Historical Central Heating

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As the team gets ready for the Cornwall Home and Lifestyle Show (4 and 5 May at the Royal Cornwall Showground), we’ve been looking back at the history of central heating.


Here’s a few facts to help build the excitement ahead of show!


The ancient Greeks originally developed central heating

The temple of Ephesus had flues planted in the ground, which circulate the heat from a fire.


Some buildings in the Roman Empire used central heating systems

These systems conducted air heated by furnaces through empty spaces under the floors and out of pipes in the walls.

After the Roman Empire collapsed heating across Europe reverted to primitive fireplaces for almost a thousand years.


The three main forms of central heating were developed in the last 18thto mid-19thcenturies:

  • Hot air
  • Steam
  • Hot water


Hot air

William Strutt designed a new mill building in Derby with a central hot air furnace in 1793. The design featured a large stove that heated air brought inside by a large underground passage.


The system remanded the standard for the rest of the century.



Colonel Coke devised a system of pipes that would carry steam around the house from a central boiler, but it was James Watt the Scottish inventor who was the first to build a working system in his house.


A central boiler supplied high-pressure steam that then distributed the hhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Watteat within the building through a system of pipes embedded in the columns.


Hot water

In the 1700s there were hot water heating systems used in various locations, including the Summer Palace in St Petersburg. However, the systems were mainly used in greenhouses.


The introduction of smaller pipes and high pressure by Angier March Perkins improved the process, while many of his installations worked for over 150 years!



Franz San Galli invented the radiator between 1855 and 1857, while the Victorian cast iron radiator became widespread by the end of the 19thcentury.


Further reading

If you want to know more about radiators, see our radiator blog on the most common questions we’re asked here.

You can also find out more about heat pumps here or by asking one of our experts at the Cornwall Home and Lifestyle Show.