Cast Iron Cauldron ID

  • Hey Guest, We've had to cancel our 2020 Summer BushMoot PLEASE LOOK HERE for more information.

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
578
UK
HI All,

Not strictly a bushcraft question but maybe someone on here can help ID these cast iron cauldrons which are currently lying in the yard of an old Welsh farmhouse. Another farmhouse a few miles up the road has a slightly bigger one.

The biggest has a lid, feet, four spigots and is about 32" across,

image2.jpeg

The two smaller ones are about 22" across, do not have feet, one has spigots and a lid (which may or may not go with it) and the one with the broken lip has a drainage hole.

image1.jpeg

Only one has a drain hole and there is no lip for pouring.

I'm familiar with copper washing cauldrons (but assumed that they were always made of copper), is this an iron version or does anyone have any suggestions.

As ever many thanks! :)
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
578
UK
We have cast iron "coppers" on the farm. They get used as temporary water troughs.
They wouldn't have spigots on though.
Thanks - by “spigot”, I mean the four projections from the sides not taps although one of them has a drainage hole at the bottom which looks like it could have a tap fitted to it.

I guess they are iron “coppers” then.

I was thinking of using them as planters which would mean drilling holes in the bottom - I didn’t want to do it if they were something unusual or rare.
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,697
1,780
S. Lanarkshire
See before you drill them, and ruin them, away and price them!

Type
Cast iron cauldron, vintage
into Google images.

I haven't seen your's so cannot verify anything, but they look 1800's, and they were used not so much as laundry coppers but as sugar boilers, for fat rendering, etc.,

The main issue with iron and laundry is that the water and chemicals used in laundering cause verdigris which rots wool, and stains linens.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Janne

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
578
UK
See before you drill them, and ruin them, away and price them!

Type
Cast iron cauldron, vintage
into Google images.

I haven't seen your's so cannot verify anything, but they look 1800's, and they were used not so much as laundry coppers but as sugar boilers, for fat rendering, etc.,

The main issue with iron and laundry is that the water and chemicals used in laundering cause verdigris which rots wool, and stains linens.
Thanks, I have been but can’t find anything exactly like them and the descriptions are all a bit vague and many seem to focus on their potential as a prop for the opening scene of “the Scottish Play”!

The guy up the road who had a single larger one thought that it might have been for boiling pigs - maybe but rendering fat seems more likely.

I’m loathe to ruin something of genuine interest or value (they are not as “pretty” as some on the Bay of E in the States) but they would make cracking planters!

Edit: Just checked and two of the cauldrons have 3 (rather than 4) spigots/projections which suggests they were hung over a fire rather than set into stone or brickwork.
 
Last edited:

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,451
1,497
McBride, BC
From the iron cauldrons that I have seen in pioneer museums on the Canadian prairies, I'll say they are for rendering fat.
Particularly pigs and bison.

Rocky Mountain House was a Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post in what is now Alberta.
Every year, the Post had a quota of pemmican to be made up in 90 lb bison hide bags to feed the travelling traders.
The original recipe was 50/50 rendered bison fat and pounded, dried bison meat.
HBC records show that RMH made 44,000lbs of pemmican using 22,000lbs rendered fat
and that they did it all in just 9 days.
"Mate? Can you spare us a cauldron or two?" .
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nomad64

Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
12,368
2,260
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Nice, antique cauldrons!

I would keep the nice ones in one piece, unmolested, clean them up, preserve them with a bit of linseed oil.
The broken ones - drill, plant, do whatever you fancy!
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,697
1,780
S. Lanarkshire
Those big ones were often sat upon a metal ring on legs set securely into the ground. The spikes at the side rested on the ring and if you lift one then the other two act a bit like a fulcrum and let you pour. The only other one I've seen had three, I note that your ones have four though. The fire could be lit beneath the raised pot. They're heavy enough empty, but full of boiling something or other, they'd be a right pain to hang.
The other way is to build, like the old fashioned washing copper (maybe why there's a confusion :dunno:) on a raised brick surround with the fire inside like a brick oven.

M
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
578
UK
Those big ones were often sat upon a metal ring on legs set securely into the ground. The spikes at the side rested on the ring and if you lift one then the other two act a bit like a fulcrum and let you pour. The only other one I've seen had three, I note that your ones have four though. The fire could be lit beneath the raised pot. They're heavy enough empty, but full of boiling something or other, they'd be a right pain to hang.
The other way is to build, like the old fashioned washing copper (maybe why there's a confusion :dunno:) on a raised brick surround with the fire inside like a brick oven.

M
My mistake - two of the cauldrons have 3 rather than 4 spigots/spikes.

The bigger one has legs/feet but the smaller ones are smooth.

Be interesting to see a picture of one in use.

EDIT I think I’ve found a description from over the pond

http://vinemaple.net/studio/2009/11/the-cauldron-beneath-the-kitchen/
 
Last edited:

Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
12,368
2,260
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Also there were two types of cauldrons to be used on cast iro stoves.
As you know, on top of these stoves, there are areas with removable rings.
Remove enough rings so the cauldron sits securely inside thus created hole, and is heated by the fire directly.
There were two types of cauldrons. One type with a flat narrow rim, that fitted perfectly into the hole, snugly, thus preventing any smoke penetrating into the room.
These cauldrons were made usually by the company that manufactured the stove.

On fishing boats, they too used this system. They had not only cooking cauldrons of cast iron, but copper cauldrons for heating up water for washing yourself, plus copper ( later aluminium) pots to make coffee in.
All were specific for the ship stove. Those stoves were very special, could be heated either by wood or coal, but also by fish or whale oil.
If the rim was chipped, the cauldron was rejected. They could not risk a fire on the boat for obvious reason.

The second type had nubs instead of the ring, they were more generic and were ‘aftermarket’ cheap stuff, that did not fit 100% in the holes on top if the stove.
That was in Sweden and Norway, but I guess in UK too?

I found a small collection of various cauldrons incl. ship stuff and even an Aluminium coffee pot in the cellar in the house I got in Norway, sadly most cauldrons have been used as pot plants, or are rusted through.
 
Last edited: