Turnspit Dogs

These dogs are now extinct, and few records survive of them as they were so badly treated; in fact, they only really existed in order to be mistreated.

Back in the days when large animals were roasted in big country stoves with chimneys bigger than modern flats, the heat meant that constant turning was required, like a large version of kebabs. There are accounts centuries ago of old ladies being paid to sit by the fire turning while the family was busy at work, but when you visit country houses, you sometimes see a wheel above and to the side of the large fireplace in the kitchen.

I have seen them in St Briavels Castle, now Youth hostel o

There is even this depiction of one carved into an old bench end:

The dogs were also said to have been used as footwarmers in church services, and there is a story that during a sermon, the word ‘wheel’ was mentioned, and all the dogs fled.

The invention of the fire jack which was turned by the heat was not just an end to cruelty, it also turned in response to the heat, so did the job better. There were also clockwork driven spits.

This is a more modern version of the arangement, this time with two dogs together, churning butter. this looks more like a gentleman’s joke than a real invention:

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8 thoughts on “Turnspit Dogs

  1. Oh, my goodness! I learn something new from you all the time, Barb. I knew dogs were used for hunting and protection, etc. but never imagined they would be used in the kitchen too!

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Dog: The Cook’s Little Helper | Rachel Laudan

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