A huge pile of dirt, rubble and other detritus cascaded into the sitting room from what appeared to be an old fireplace that was hidden behind the plasterboard.
Rich, Jack, and Ian worked to clear out the mess, filling a wheelbarrow many times over with dirt.
Eventually, bricks were discovered at the bottom of the pile. These bricks were most likely used to help close off this fireplace when the wallboard and the gas fire were installed.
What, you might ask, is an inglenook fireplace?
An inglenook is a huge, oversized fireplace that’s recessed into the wall, with enough room, in some cases, for people to sit behind or beside it.
“Inglenook” is a combination of the word “ingle,” which means “fireplace” in Old English (from Old Scots or Irish Gaelic aingeal, “angel” or euphemistically “fire”), and the word “nook,” which refers to the recess in the wall.
Inglenooks are not uncommon in very old houses. In my grandparents’ farmhouse, now owned by my cousin David and his wife, David recently opened up a wall where our grandparents had installed a gas fire, and found this handsome inglenook in the part of the farmhouse that dates from the 1600s.
John Ford, of Inglenook Restorations, writes, “The Inglenook (literally meaning chimney corner) fireplace generally came into being in the mid-late 16th century. The exceptions were for very wealthy properties such as castles, monasteries and the like. Many of these had Inglenook Fireplaces up to a century before. The open fireplace was the only means of heating, cooking and damp control within a house right up until the 19th Century.”
My builder, Rich, also thought that the inglenook in my cottage dated from the 1600s, and said that because it was so big, it would have been used to roast entire animals. The back of this inglenook was rounded, and the lintel (the stone beam at the top) was around five feet long. Rich pointed out that the left-hand side had been shortened, almost certainly to put in a door, now a window, leading to the road outside.
The builders spent hours and hours clearing away the mess.
They must have filled at least 20 wheelbarrows full of rubble, soil, and roots. They found a lot of bricks from 1938 made by the Butterley Company, a prominent Derbyshire brick manufacturer, which had been used to close up some of the space:
More interestingly, they found bricks that had been hand-made centuries earlier.
As Rich and his crew continued to clean the inglenook, they pulled a liner out of the chimney that had been used for the gas exhausts. They also found a second narrow pillar to the right of the inglenook.
There is clearly much more work to be done to get this inglenook looking nice!