Adding Fuel to the Fire: A Brief History of the Peat Bucket


An Irish George III mahogany peat bucket 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Peat buckets are the unsung heroes of antique furniture: ever functional and often in attractive mahogany with brass bandings, they are a quintessential part of the Georgian home.


John Atkinson, Kitchen Scene, 1771 
Yale Center for British Art

So what exactly was their function?  The peat bucket, along with its counterpart the plate bucket, comes from Ireland originally and were designed to sit by the fireplace.  The peat bucket held peat (unsurprisingly) to create fires while the plate buckets would warm plates by the fire before being taken to the kitchen.  In the above painting by John Atkinson from 1771, a man can be seen standing in the kitchen with a burning fire in the hearth in the room beyond, while a peat bucket sits tucked away in the front left corner.


A pair of George III mahogany peat buckets 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

Peat buckets were incredibly useful objects within the household, so ones from the 18th century often show a great deal of wear.  To find Georgian peat buckets in good condition are rare and therefore they are highly prized by collectors.

A famous peat bucket sold at an auction in Dublin, Ireland in 2005.  A peat bucket in the James Adam Salesroom sold for 145,000EUR.  This particular piece was notable for its particularly large size (26 inches high), lovely condition, and attractive carving, including a scallop shell to the front.


A pair of early George III mahogany plate buckets 
Mackinnon Fine Furniture Collection

The plate bucket, a close companion of the peat bucket, is distinguished by its vertical slot.  This slot allowed for easy access to a stack of plates that were placed in the buckets for warming.  Shown above is an attractive pair of early George III mahogany plate buckets.

We are delighted to have the selection of peat buckets and plate buckets shown above in our collection at the moment.  We can’t promise a wood burning fire at our St James’s gallery, but you can come and look at these Georgian buckets for yourself and imagine just how useful they would be for your own fireplace!


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