Project Canterbury

The Ecclesiologist

Volume iii. Nos. 33, 34. August, 1844.
Cambridge: Stevenson, 1844, pp. 135-137.

The Warming of Churches

THIS very important subject has been so often brought before our notice, that a few words on the best methods of effecting an end generally assumed to be necessary, or at least desirable, may not be useless to our readers.

That cast-iron stoves are inadmissible in churches, we deliberately believe, and have ever maintained. Their unsightly and unecclesiastical character; the grievous disfigurements they generally cause to the roofs, walls, or windows; their dirt, unwholesome exhalations, liability to cause destructive conflagrations, the space they occupy, and other objections which more or less apply in every instance, render their introduction strongly to be reprobated. We lately visited a church (S. Nicolas', PARTNEY, Lincolnshire), where a stove, placed at the west end, had a flue some sixty feet long extended down the very centre of the church, above the level of the pues, and thrust through the East window; a monstrous example of daring contempt for the common decencies and proprieties of a church. The ludicrous effect of this engine must be seen to be credited. But we do not select it as by any means the worst case we could adduce. Pipes of every shape, size, and colour, now disfigure our churches. Chimnies of red brick are recklessly built across richly traceried windows, along roofs, up towers, through cement gable crosses. Iron flues peer through the roods of naves and aisles; they are thrust through walls and windows; they are suspended from chains aloft, supported on legs below; pursue serpentine, zigzag, rectangular, vertical, horizontal courses among the pues and about the galleries; stifle the sickly, scorch the strong, amuse the irreverent, and distract and unutterably disgust all who have the least sense of catholick propriety. Patent chunks, Arnold's, self-consumers of smoke; stoves with flues aerial, flues subterranean, and no flues at all; flying stoves, concealed stoves, hot-water works; ever variety may be seen in our unhappy churches. Perhaps in each instance there is a decayed old door, or badly glazed window, or damp and broken pavement, which is the real and self-evident cause of the cold which is thus perniciously and ineffectually counteracted. But it is not of the least use to point out these things, or to urge the fact that our religious forefathers required no artificial warmth. Moderns will make themselves comfortable in church; and it only remains to shew them how to do so in the least objectionable manner.

We would try, then, in place of stoves, open braziers filled with coke, and placed on the floor of the Nave or Chancel, or both. There is no harm in this, when used circumspectly. In several College halls immense open fires even of charcoal are daily lighted in the middle of the floor, without any ill effects whatever arising from them. If a current of fresh air were constantly maintained by the free use of ventilation, there could be no danger whatever in the use of coke (not charcoal) in churches. The brazier could be circular or octagonal, pierced and ornamented with some ecclesiastical pattern, or quatrefoils, fleurs-de-lis, &c. It should be made of beaten, not of cast iron, riveted together. It is to be placed on a stone slab or plinth about six inches high, so that the whole height may be about eighteen inches. The diameter of the brazier may be about two feet.

This may only be used on the coldest days; or it may be lighted for an hour or two before Service, and afterwards extinguished, by which sufficient heat will have been generated to warm the congregation during the time they remain in church. It is well known that the look of a fire is almost as comforting as its actual warmth. Indeed we have known instances in which old ladies declared themselves warmed by the sight of stoves, which upon enquiry were found to contain no fire at all. By the arrangement which we suggest, all would view the glowing embers, and it would have the advantage of being a real, simple, and undisguised method of effecting the end desired.

A simple ring of iron, say one of the size and kind which encircles a coach wheel, laid on a clear space in the pavement, and filled with about a bushel of red-hot cinders from a furnace, might most easily be tried as an experiment in lieu of stoves. We are convinced that the plan is very available, and open to few, if any, objections: for we do not condemn stoves because they give heat, but because they are ugly, cumbersome, and destructive to churches. Should our recommendation be found practicable (and we shall be glad to receive the result of any experiment), we will supply some correct designs for church braziers in a future Part of the Instrumenta Ecclesiastica.

But the simplest, the best, the most Christianlike method of warming a church is to open it for Daily Prayers. The effect caused by this means in producing warmth and dryness is so astonishing as to appear scarcely credible to those who have not experienced it. Until this experiment has been tried, we cannot think any persons justified either in complaining of their church as cold and damp, or in adopting any artificial means, not even our own open brazier, to drive away a chill which is attributable to their own want of zeal and fervency.

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