Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fly paper & chip heaters

My last post, Maslyn William's New England, introduced this writer. Later, I extended my analysis in a post on my personal blog, Problems with literature & locale.

In William's story of his life near Tenterfield in the 1920s there are references to day to day things now gone.

I wonder how many Australians now remember fly paper?

In sheep country like Tenterfield or Armidale, flies are common. Hiking through open country as a scout, the flies would gather around the back of the packs attracted by the salt. In houses without screens these flies were a constant problem. Fly paper - in our case a long yellow sticky paper hanging from the light or ceiling - was one answer because it attracted flies who then stuck.

Another thing now largely gone were chip heaters. Wikipedia describes them in this way:

The chip heater is a single point, tankless, domestic hot water system popular in Australia and New Zealand from c1880s until the 1960s. Examples of this form of domestic water heating are still in current use.

The chip heater consisted of a cylindrical unit with a fire box and flue through which a water pipe was run. Water was drawn from a cold water tank, circulated through the fire box and when heated was drawn off to the area where it was used typically in a bath or shower.

The fire box was relatively small and fed by newspaper, with pine cones, small twigs and chips from the wood heap. There often was an ash box under the fire box which also allowed air under the fire as well as various dampers in the flue. The use of chips from the wood pile gave the heater its name – chip heater.

Water was run in at a trickle otherwise it did not get very hot. The rate of combustion was controlled by the flues and the ash box. With lots of fuel and the flues open the water could be quickly boiled which was not a desirable result. With practice the correct combination of fuel, flue settings and water flow could result in a decent hot shower or bath in about 20 min.

We had a chip heater in the bathroom when we were young kids. There was a real excitement in lighting it and then keeping it fed while we waited for the water to heat for our bath!


Anonymous said...

When I married in 1957 we lived in a garage while house being built.I had a chip heater
for the heater.It was effective for the job but the noise coming from the flue when operating could be heard out to the street.Always knew when one or the other of us was having a shower..

Jim Belshaw said...

Sorry for the astonishing slow response, anon. I could imagine.