What are Kitchens, Sculleries, and Larders?

Kitchens were used for cooking and usually connected to larders, entrances, sculleries, dining-rooms, sideboard-rooms, servant-Halls, steward-rooms, housekeeper’s room, and still-rooms. The most important features of a good kitchen was coolness, dryness, and good lighting. Ventilation was also of primary importance because people did not want odors or cooking smells permeating into a family’s living quarters or greeting guests at the front door.

Kitchens, sculleries, and larders: Victorian Kitchen Maids

Victorian kitchen maids. Public domain.

There were also several other things to consider when it came to kitchens. These included floors, entrances, and size. Stone floors were considered the best and the most practical because they helped keep the kitchen dry and cool, but wood floors were also acceptable. Kitchens also usually had several entrances or exits that included one from a corridor, one to the scullery, and one to the larders. If a kitchen garden was present, it was also nice to have a door that opened onto it. A kitchen for a small house might be no larger than 15 feet square with its ceilings at least 10 feet high. However, in mansions the kitchen was usually somewhere between 18 and 30 feet with a ceiling of 20 feet not considered too high.

It was always important to think about placement and access to a Kitchen. If kitchens were placed on lower floors, there was always the danger of overheating the floors above. Entrances from the kitchen to the dining-room also needed to be as direct as possible, which meant no interfering traffic because direct routes allowed meals to be delivered to the dining-room as quickly as possible, thereby ensuring meals remained hot and fresh.

There were also several other helpful features to allow meals to be served efficiently. Kitchens might contain a “delivery-hatch” or “lifting sash or shutter.” This was similar to the medieval “buttery hatch.” It allowed servants to pick up trays of food without entering a busy kitchen. There also might be a service-closet or servants’-hall, which also made it convenient to serve meals without entering the kitchen. If kitchens were on lower floors or in the basement, besides a special dinner-stair needed to carry meals to diners, there was sometimes a lift. However, lifts had more of tendency to transmit smells and odors from the kitchen into upper floor rooms and so special attention had to be paid to guard against it if a lift was used.

Kitchens - Kitchen Boy, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Kitchen boy. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Most kitchens were also equipped with a variety of cooking methods and ways to store cooking supplies. Among the most common cooking methods was the fireplace, roaster, and/or stove/oven. Hot-closets or hot-tables were also useful as they kept foods warm. Kitchen dressers (usually fixed to the wall and called dressers because they were used for arranging or working upon something) were another general feature found in most kitchens. They often had drawers underneath and accommodated cooking utensils. The dressers also usually covered the wall space to a height of 7 feet and had hooks or shelves that held important items such as dinnerware, copper pots, jugs, and mills, such as coffee, pepper, or spice mills.

Centrally located in almost all kitchens was an ordinary kitchen table. It usually ranged in size from 8 to 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. This was the heart of the kitchen and the spot where most meals were prepared. Theses tables were also centrally located to make it convenient to reach things such as stoves, ovens, fireplaces, dressers, and larders. Sometimes these tables also had slots so that marble slabs or chopping blocks could be inserted and used.

In superior homes, there might also be a couple of other rooms related to kitchens. One was called an outer-kitchen. This room was separate from the cooking kitchen and was used primarily for making pastries but could also be used for the master or mistress of the house to confer with the kitchen staff. Such a room was generally decorated similar to a housekeeper’s room with nothing more than a dresser, a table, and perhaps rails for dishcovers. Another room sometimes used if a male cook was hired, was called the cook’s-room and was used by the male cook to “reflect upon the mysteries of his art and consult his authorities.”

Kitchens - Scullery Maid, Public Domain

Scullery maid. Public domain.

There were several other rooms associated with kitchens. These rooms included the scullery, dairy and dairy-scullery, and larders.

  • The Scullery: The scullery was used for washing dishes, pots, and pans, and also for preparing vegetables, fish, game, etc. Entrance into a scullery came from the kitchen and most sculleries did not have direct access to such rooms as the larder, dairy, pantry, or store-room because the steam and vapors generated in the scullery might affect foods stored in them. Most sculleries also had some sort of outdoor passageway that not only allowed outdoor cleaning but also allowed easy access to coal bins, wood-houses, or ash-bins. At the same, the passageway was not meant to serve as the back entrance to a house, so usually another entrance was designated as the back entrance. If a scullery was large it might accommodate a second stove, but the main goal of this room was to clean and wash dishes. Therefore, sinks or some sort or washers were necessary. To dry dishes, plate racks were usually placed above the sinks, and these drained into drip boards that were slightly inclined and grooved. Additionally, because the scullery dealt with water, the floor was usually paved. It also usually contained a drain trap in one corner that carried off water, but the drainage needed to be good to avoid unpleasant odors.
  • Dairy and Dairy-Scullery: The dairy was generally close to the kitchen. It was an area that was cool and well ventilated as the ideal temperature for all seasons in a dairy was 50 to 55 degrees fahrenheit. In cold areas there might also be glass windows to help prevent the dairy from freezing. Tiles, glazed bricks, or marble were the types of material suitable for a dairy, and, floors were usually made of stone with drainage that allowed “copious cleanings” so unpleasant odors did not occur. Walls could also be lined with plaster or tiles, and there was usually one wide (usually 2 foot) tier of shelves all around the dairy. These shelves were often made from stone or slate and held milk-dishes or trays of milk. Adjoining the dairy might be a dairy-scullery used to scald and clean any vessels used in the dairy. Cheese and butters could also be churned here. However, if a dairy-scullery was absent, milk vessels were cleaned in the kitchen scullery and churning was done in the dairy. If no dairy was available, then the cook’s pantry served these purposes.

Placement of larders was said to be best on the north side of a house so as that it would be sheltered from the south and west suns. Windows were suggested all around (with some sort of wire gauze to keep flies out), a ventilator at the top, and a stone floor (although wood could also do) with an overhanging roof. The size of larders also varied depending on a person’s requirements and could range from 8 feet to 15 feet square.

In general there were two main types of larders, the dry larder and wet larder. Yet, no matter the Larder, the primary consideration was ventilation, dryness, and the temperature. Coolness was also important, but it was not the only thing that helped to keep foods fresh.

  • Dry Larders: Dry larders housed cold meats, bread, pastry, milk, etc. These larders usually had a broad dresser (slate or marble as they promoted coolness) without drawers and two or three tiers of shelves. Refrigerators cooled by ice were used during warm months to keep temperatures cool and some sort of hot-water circulation was required to prevent the temperature from freezing during winter. These rooms also contained some sort of drain to carry away waste water, and these drains needed to be secured so that vermin did not penetrate the larder.
  • Wet Larders: The wet larder was were all uncooked meats—poultry, game, fish, etc—were kept. Sometimes wet-larders were an inner compartment of a kitchen and accessed through the Pantry. Wet-larders accommodated meats by using bearers and overhead sliding hooks that held meats, game, etc. Underneath the meat was often a table or a chopping block. There also tended to be some sort of device or balance to weigh meats. Generally, an ice-box or ice-cooled refrigerator was found in these rooms too. Vegetables and fruits were sometimes placed in special compartments in wet-larders and sometimes there were two compartments in a larder—an inner and outer room—with the inner room kept under lock and key because it contained more expensive meats. If great coolness was needed, a wet larder might also be lined with tiles but a paved floor was definitely required.

Besides the dry larder and wet larder, there were several special larders. These included game and fish larders, pastry-larders, and salting-rooms, bacon-larders and smoking houses.

  • Game and Fish Larders: All the principles of wet larder were still in force in this type of a larder. The primary difference between a wet larder and this type of larder was it contents, that being, only game and poultry were stored here. Similar to wet larders it used bearers and hooks overhead, and it tended to have a slate or marble dresser located somewhere in the room. A fish larder was different from a game or meat larder in that it required few hooks and was more likely to hold a marble or slate table that surrounded the room.
  • Pastry-Larders: Also called a pastry-room or pastry, the pastry-larder was conveniently located next to the kitchen or still-room. It was used for making and storing pastries with the baking of these items done in the kitchen or still-room. The room was usually surrounded by wall shelves and contained a dresser. The dresser was used for making pastries and frequently contained deep drawers for flour, sugar, etc. Most dressers had at least a 3 foot long piece of marble in the middle and sometimes at one end a flour box with a hinged cover and at the other end a sink. pastry-larders were warmer than most Larders with one of the most important aspects being dryness. Therefore, such rooms were usually created of wood and included wood floors and wood walls. Pastry-larders also needed to be readily accessible to ovens. If no pastry-larder was available, a pastry-dresser in the still-room served the same purpose. However, in superior houses, there might be an amplified pastry-room called the confectionery where pastry chefs completed their work.
  • Salting-Rooms, Bacon-Larder and Smoking House: If salting meat was done occasionally, a salting-room might be unnecessary, but when it was necessary, salt-rooms were usually placed on the ground floor, in a basement, or in an outbuilding (considered by many people to the be the best choice). Salting-rooms had the same requirements as larders, they needed to be cool and well ventilated. Salting-rooms varied from Larder rooms in that the dresser was usually stronger and a number of trays were placed along walls to allow pickling. Sometimes shelves served a pickling purpose with moveable trays that had waste-pipes attached to them to carry the brine to pots or barrels beneath. Because water was used in this room, a stone floor and drain were also necessary. Bacon-larders were usually fitted with a special rack to store bacon and bearers with hooks held hams. If there was no bacon-larder, a bacon-rack might be suspended in a wet larder from the ceiling. Otherwise, the salting-room could effectively serve this purpose. Smoking-houses could be created from an attached room 8 to 10 feet square or they could be a completely separate building. Generally, smokehouses contained bearers overhead to hang the meat, and they also had a fireplace. The fireplace was usually situated outside of the chamber and burned wood, sawdust, or peat. The smoke was then funneled into the chamber with the excess allowed to escape from the roof.


  • Kerr, Robert, The Gentleman’s House, 1865

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