The history of cast iron radiators

While the radiator has become a modern staple for heating our homes and businesses throughout the UK and around the world, have you ever wondered where the history of such a convenient and marvellous invention came from? Well, we’ve been delving into the history books to find out where and when it was first conceived and how it’s evolved over the years. 

The history of cast iron radiators

From humble beginnings

The modern radiator design as we know it, all stems from the first traditional cast iron radiators, which incidentally are having a revival as a preferred heating option, not least for their quirky aesthetics, but also their efficiency.

With a history that dates back to the mid-19th Century, cast iron radiators were the first form of heated radiators. There are some disputes over who was in fact the first inventor of the heated radiator, but it’s believed that an American inventor Joseph Nason has claims on being the first, by developing a rudimentary version in 1941 with various U.S. issued patents for steam heating systems. However, Russian businessman and inventor, Franz San Galli, also lays claim to this, with his first steam heated cast iron radiator system that was developed in 1855 and patented in 1857.

However, the later development by Joseph Nason and fellow inventor Robert Briggs in 1863, which had a cast iron base, where wrought iron tubes would be screwed into the base, is probably the closest design to the cast iron radiators we know and see today. A later innovation called the Bundy Loop, was introduced in 1872 by inventor Nelson H Bundy that used looped wrought iron tubes for greater heat convection and became the popular choice at the time.

The history of cast iron radiators

The radiator revolution

With the introduction of new designs, naturally came further development. And one of the most significant time periods that saw transformation in the production and design of cast iron radiator was the Victorian period.

During this era, the American Radiator Company was formed in1892, who began rapidly expanding their marketplace to Britain and France to become a major manufacturer of radiators. When they opened a large-scale manufacturing hub in Hull, UK in 1905, it opened the flood gates for radiator manufacturing in Britain, seeing the formation of companies like the Beeston Foundry in Nottingham. As a result of improved technology and demand, these companies also introduced more ornate designs, as radiators were no longer just about the practicalities of heating a room, but also about creating decorative pieces.

Having said that it was only really the rich and wealthy people who could afford such luxuries as a central heating system. Therefore central heating wasn’t a common feature in many homes up until the 1950s, but as prices of production came down and the demand increased, more and more homes were opting for some form of central heating system, which usually took the form of cast iron radiators.

The history of cast iron radiators

Out with the old and in with the new

However, increasing developments in technology, saw radiator production move towards steel heaters that pumped heated water rather than steam through the system. These surpassed cast iron radiators by the 1970s, however modern interior design has seen the trend of cast iron radiators come back with a vengeance. From reconditioned originals to modern replicas, you can find a wide choice of cast iron radiator designs that look great in both modern and period surroundings.

Article supplied by AEL Heating Limited

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  1. This is so interesting. We have iron radiators and love them. They make such a cozy heat. They weigh a ton and are ancient and probably will still be going strong long after I’m gone.