Portway stoves first began in the early 1800s when the owner of an ironmongery store took inspiration from the very first enclosed metal stoves which appeared in North America at the end of the 1700s. This man was called Charles Portway and he took this inspiration and custom built his own stove to help heat his store in Halstead.
After making one for his neighbour he established a small foundry manufacturing solid fuel stoves. This proved so successful that within the first 50 years he sold over 17,000 stoves. His business was doing so well that it lasted up till the 1980’s almost without any change.
Customers loved Portway’s stoves because they were efficient and burned so slowly that they extracted the maximum amount of heat from the fuel. Due to this they were named ‘Tortoise’ stoves and were produced with the motto ‘Slow but Sure’ displayed on the front.
Tortoise stoves were the first heating appliances to offer fuel efficiency as a major selling point- a point which has majorly affected the development of our industry today. This is widely believed, including by Robert Higgs, the chief executive of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association who argues that Portway was the “founding father of energy efficiency”.
Over time, Portway’s stoves were used to heat a range of different buildings including churches, halls and homes.
These 19th century stoves can still be found today, making them one of the oldest and most resilient products in the history of heating.