Now that we are almost done with the fireplace of our new 18th century kitchen, we are working on the WHAT. I use WHAT because I’m not sure WHAT to call it. It is a room in which I have a small sink and shelves to put cooking utensils, pots and pans, spices and some dry goods and containers for use in the kitchen.
I have read that back in the England of old, with castles, medieval hall and manor house, there were various rooms for service functions and food storage, and a planter was in charge of the bread from the pantry, the person in charge of the drinks was the butler who was in charge of the buttery know for its “butts” referring to the barrels stored there. Other rooms held the meats and were known as the larder, and the cooking was done in the kitchen. Now people call the kitchen in an early house a “Keeping Room” and the place you make butter as the Buttery (sounds plausible.) Yet, what is the truth of the matter?
In the book Colonial American English by Richard Lederer, Jr., he has 3,000 words used in America between 1608 and 1783. His description of:
Buttery- The place where liquor, fruit, and refreshments are sold – From the Old French boterie “place for keeping bottles.” Harvard regulations of 1790 decreed: “Every Scholar. . . shall enter his name in the Buttery.”
Pantry – A closet where bread and dry provisions were kept. A 1710 New Jersey document referred to: “a pantry with dresser and shelves.”
No Keeping room or Kitchen mentioned. So I emailed a friend, Sue, who has access to the Old English Dictionary and she looked up a few words for me. Here are her findings.
A kitchen as “That room or part of a house in which food is cooked; a place fitted with the apparatus for cooking. … 1600 R. Surflet tr. C. Estienne & J. Liébault Maison -Rustique i. iii. 4 The first foundation of a good house must be the kitchin. -a1641 J. Finett Philoxenis (1656) 168 Giving him a lodging to liye in and no Kitching to dress his meate in.”
Pantry: “Originally: a room or set of rooms in a large household in which bread and other provisions are kept. Later also: a room used for storing china, silverware, table linen, and glass; . . . 1660 Bp. J. Taylor Worthy; Communicant i. §1. 28 In the cupboards or Pantries where bread or flesh is laid.”
Buttery: “A place for storing liquor; but the name was also, from an early period, extended to ‘the room where provisions are laid up’ (Johnson). … 1665 S. Pepys Diary 3 Aug. (1972) VI. 180, Then down to the buttery and eat a piece of cold venison-pie.”
Larder: “A room or closet in which meat (? orig. bacon) and other provisions are stored. … 1768-74, A. Tucker, Light of Nature, (1834) I. 378 -The hen gratifies her desires in hatching and breeding up chickens for the larder.”
Keeping-room: “local and U.S. … The room usually occupied by a person or family as a sitting-room; a parlour. … ”
“The OED’s definition of keeping-room doesn’t seem very satisfactory. If you check Google Books between 1700 and 1800, you will find corroboration for the above definition of “keeping room,” also for a definition of “keeping room” meaning a store room.” – Sue
In the book Common Places – American Vernacular Architecture, it mentions that Copley called his hall a “Keeping Room” and it was next to the Kitchen, and in 1771, his half-brother refers to it as a “Sitting room.”
Now all of this information makes one wonder at the myths and legends out there.
So I’ve been searching for what I would call my 18th century storage area. It is next to the fireplace and has a window. The space has been plastered and the window put in and I put a buck table inside to store things for my classes, at least until Allan could get around to working on it again.
I found a great leaded glasse diamond pane window in Connecticut at a salvage place, and fell in love with it. It was missing a few pieces of glass and one was cracked, so it needed to be repaired. We found someone to restore it in Maine, so this window has been around. I love the way the light reflects on the wall, and at night, with a candle, it really makes me smile.
I wanteed a sink so I could fill kettles with hot water when needed. I found copper sink at an antique/other stuff store called the Collectors Eye in Stratham, one of my favorite haunts as I drive by it several times a week. It needed help, and thanks to Allan and our contractor, the edges were straightened out and the bottom pushed back down. Which means Allan built a box frame, put the sink on it and jumped on the bottom until it stayed down. We found a great faucet online, and our friends gave us some old boards for the counter.
So Allan began building the frame and plumbing the sink. Meantime all my stuff was stored in the new dining area of the kitchen, unused and collecting dust.
With the shelves up and the room painted, I started to bring all my things back. First thing I notice was that the chandelier was too big. I’ve ordered a large Hershey Strap light which will be much better.
So what do I call this room? I have no “butts” to put liquor in, (that will be in the new Cage Bar when it is done,) so Buttery is out. I’m not going to keep any meat or dairy in there, so Larder is out. I’m not storing my redware plates, silverware, table linen, glasses or bread in it, so Pantry is out. I’m running out of labels and I don’t want to call it a closet either as my husband does. HUMMM!
The light for the cieling arrived and Allan put it up. It makes a huge difference in the space. Our local blacksmith Russel Pope made an iron holder for my utensils and a great skewer holder with our initials on it. AT, SB, I love it. With everything from the counter, now hanging on the hearth wall, I have more counter space.
SO LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WOULD CALL IT! I call it marvelous because it is mine; yet I’d like to have a name besides the modern day CLOSET. Merriam-Webster – A Closet – A cabinet or recess for especially china, household utensils, or clothing . Not a very romantic word to my 18th century senses.
In the first-floor plan of his house on Beacon Hill, sketched shortly after the Revolution, John Singleton Copley included a “Chinea Clossit” – apparently a closet in our modern senses of the word, that is, a fairly small and windowless storage area.
“Common Places – American Vernacular Architecture”
Nook? Storage Crannie? Storeroom? I am so envious! If I were ten years younger I would definitely be hounding my husband to build me a kitchen and…. nook, cranny, or storeroom. Right now I cook in the back yard or at Burritt and store in my rented storage room! Not Romantic at all!
Hi Sandie, Very interesting post. While restoring our Ca. 1719 house in Southborough, MA. we found that although clearly first period with decorated exposed framing, the room arrangement was a bit of a mystery. The house was built as a two room deep gambrel roofed cape. Three back rooms appeared to be a bedroom on the NW corner (this was confirmed in a will), a buttery on the NE corner with a black polka-dot over whitewash and the ghost marks where shelves used to be. The room in the middle was eventually the kitchen although it appears the original kitchen was the front east room with heavy soot staining of the ceiling. Unfortunately, the chimney had been taken out in 1870 and the house Victorianized but much original detail had just been plastered over and the original “restoration” in the 70’s only removed a small portion of the plaster walls. I definitely miss that house. In 2005 we dismantled and moved a 1813 tavern that was slated for demolition to our farm. While it is still not rebuilt because of the economy, it had the most extraordinary cooking fireplace, extremely large bake oven and a heat exchange system similar to the nordic wood furnaces. I would post pictures if I could figure out how?
Name your room “fuego de cosina…fire kitchen, sala fuego or “Chiminea Cosina”…fire place kitcen 😉 hope you like it !