A fireplace, when present, is seen as the heart of any room and is the focal point around which furniture is placed. Fireplaces would have been incorporated into every room in a Victorian house however although in downstairs rooms, these fireplaces may still be in regular use, in bedrooms and bathrooms they are unlikely to have been used once a central heating system was installed. Even sympathetic renovators of period houses may well wish to remove antique fireplaces from rooms such as bathrooms and walk in wardrobes where they take up precious wall space without adding anything useful. This is because the presence of a fireplace limits the flexibility of the layout of the room and is often in the location where you might wish to position a basin or heated towel rail in a small bathroom. Removing an unwanted fireplace in this type of room is not a cardinal sin in the grand scheme of a period house renovation.
However reception rooms without fireplaces simply look wrong. It will be really obvious in reception rooms when fireplaces have been removed with clues as to where they were originally located. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be concerned that restoring a Victorian fireplace will be too expensive. However, you should see it as an investment; an authentic reproduction fireplace can really add value to your property.
What type of fireplace should I choose for my house?
In a run of the mill terraced or semi-detached house, the Victorian fireplace was likely to have been made of cast iron so this is the obvious choice for a replacement fireplace. The design of cast iron fireplace to choose for your house very much depends on the design of your house. The larger the house and the higher the ceilings, the more ornate your reproduction fireplace could be. There are many designs of art deco fireplaces available so if you are thinking of purchasing one of these, check whether it is the relevant period for your house (circa 1908-1935). If you are hoping to achieve a faithful reproduction and your house was built in 1886, an art deco fireplace would be incorrect.
When choosing an imitation fireplace, you need to think about the fireplace insert as well as the fireplace surround. You may wish to stick with a cast iron surround to match the fireplace or choose a wooden surround, in oak or pine, waxed or unwaxed to provide a contrast to the cast iron fireplace. Many of the wooden fireplace surrounds available are in period styles and are very authentic and based on originals, often featuring corbels and wooden scrolls. Others are much more simple and rustic, and potentially not appropriate for an authentic Victorian house restoration. Many designs feature tiled panels on either size of the grate. These tiles are usually brightly coloured and most often feature botanical designs incorporating leaves and flowers, often stylised on brightly coloured backgrounds. Fireplace tiles are usually a standard size of 6” x 6” or 152x152mm.
You may wish to purchase a genuine Victorian cast iron fireplace – many of these are available in reclamation yards and from antique fireplace specialists and are often in fairly good condition having been restored by the dealer. Usually these are expensive when compared to the good reproduction fireplaces on sale but the advantage is that you are putting something genuinely old back into your house.
How to fit a Victorian fireplace?
The fireplace should be relatively easy to fit. You need to make sure you are purchasing a fireplace of a similar size to the one that was there originally. The fireplace and surround needs to have an opening the same size or smaller than the opening on your wall so that the structure ie bricks and walls within the fireplace cannot be seen. If this is not the case you may need to remove some bricks so that these cannot be seen once the fire surround is fitted - you may need to consult a builder or structural engineer to see if this is safe to do. The fireplace would be placed centrally over the fireplace opening and secured to the walls with screws and brackets - these are normally supplied with the fireplace surround along with fitting instructions.
One final note: don’t forget your fire basket and ashpan as these are normally sold separately from the fireplace and without them you will not be able to use your fireplace. And of course your log or coal delivery.
The Victorian Emporium sells a wide range of cast iron fireplace inserts, cast iron and timber fireplace surrounds, fire baskets, fireplace tiles and wood burning stoves. So whether it is a reproduction fireplace you need, or perhaps imitation lighting, we are here to help you restore your property to its former glory.