Cooking on my £ 1 Rayburn
Several years ago I was browsing a well- known internet auction site that my mum had got me into. Looking through some of my dream acquisitions, I saw a picture of a really sad- looking Rayburn cooker. The blurred picture showed it brown with rust, no doors, and it was advertised as in need of complete restoration. From the pictures that was an understatement, but it was for sale at 99 pence.
My husband, Jeff, and I carefully added up the potential cost of restoring it and decided it was worth bidding up to £ 50. We had seen many others go at five times that amount, so our hopes were not high as we sat with only 10 minutes to go hardly believing it was still at 99 pence. However, Mum, who was also watching the online bidding at her house, had warned us that in the last few seconds prices dramatically rise. Four seconds, three, two, gone!
We were now the proud owners of a dilapidated Rayburn from only a few miles down the road. The following weekend, with my brother to help us, we all turned up to see the horror we had bought. There “she” stood in the garage with chips on the front and on the top, but the doors were all intact. We looked at each other knowing it was in far better condition than we could have hoped. We were warned that the ash wheel etc. were broken, but all were replaceable so we went home happy.
Jeff got to work taking her apart; the ash wheel was cleaned with a wire brush and the sides stripped to bare metal, repaired and repainted. The boiler was in good condition so it was painted to ensure it did not rust. The lid was broken, but Jeff’s skills enabled him to braze it and I mixed some matching paint, filled and painted it so it did not show. In the summer we purchased a new top for £ 10. By now the cost was running away with us, the Rayburn had cost £ 20 including paint, filler, rock wool and the lid!
The chimney opening was far too small, so Jeff spent a few weeks opening it up, putting in new supports and repairing the brickwork. I painted the bricks and then it was time to bring her down, put her in pride of place and polish her. We held our breath readying ourselves to light this big beast knowing how temperamental they are. We decided that although the Rayburn was solid fuel it must run on wood as we had a free supply and it was a sustainable fuel. The Rayburn was lit and we saw the old beast coaxed back into life after years of slumber.
The warmth soon oozed gently from the doors and there was no sign of any smoke, so there were no leaks. We watched the oven gauge rise to over 500° F ( the Rayburn is a 1958 model and the thermodial is still in Fahrenheit). Eager to practise, we put an apple pie in, made some custard on the top, the kettle steamed away and, within a couple of hours, we sat down to a cup of tea with apple pie and custard. It may be me, but that was one of the best cups of tea I had ever tasted!
The same night as it was lit, we sat down to a meal cooked entirely on the Rayburn and went to bed knowing the clothes were drying next to it, all for free; a satisfying smug feeling! We also enjoyed central heating for the first time in our 300- year- old cottage as the money we saved bought radiators to fit onto the Rayburn allowing warmth throughout the house entirely free from the wood we collected. We said goodbye to costly storage heaters. It ran so efficiently, all that was left from a basket of wood, used all day, was a small shovelful, nothing was wasted.
One day, my daughter Holly decided to make her own bread from scratch without my help. The pride on her face as she took out her very
first loaf of bread was a picture that I will always remember.
My elderly neighbour became a regular visitor to our house during winter as she did not heat her house. She often sat at our table enjoying the old kitchen’s warmth, now though she came laden with fruit, freshly picked from her garden along with excess eggs from her hens. She would swap these for some freshly made bread from the oven, home- made soup, cakes or lemon curd and also enjoyed a cup of tea made from the kettle, steaming happily on the top.
Cooking became less of a chore and more of a game in our house as each one of us tried to get to the cooker first. Jeff got up in the morning to throw a bit more wood on, put the kettle on and, at the insistence of my daughter, put in his home- made rice pudding.
Life became fun again, as we saw how much power we could save, whose shirts were dried and ironed on the lid first and, best of all, we sat around the kitchen table in the evenings talking, eating and making Christmas decorations from the orange slices gently dried in the warming oven. We all agreed it was £ 1 well spent!
The author’s restored Rayburn purchased for £ 1.