Photography & words: © Anna Rubingh
Esse is the manufacturer of beautiful range cookers, a pride of many country kitchens. The Esse workshop is located in the middle of the beautiful Lancashire countryside in the north of England. There, all their famous range cookers and stoves are assembled by hand by a highly skilled workforce. ESSE uses British cast iron and steel and, wherever possible, British components.
The Esse stove company was founded 1854 by James Smith who had left for America in 1832 to make his future in the new world. After some wandering, he started a metal workshop in Jackson, Mississippi. Eventually, he brought his metal skills back to England and set up a new company manufacturing stoves. That was the foundation of Esse.
Florence Nightingale was so passionate about Esse cookers that she did not want to use any other brand in the field hospital in Balaclava. She wrote in a letter of appreciation in 1856:
“I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th January and to say that the stove you kindly sent us is now at the Castle Hospital, Balaclava. I beg to add that I have shown it to Monsieur Soyer, who greatly approved of it. Indeed, its merits were already known to him. I beg to repeat my thanks for this useful contribution.”
And polar explorer Ernest Shackleton used an Esse stove on the Antarctic to help feed and keep alive 15 freezing men throughout the winter of 1908. The hut with the stove still stands today on the Antarctic! “There are so many stories to tell about the long history of Esse,” Esse’s sales director Mark Blewitt tells me.
Back to the present in Barnoldswick, Lancashire where traditional stoves are made with craftsmanship and modern techniques, since 1854. "An Esse range cooker is made to last a lifetime, or longer."
In her Sussex Bluebell Farmhouse Kitchen, Philippa cooks up a autumnal feast on her Esse Ironheart