ESSE began back in 1854 with a simple mission: to create the cleanest-burning, highest quality stoves and range cookers. ESSEs have been relied upon in some of the world's most demanding environments - from the kitchens of the Savoy, to Scottish bothys and royal residences, and they're still built here in the UK.
Beautifully hand-crafted cast iron ESSE cookers are the British-built models of choice at River Cottage and Humble by Nature, as well as having been chosen by Shackleton, Scott, Florence Nightingale and more.
ESSE has been at the forefront of heating and cooking innovation in Britain since 1854. Today, ESSE heating and cooking products remain some of the cleanest-burning and most efficient appliances available.
On June 4th 1816 James Smith was born in Edinburgh. He was the second child and eldest son of James and Anna Smith. His father had been a shawl manufacturer in Paisley, but had moved to Edinburgh to set up a shawl merchants business there.
By the time James was sixteen he had ten brothers and a sister, and was looking around for a career. The more he thought about it the more he was swayed by his friend Stephen Wellstood, who had emigrated to New York some years before.
So James set off to make his fortune in a romantic style, on foot. He had heard that a barque was soon to set sail from Greenock to New York. In New York he apprenticed himself to a metal worker, his friend Wellstood helping him by signing his indenture papers as his 'guardian'.
After completing his apprenticeship, James worked with a manufacturer in the metal work business in New Orleans before setting up on his own in State Street, Jackson Mississippi.
The business appeared to have prospered immediately because after just two years, James could afford to visit Scotland to marry the girl he chose nine years before, at the age of sixteen. Her name was Anne Wells Brown and they set off for a new life in Jackson. While the business prospered, Anne's health did not. The hot climate was wearing her down, and after a dozen years of it, it became evident that something had to be done.
James made the biggest decision of his life. He had successfully been making and selling stoves in America and it occurred to him that the type he specialised in was unknown in Britain. He would go home with his wife and five children and set up business there.
So it was that in 1854 James returned to Scotland and made arrangements to set up a business making ESSE stoves. He returned to the States to hand over his old business to his younger brother, Robert A Smith, and his adventures began all over again.
On September 17th 'SS Arctic', the steamer that he was aboard, was involved in a collision with the 'Vesta'. James spent three days and two nights awaiting rescue aboard a makeshift raft before being rescued by the 'Cambria'. James returned to Scotland and the business of manufacturing ESSE cookers and stoves flourished.
During the late 1800s James introduced his stoves and cookers to the wealthy Victorian market in Edinburgh.
In 1854, on a return trip to America, James was dramatically shipwrecked in the Atlantic and survived by floating in a zinc-lined wicker basket until he was rescued three days later.
Soon after, James formed a business partnership with his old friend Stephen Wellstood, and the company became known as Smith and Wellstood. Later, with the addition of a third partner, George Ure, the group opened an iron foundry at Bonnybridge called 'The Columbian Stove Works'.
It was at this point the ESSE brand was created, with the French-sounding name reflecting the fashion at the time.
Florence Nightingale was passionate about ESSE cookers and would use no other brand at her hospital in Balaclava.
Famous British explorers, Shackleton and Scott, also relied on ESSE to provide hot food and warmth to their expedition team in some of the world's coldest and most inhospitable places.
This tradition is followed by top British climber Alan Hinkes, who uses a specially adapted ESSE Solo to heat his base camp in the Himalayas.
Early ESSE stoves were primarily designed for the burning of different types of coal. Circa 1910 the ESSE Pioneer Stove was an innovative wood burning stove.
The design allowed smoke re-burning to take pace above the firebox before the waste gases entered the flue. Many modern stoves claim to be the originator of this idea, but the ESSE Pioneer refutes these claims. The Pioneer was made in three sizes.
Today, wood burning has had something of a renaissance and ESSE makes dedicated woodburning cookers and stoves, alongside multi-fuel appliances.
By the mid 1900s, ESSE stoves, fires and range cookers were warming all manor of households - from royalty to remote rural homesteads. The ESSE poster, circa 1950, captures the spirit of ESSE products.
Smith & Wellstood was acquired by the Ashby family, who owned the Ouzledale Foundry Company in Barnoldswick, Lancashire.
They expanded the range of products with the Firemaster brand of open fires and dog grates. Each cooking range and stove was - and still is - hand built by skilled craftsmen at the foundry, using traditional methods.
It was at this time that an ESSE range cooker achieved its screen debut, appearing with Special Agent 007 James Bond in a 'View to a Kill.'
Over the years, ESSE has introduced many new products to their range. 1999 saw the new 'Vista' win 'Best Oil/Gas Stove of the Year' at a major heating industry awards ceremony.
In the same year, ESSE also launched a revolutionary, oil-fired central heating cooker that was powerful enough to heat a home with five or six bedrooms.
ESSE continually develops innovative range cookers and stoves, and in 2000 launched the Electric ESSE, the ultimate combination of authentic range cooking and modern living convenience.
It features a high-tech ceramic hotplate, grill and a flueless central heating option.
The Electric ESSE marked another milestone for the company in range cooker design, and plans were made to launch a whole new line-up of range cookers.
2002 saw the launch of a new range of stoves, including the revolutionary 500 Flueless gas stove. Using patented catalytic technology, unrivalled styling and engineering features, the 500 Flueless continued to position ESSE at the forefront of product development and design.
A new range of 'Fireart' contemporary stoves was introduced, mixing a variety of styles and materials to offer a new product range designed for 21st century modern living. ESSE also expanded their sales operation in British Columbia and Europe.
The Home Building and Renovating show in March 2003 saw the preview of the new four oven ESSE. The 'Plus 2' model effectively doubled the cooking capability of any ESSE cooker and attracted lots of interest and significant forward orders.
Also new for 2003 were a range of new colours and a high performance extractor hood suitable for the Electric ESSE.
Launched in 2004, the Ironheart cooking stove was inspired by modern European influences for log burning cookers. Yet paradoxically, it revives some of the design principles behind the very first ESSE cooking stove dating back to 1854. This made it the perfect ESSE product to mark our 150th anniversary year.
The Ironheart combines the two things ESSE does best, joining a superb multi-fuel stove with a traditional range cooker.
We launched our stylish range of wall hung, flueless gas heaters in 2005. The 'Firewall' range has evolved since then and now incorporates a variety of formats and finishes - steel, ultra stylish black glass and glass reinforced concrete (GRC).
They bring warmth and style to any wall and can be placed anywhere with a gas supply. Perfect for any contemporary living space.
Launched in 2006, the Woodfired cooker is designed for continuous use and can easily be kept alight for long periods. Inside its unique firebox, combustion is so effective that virtually all of the fuel is 'incinerated' cleanly, producing maximum heat and minimal ash. As a result, it will require only occasional ash removal.
Today, the Woodfired is the cooker of choice for those seeking a carbon neutral alternative fuel, and it is the preferred brand at River Cottage. Gill Meller, head chef at River Cottage, also cooks on a woodfired ESSE at home.
Woodfired models include domestic hot water and central heating options, alongside the original cooking-only model.
The latest model in the 300 series of convector stoves further illustrates our award-winning ways. It offers a larger output - up to 7kW/h - and like all 300 series models, enables an inefficient open fireplace to be quickly and easily converted. This provides greater efficiency and improved heating, with minimum installation disruption.
In 2008 ESSE became the cooker of choice at River Cottage HQ in Devon. Initially we installed an Ironheart as the sole source of heat while the ancient farmhouse was being restored.
Next came an ESSE cooker for the farmhouse kitchen, which can be regularly seen in action on the popular Channel 4 series. Head chef Gill Meller and River Cottage front man Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall also use Woodfired ESSEs for cooking at home.
Above right: Head chef Gill Meller bakes bread in their Ironheart.
The appeal of our woodburning stoves has continued to grow with the introduction of new contemporary styling options for our popular 100 and 500 models.
The 125 and 525, as they are known, feature clean contemporary lines creating a chic and stylish overall appearance.
The ESSE 990 was introduced in 2011 and is our cleanest wood-fired cooker to date, further affirming our position as an industry leader.
When assessing the emission levels, the testing house had to check their own equipment was working correctly, as readings were so low.
'Plus' companion cookers to complement a main cooker are made available in wood, electric and gas enabling a greater combination of fuel types and cooking opportunities, such as efficient electric cooking with the warmth of an added woodfired oven.
Ironheart is made available in gas allowing a new audience to enjoy the country charm of Ironheart with the ease-of-use of gas appliances.
By 2013, at least three ESSEs were in almost constant use at River Cottage; the Ironheart, the CAT Gas and the Fire Stone outdoor oven.
This year, three ESSE stoves were also specified for Prince Charles' Dumfries House and two ESSE range cookers for Kate Humble's Humble by Nature.
In 2016, ESSE extended its colour range to include a contemporary Matte Black finish on range cookers (alongside 19 vitreous enamels) and a choice of six unique shades on the complete British-built stove collection.
This year also saw ESSE unveil the 990 EL; a versatile electric range cooker for the modern kitchen.
Spring saw the arrival of a new model and seven contemporary new finishes on ESSE’s flueless wall-mounted gas fires. The Portrait and Landscape models were joined by the wonderfully organic Oval and the traditional black glass finish was supplemented by a range of exciting natural textures including ruby, bronze or grey steel and iron ore.
In autumn, the new low-emission 550SE arrived – just in time for a cosy family Christmas – with a fresh streamlined design and clean-burning credentials. Tall, dark and handsome, the 550SE features cleaner lines, longer legs and an oversize clear glass window offering an enticing view of the natural flames dancing within.
The new year marked the arrival of a landmark new product for ESSE: the stylish and practical Vector electric heater. Combining elegant form with effortless function, the Vector is the first ESSE product that customers can buy and take home with them the same day.
Unmistakably an ESSE, this exciting new addition to the range introduces ESSE to a new generation of urban, design-aware customers looking for an elegant piece of functional furniture while offering the kind of ‘plug and play’ flexibility demanded by busy modern lifestyles.
Hard on the heels of the Vector came another ground-breaking product: the 500 EL compact electric range cooker. Designed to fit into even the most bijou kitchen-diners, this innovative new cooker combines the practicality of a modern oven with the style, elegance and amazing roasting and baking qualities of an ESSE.