The first enclosed hot water system, invented by Jean Simon Bonnemain in 1777, was not actually designed for the home, but for incubating chicken eggs. It wasn’t until almost 80 years later when a man in St Petersburg called Franz San Galli came along with his Hot Box, which was the first product to resemble the radiators we have today.
The Hot Box became a desirable must-have for the home and was a hit with the wealthy Russian upper classes. Shortly after, the first steam radiator was developed in America by Nason, Perkins and Briggs in 1862. However, it was the Bundy Loop in 1872 that proved most successful – a design with loops screwed into a cast-iron base. It became the benchmark for many manufacturers, who introduced their own detailed patterns.
By 1895, American Radiators had set up showrooms in London, and in 1897 it bought Britain’s Ideal Boiler Co. The company set up a factory in Hull in 1905 and, from this point on, radiator manufacturing became big business in the UK. The elegance of Victorian and Edwardian homes was reflected in the elaborate designs, including intricate scrolled detail in the iron casting.
By the Fifties, though, the ornate cast iron radiator was considered a monstrosity – many were either ripped out or painted to blend in with the colour scheme. Today, the cast iron radiator is a sought-after fixture, and not just in period houses – it sits well in trendy industrial-style interiors too.
Designer: Franz San Galli
Details: There are many salvage yards that will have reclaimed cast-iron radiators (check they are fully functional before you buy) – find one at salvo.co.uk. In addition, there are many specialists including Castrads, Cast Iron Radiators and UKAA.