Spotlight on… ESSE Stoves

In the latest spotlight series, we head north to the market town of Barnoldswick, Yorkshire, to learn about a company with a heritage that started in Scotland, via America, and has been a master stove maker since 1854. Introducing ESSE Stoves. 
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In the latest spotlight series, we head north to the market town of Barnoldswick, Yorkshire, to learn about a company with a heritage that started in Scotland, via America, and has been a master stove maker since 1854. Introducing ESSE Stoves. 

On June 4th, 1816, James Smith was born in Edinburgh. He was the second child and eldest son of James and Anna Smith. 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 clear 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. 

During the late 1800s James introduced his stoves and cookers to the wealthy Victorian market in Edinburgh. 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. 



From there, ESSE become known for warming British homes and hearts. Renowned founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale was passionate about ESSE cookers and would use no other brand at her hospital in Balaclava.  ESSE stoves were also used by famous explorers Shackleton, Scott and Hinkes, with them each using ESSE stoves in the most inhospitable places, such as heating base camps in the Himalayas.

Around 1985, Smith & Wellstood was acquired by the Ashby family, who owned the Ouzledale Foundry Company in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, the company’s current home. Current Directors Robert and Peter Ashby are the fifth generation to take directorship of the company. From there, the company has continued to innovate and introduce new products to the market, including solid fuel, oil, gas and electric product ranges. Launching 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 their 150th anniversary year. 

The Ironheart combines the two things ESSE does best, joining a superb multi-fuel stove with a traditional range cooker. Those who own an ESSE can join the ‘Owners Club’ for latest news, recipes and offers. ESSE also became the cooker of choice at River Cottage HQ in Devon, being used by Head chef Gill Meller and River Cottage front man Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, in the popular Channel 4 series. 

Since 2010, the product range continued at a pace; the ESSE 1000, Warmheart, Bakeheart and the ESSE 175 all being introduced to market. The range now includes 17 wood burning stoves and cookers as well as electric ranges. 

Continuing its innovation, 2023 saw the installation of twelve hundred solar panels, which can produce 250 kW of electricity adding up to over 2 million kW within its lifetime. Meeting MEES requirements, introduced by the government to improve energy efficiency and meet the UKs targets for decarbonisation, the solar PV system will allow ESSE to reduce its carbon footprint by producing clean energy and become less reliant on fossil fuel supply. ESSE’s reputation for producing high-quality, energy-efficient stoves and range cookers comes with a responsibility to keep up with the rapidly changing world. A devotion to being as good as can be, means developing some of the cleanest, most efficient and innovative heating and cooking appliances available today. 

Taking the step to proudly prove their British roots, ESSE gained the Made In Britain certification in 2015, with the products designed and made in Britain. Whilst proud to be British, the company is also keeping its eye on the future, collaborating with combustion scientists from the University of Manchester to develop its next generation of wood-fired stoves. 

HETAS is pleased to have ESSE stoves certified on our Cleaner Choice certification scheme. The scheme recognises stoves and boilers that meet the requirement of 50% Improvement on Clean Air requirements for particulates at both high and low output. Additionally, the independent certification schemes takes into account Energy Labelling & Ecodesign requirements, Building Regulations requirements along with UKCA/CE marking requirements.

ESSE products are available through its network of authorised dealers, where you will find most, if not all, of the ESSE range, along with ESSE Cookware. If you are in the Yorkshire area, call ahead to book a visit to the ESSE showroom and heritage stove museum, located in the Ouzledale Foundry, next to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. 


You can read a full history of ESSE stoves on their website. 

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