I have always loved the aesthetic of cast iron stoves. Papa J’s dad had a beautiful old gas-converted AGA in his mudbrick house in the Southern Highlands, as well as a modern gas/electric AGA companion stove. My dad put a Falcon range in his kitchen in his Blackheath holiday house. They just felt so solid and looked beautiful.
When my beloved grandpa died, he left us a bit of money. I wanted to do something with it that would last. When I knew we would be spending a couple of winters in the shed, as well as trying to gently heat a straw bale house, I thought a wood-fired range would suit us really well. I had read David Holmgren’s book Melliodora in which he balances summer/winter cooking by having a wood-fired range as well as a small gas cooktop, and thought this was a great idea. They are also virtually indestructible and will last a lifetime.
It took a while to decide which stove to get. There were 2 main options, the Rayburn and the Esse. I had preferred the round hotplate design of the Esse from the beginning, and I knew the River Cottage UK team used Esse stoves, but I had read negative feedback about Esse’s customer service.
It was hard to find much information on the Rayburn, but I had assumed that if it was an AGA company, it must be good.
It was very hard to find reviews of these stoves, as they are a bit of a niche market. However I spoke to the helpful people at Pivot Stove and Heating and their assurance that they would be there to help with any issues made me feel confident in my decision to buy from them.
The main deciding factor in choosing the Esse 990 WN over other wood-fired range options was the fact that it has a glass door behind the firebox door. This enables it to let the heat out into the room when the cast iron door is open, or keep the heat in the stove with the door shut.
So far we have used it consistently for a couple of months when we first moved in, while it was still cool. We have also installed a small gas cooktop to use when the weather is warm, which has been a great summer alternative. I have still probably lit the stove once a week over summer and I just try to do a lot in that time.
I am looking forward to winter and having a constant gentle source of heating as well as a stove that is a delight to use. When the stove was first installed, we didn’t have quite enough bench left from the kitchen we pulled out, so it floated in the middle of some cupboards.
The stove is now positioned with some cabinetry on either side as well as a 2 burner gas cooktop (similar to Holmgren’s set up at Melliodora).