are in the eye of the beholder, as I find your two English pieces to be lovely things indeed. Roger, thank you again for sharing them with us.