My mother cooked on a cast iron Lux fuel stove for many years. She could judge the temperature of the oven simply by putting her hand near it. Her technique never failed, even for delicate sponge cakes or cream puffs. How on earth did she do that?

We lived on a dairy farm in Tasmania and the stove was in constant use, especially at harvest time. Dear me, our old kitchen was so hot in summer. On festive occasions such as Christmas and Easter my mother might cook for a dozen relatives.

Below is the model closest to the one we had. It was advertised for sale on the Internet recently. How odd that it’s missing its doors, yet the little implement for lifting out the cooktop plates is still there.

Old Lux stove.

My siblings and I annoyed Mum no end during autumn by roasting chestnuts on the hot plates and burning off the black lead polish she used. The word lead is a bit scary I have to say. 😨

We used Zebo Black Lead to polish the Lux stove cooktop.

And as if black-leading wasn’t enough work;


The following extract is from a story published in The Spectator and Methodist Chronicle in 1917. The piece was actually a religious analogy, as in; don’t be ‘bright and shining’ just to impress others, be that way for God every day. Well, something like that. Anyway, here it is;

My attention was particularly drawn to the stove. It was polished with very creditable brilliance. None of your clean quick, dull quicker patent with a gloss as transient as a gleam of sunshine on a wintry day, but the shine of honest palpable black lead, with polish commensurate with the amount of every bestowed on the task. I was alone for a moment with a bright little lad, the son of the house, a vivacious Australian of some 3 or 4 years. So I playfully remarked, ‘How nicely the stove shines, Ian. Who cleans it? ‘ Quick as a flash came back the replay. ‘Mummie, she cleans it every day.’ And then with a delightful candour; ‘When there’s someone coming.

My favourite part of stove maintenance was to clean out the ash from underneath the oven. It was a way to earn brownie points by doing a chore you secretly enjoyed. Just open that tiny door and use a special implement to rake the ash out onto sheets of newspaper. So satisfying.

The ash drawer at the base of the stove.

In the very early days our kitchen hot water came from two enormous black kettles, kept simmering all day.

I also remember the big jam pan, in use when blackberries, raspberries or stone fruits were in season.

The fire door was opened up when we wanted to cook toast.

There always had to be kindling on the hearth by bedtime, ready to light the stove first thing in the morning. Actually that warm hearth was just as important as the stove, especially for drying out wet school shoes or keeping some small farm animal alive.

Above the stove was the mantlepiece, holding various little knick-knacks, matches, and a tin of Bushell’s tea. Oh yes, and a letter holder I made at school from wallpaper and a Weetbix packet. 😍

The Bushell's tea tin above the Lux stove.

A fuel stove could be dangerous though, especially if you stood with your back to it with the fire door open. My mother once caught alight and had to roll herself in the kitchen mat.

The day came when we ‘upgraded’ to an electric stove. It made life much easier for Mum, but even she felt a bit sad. The dear old Lux had been the glowing heart of our home for so long, and a stark white Whirlpool just didn’t seem the same.


  1. Your family stove looked like a forerunner for the Raeburn. Growing up in a London flat, our gas stove was a very modest affair, a metal box which stood on 4 legs. Mum had been employed as a Cook ‘in Service’ before she met my dad, so despite there eventually being 7 of us in the family, meals cooked on that modest little stove saw us all thrive.

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