Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Toast of the week - the Buggrit

In view of the cold weather, I should like to publish once more a celebration of a household electrical appliance that is older than I am and still fully functional - the Buggrit.

The Buggrit, or, to give it its proper name, the Belling Bed warmer, consists of two steel dishes that clamp together housing a standard fitting for a 40W light bulb. The design was developed in the 1930s as a way to heat up a cold bed before you got in - an updated version, if you will, of the ember-filled copper warming-pans of the Tavern's eighteenth-century namesake.

Our version is the fetching Germolene pink pictured above - though in its 1950's heyday it came in a variety of pastel colours - and was a much-appreciated asset in a household with no central heating; you simply plug it in and place it between the sheets well before bed-time, where it generates an impressive amount of heat.

There is, however, a significant drawback to this ingenious invention (particularly if your family, who have never believed in doing things by halves, have substituted a 60W bulb for the 40W one intended). It was many years before I realised that Buggrit was not, in fact, its official designation, the name having passed into family usage thanks to the rantings of the unfortunate guest who leapt into bed on a chilly night without removing the thing first.

Doubtless Health and Safety would have much to say about the bed warmer, and electric blankets and central heating - not to mention low-energy bulbs - have made it all but obsolete, but the simplicity of its design and fitness for purpose, as well as the fact it still works perfectly after 50 years, is something I consider worth celebrating.

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses to - the Buggrit!


  1. Bugger it - I knew I had something to add but age caught up with me.

  2. £2-6-0? A luxury indeed. In the 60s, my friend's father made a wooden version. It was a wooden framework with a fitting for a 40 watt bulb.

    Kitemark? What kitemark?

  3. Happens to all of us, JH; sometimes it's the only phrase that will do.

    AKH - it's a measure of just how cold our house was that the significant outlay was considered worthwhile.

    The other source of warmth, whose dismembered carcase still lurks in the ancestral shed, was the Flatley clothes airer - a steel box in which clothes were suspended above a heating element at the bottom.

    The top of the Flatley was the warmest place to sit in the house and was fiercely contested on chilly days.

  4. 'Germolene pink' - a very accurate description!

    Turing word: fabismic - see, even your spam filtyer is now commenting on this..!

  5. Julia, I think Germolene has been reformulated since the days of the pink stuff in a tin, but I can tell you from (unpleasant) experience that, should you have access to American sweets and wish for a Proustian moment of recall, sucking a wintergreen Lifesaver will bring it all back.

    AKH, thinking about it, I'm amazed my father didn't attempt a similar construction; I suspect it's simply because all his creative ventures involved ridiculous amounts of 2"x4" timber, and you'd have had to put the bed inside the box instead of the other way round.


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