Hygge & Hedge Funds: How The Humble Fireplace and Solid Fuel Came Back Into Fashion

“These woodburners are getting very popular now aren’t they?”

It’s a sentence I hear at least once a day – and that’s because it’s very true. Everybody, not just sweeps, has noticed how popular ‘real’ fireplaces have become over the past 12 years or so.

But why? How come people are eschewing more modern forms of heating for the first, most primitive form?

Here’s three main reasons

The 2007-2008 credit crunch and recession

Cast your mind back to that time and you will remember it as a period of great uncertainty. What started as a mortgage crisis in America, caused by hedge funds adding a lot of risk to the banking sector, quickly spread. In the UK, there were queues outside the (now defunct) Northern Rock bank; the RBS ‘Fred the Shred’ scandal, and the massive bailouts which followed.

Banks which, up until that point, were seen as beacons of trust and stability, were suddenly the subject of massive scrutiny and vitriol. This was heightened when the knock-on effect on public finances became evident. Services cuts, tax rises… all at a time when millions were feeling the pinch.

Soaring gas prices

In my area, the North West of England, a massive conversion from solid fuel to gas took place in the 1970s and 80s. Boilers and fires were converted in their tens of thousands. So pretty much whole areas were dependent on gas, which is fine when the prices were lower.

However, as the recession started to bite, gas prices started to climb – precisely at the time when pay packets were being squeezed or even ripped up entirely as many were being made redundant.

Suddenly, people were panicking about not being able to keep control of their energy bills.

Hygge – A cultural change 

In the early ‘noughties’, there had been a gradual movement towards a slower, more simple pace of life.

Shows like River Cottage, extolling the virtues of simply, homegrown and homecooked food, were very popular. We had, perhaps unknowingly at that time, started to embrace the concept of ‘hygge’.

Pronounced ‘hooga’, it originates from Denmark and means ‘cosiness’… enjoying the simple things in life.

I first read about this concept on a trip to Denmark in the early 1990s. A decade later it was being written about in lifestyle mags in the UK. We’ve always loved Scandinavian ideals (think IKEA) so it was no surprise that we took to hygge.

No ‘hygge home’ is complete without a solid fuel fire

And the result was…

The wood burning stove. It ticked every box – you could control your heating bills and also have that lovely hygge feeling all in one.

It became something of a status symbol for the modern age, something to impress your friends with. Skills such as fuel sourcing and wood cutting, which hadn’t been talked about for years, were suddenly being learnt.

Fast-forward today and, although the financial issues seem to have faded, our love of hygge has remained.

People who didn’t grow up with solid fuel fires of any kind are now raising their own children in a home with one. I always say to customers that this is in itself a fantastic life skill, as their children will grow up learning to respect fire and understand how to stay safe. They won’t be paralysed with fear, as some were just a few years ago, at the thought of having ‘real’ flames inside their house.

Across the UK, the rate of stove installations is seemingly slowing down but, certainly in the areas I cover, there are still plenty of people getting them fitted. These days it’s more of a ‘heart’ rather than ‘head’ decision.

So it look as though the humble ‘real’ fireplace is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  

And that gives many, many people a warm feeling…

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service in Wigan, Stockport, St Helens, Ormskirk, Chorley and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

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