Clarke’s Pyramid Food Warmer

Market Lavington Museum has one of these wonderful nursery aids which probably dates from the early twentieth century.

The information below comes from the Science Museum website.

‘Pyramid’ food warmer invented by Samuel Clarke, England, 1888-1920

This device could be used to heat a pint of milk, keep food warm or to prepare pap. Flour or bread was mixed with milk diluted with water to make pap, which could be used to wean infants off breast milk. The metal jug was filled with hot water and the ceramic pannikin was placed inside it. The jug was then placed in the stand. To provide heat a lit candle or a tea-light was placed underneath. The device was trade marked by Samuel Clarke as a ‘Pyramid’ food warmer as the different parts stack up like a pyramid.

Here is the device.

Clarke's Pyramid Food Warmer at Market Lavington Museum

Sadly, the lid has needed repair but we can still see the warning messages about the dangers of fire and to health.

The lid - damaged but with warning messages still visible

The food warmer was used as a nursery item and users were warned that the milk should be boiled before being used in the warmer. Apart from anything else, boiling helped to avoid the dread disease known as consumption which we call tuberculosis. This was a real concern before the days of pasteurised milk.

But for the child in the nursery that probably was not so important. Perhaps they liked the tongue twister type rhyme on the warmer.

A slogan in the form of a rhyme for children to enjoy

When nights are dark then think of Clarke
Who’s hit the mark precisely
For his night-lights create light-nights
In which you see quite nicely.

Even the tray for the night light has been given decoration, although in use and with a night light on it, this would not be seen.


The tray for the night light

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9 Responses to “Clarke’s Pyramid Food Warmer”

  1. Ade O'Maolain Says:

    I have one of these!! I thought it was a lamp! no lid though but the base is in perfect order – thanks for answering my interest in what it was for. Adrian

  2. Robert Ellis Says:

    We too have one but the lid is in better condition than the photo We don’t have the metal base however.

  3. Jim Sapp Says:

    Very few people know very much about Clarke’s Food Warmer and Pannikin. The following link will explain what it is and when it was patented in the US. However, the original design was introduced in 1855.

    Click to access Clarke_Pannikin_Part_I.pdf

  4. Pauline Dyer Says:

    I have one with no damage but there is a fluted glass with a hole at the top that we thought goes over the saucer and shields the night light. It fits perfectly. Do you think this is from something else. It seems ideal for protecting the candle from draughts or protecting the child. Would be interested in your comment.

  5. james Says:

    got the small dish bit and the warmer but no lid or any metal bits its a unusual thing with a good talking point but are they worth any thing these days

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      I’m afraid that’s not a question we bother with at our museum. The value to us is in the link to our parish.

      Have you tried seeing if any are sold on Ebay. That’d give you an idea of cash value.



  6. james Says:

    thanks will have a look but as its rare i think there will be no chance of finding one still it is an interesting thing and a good talking point

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