Fireplaces I have known

They're one of the most ubiquitous aspects of 19th century houses, a feature that functions as both a source of warmth and light and a decorative element in the interior design of the house (as so many things do). We see a lot of fireplaces during our work in the city, as we record 19th century buildings damaged by the earthquakes. Some of them are elaborate, some of them are basic and some of them have been modified over the last century, evolving to reflect changing fashions and taste in interior design. All of them have a story to tell. The following images include some of the best and most interesting examples seen by our buildings archaeologists as they investigate the built heritage of the city. Going for the elegant yet minimal look to start with. An example of a plain 19th century cast iron coal register in an early 20th century timber surround. Image: P. Mitchell.

Often, the fireplaces found in historic houses display evidence of modification over the century. This 19th century tiled fireplace, for example, has a 1920s timber surround. Image: P. Mitchell.

This lovely example was found in the master bedroom of a house constructed between 1883 and 1887. Although the cast iron plates date to somewhere between the 1880s and 1890s, the surrounds appear to be 1920s modifications. Image: F. Bradley.

The original wallpaper visible behind the 1920s surround in the previous photograph. Image: F. Bradley.

Unfortunately, this beautifully ornate "timber as marble" surround had been removed before it could be photographed in situ. Still, it's pretty cool. Image: P. Mitchell.

This is my/Peter's personal favourite. The 19th century cast iron coal register was painted to look like brick before being boarded up, probably in the 1960s. Image: P. Mitchell.

Another modified 19th century fireplace, with 20th century bricks in a timber surround. Image: P. Mitchell.

One of the more unusual fire surrounds we've come across, with neoclassical ionic columns featuring on either side. Image: p. Mitchell.

A plain cast iron coal register with a moderately ornate timber surround. Image: P. Mitchell.

This beautiful example from an 1860s heritage building in Kaiapoi has the most fantastic tiles.

See? Gorgeous. Image: K. Webb.

From the same house,a  slightly different form of fireplace. This coal range... Image: K. Webb.

More ornate decoration, this time on the cast iron coal register, which has had its tiles removed. It probably went with the timber surround shown above. Image: P. Mitchell.

I think the columns on this one look a bit like chair legs. Image: K. Webb.

Another example with cool tiles. Image: K. Webb.

See? Image: K. Webb.

And yet another. Image: K. Webb.

Peter Mitchell, Kirsa Webb, Francesca Bradley and Jessie Garland.