There’s nothing like a hottie!!

It must be my age, but I seem to be increasingly aware of the cold. Even though this winter has been mild, a fleece throw or a plump duvet is never a bad thing to have to hand for snuggling purposes.

Before central heating, electric blankets and the duvet (how well I remember my mother buying our first ‘continental quilt’ or duvet which seemed terribly racy at the time!) beds were usually warmed by the good old hot water bottle! Smelling of rubber and occasionally given to springing a leak they were, nonetheless, immensely comforting.
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As a child, I remember seeing an old copper warming pan hanging on someone’s wall and asking what it was. Being told it was used to ‘warm the bed’ in olden days, I spent a lot of time puzzling how you managed to not spill the hot water in such a weird, long-handled thing… not realising they used hot coals rather than water!

Warming pans were in use as early as the 16th century when life was an altogether chillier affair and such warmth must have been very welcome. Soon, containers using hot water were introduced, with the advantage that not only could you keep it in the bed with you, you also were also less likely to set fire to your bedding! As the discovery of rubber was still a long way off, these early hot water bottles were made of various materials such as zinc, copper, glass, earthenware or wood. To prevent burning, the metal hot water flasks were wrapped in a soft cloth bag.

‘India rubber’ hot water bottles were in use in Britain as early as 1875. The hot water bottle, as we know it today, was patented in 1903 and is manufactured in natural rubber or PVC. Not surprisingly, by the late 20th century, the use of hot water bottles had declined around most of the world. Not only were homes better heated, but newer items such as electric blankets were competing with hot water bottles as a source of night-time heat. However, there has been a recent surge in popularity in Japan where it is seen as an ecologically friendly and thrifty way to keep warm, and very sensible too!

There are all sorts of bed heaters on the market now and some of them function like the older bottles but use a polymer gel or wax in a heat pad. The pads can be heated in a microwave oven, and they are generally viewed as safer than liquid-filled bottles or electrically-heated devices. Some newer bottles use a silicone-based material instead of rubber, which resists very hot water better, and does not deteriorate as much as rubber.

Today, hot water bottles come in all shapes, sizes and colours and you can get lovely chunky knitted or prettily patterned fleece covers. They are cheap to buy, quick to prepare and easy to use so perhaps, as the Japanese have discovered, it’s time they made a bit of a comeback!

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8 Comments
8 replies
  1. Lynn Carey-Lyons says:

    We had one of the stone ones with the stopper on the side when I was a child, my dad would say that if we didn’t take it down in the morning then we didn’t get one that night! Went to bed many a night with all my clothes on!

    Reply
  2. Rosemarie says:

    I agree Joanna, there is something very comforting snuggling up with a hot water bottle. Even in our centrally heated home it is the comfort factor I think. So nice for cold feet, tummy ache or a bad headache, mine gets plenty of use. Love Rosemarie X

    Reply
  3. Susan says:

    When I was a little girl and I stayed with my grandmother, (no heating in the bedrooms) we had earthenware hot water bottles wrapped in a towel and slept under very cosy eiderdown quilted covers to keep us warm. In the morning we used the bottle water that was still warm to wash in as the water in the jug on the washstand sometimes had a thin layer on ice on top! There was no indoor bathroom and of course a potty under the bed was the order of the day. It’s not that long ago as I am only 66.
    I must admit that if my feet are cold I find it difficult to get to sleep and wear bed socks if it’s really cold here. We are on the edge of the Chilterns and it often dips down to minus 10C. However, as a retired chiropodist I would not recommend putting your feet directly onto a hot water bottle as it is not good for the circulation and may even encourage chilblains – something else that seems to be a thing of the past – thank goodness!

    Love your blog Joanna and Happy New Year to you and all.
    X

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  4. janet says:

    Interesting! I am kept warm by a whippet and have been through a succession of 3 of them! My old patients used to call HW bottles their ‘rubber husband’!! – it’s what they were bred for, and homes in mining communities in the past often had the same number of whippets as children. Whippets just know they are ‘bed dogs’!

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  5. Tracy Welham says:

    Despite have central heating I would much rather snuggle up with a hot water bottle, a good book and hot toddy but I also have a Newfoundland dog to keep me warm! A great way to save on the heating bill. Creative Blessings, Tracy x

    Reply
  6. Sue L says:

    I have just bought a 1/12th miniature hot water bottle for a modern Dolls house. Just got to make a cover for it and it will be slipped under the duvet. i use a real size one myself when feeling in need of some TLC along with a good book and chocolate…Bliss

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  7. Yvonne says:

    For all I live in a centrally heated house (not on at night I hasten to add ),my kitchen aka my craft room where we have a Rayburn has tiles on the floor and by bedtime my feet are consequently cold so in the winter on cold nights out come my bed socks and hot water bottle. BLISS.

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