It is difficult to be certain with any degree of accuracy regarding Arora’s product range during the 1920s and early 1930s, as few records survive.
However, a catalogue dating from the mid-1930s illustrates that the firm were marketing over 35 different products. These included 17 different models of electric fires, 7 domestic appliances, 3 industrial products, numerous water heaters descriptions, several tubular heaters and two different models of car heaters.
Arora were using three different types of fire-bars.
- The first was the original “A” bars, available in 750-watt or 1500-watt variants, were the bars used in the original fires produced when the firm first set-up. The catalogue paid tribute to the durability of these bars stating that some had been in used for 12 to 18 years.
- The second was the more modern ‘honeycomb” bar, with “C” type windings, available in 1 K.W. loading. This fire-bar also reputedly had an exceptionally long life and had the advantage of having a glow effect. The catalogue states that “no other firebar in the world has yet reached this stage of excellence”.
- The third fire-bar was a variant of the “C” type in that it used the same honeycomb refractory but came with a more standard “Z” winding. Whilst the latter were slightly cheaper than the “C” type, they were not as robust, with a life of around twelve months.
The fires had a three-part terminal block fitted as standard, fitted with either two yards of either two- or three-core circular flexible cable.
It appears that only the “projector” fire was available with a 1.5 K.W. option. This fire had a chromium reflector at the back of the tube element, with a cast-iron frame and pedestal, finished in “shaded silver”. It was also designed to swivel allowing a kettle to be boiled upon it.
One of the most popular fires was the “Haven”, a free-standing fire, available in 90 standard variants. It could be purchased with 1-, 2- or 3-bars, in matt black, or bronzed finished, in six different colours (shaded silver, green, brown, grey, blue and plain primrose) of stove enamel or in seven colours (green, brown, grey, blue, pink, white and primrose) of vitreous enamel.
Another fire, known as the “Empire”, intended to be used in front of any existing fireplace, came in a 3- or 4-bar format, with either shaded brown enamel, oxidised copper, antique brass or chromium plated finishes.
One of their latest product models was the “ARORA (Electric) Coal Fire”. This was the materialisation of Frederick Grogan’s imitation fire patent No. 1451/32 and was, in the catalogue, described as:
This is the most realistic imitation Coal Fire yet put on the market. In fact, the appearance is so like a glowing coal fire at its best that no flicker arrangement is necessary.
It came with two 1 K.W. “C” fire-bars, was reputedly portable, although it weighed 17lbs and designed to “give heat in all directions, including FOOT level”. It came in four different finishes black, shaded silver, chromium plated and a mixture of black and chromium plated. Prices ranged from £4 19s. 6d. for the model in black up to £7 10s. 0d. for the full chromium model. It also had an electric bulb so as to give the appearance of a fire even when both elements were off.
The firm were also still selling the original, although improved fire, first released twenty years earlier. Now marketed as the “Standard”, it was available in 2-, 3- and 4-bar versions. The 2- and the 3-bar models still used 750 watt elements, whilst the 4-bar model was only available with 1 K.W. elements. All three versions were available in matt black, bronzed and enamelled finishes. The latter was offered in 6 colour finishes – green, brown, maroon, blue French grey and finally ruby, which attracted an additional 10% premium.
They also produced two wall or inset fires, one being a rather plain cast-iron 3 K.W. fire available in stove black, black and silver, or shaded stove enamel “in tones to suit the client”. The other, was a 2- or 3-bar fire in sheet metal “finished in heat-resisting enamel of tones to suit the customer”.
The catalogue contains one fire, known as the “Rosebery” is described as “a graceful ornament for the best furnished rooms”. It was built from “hand-finished brass castings and finest quality sheet metal”. Again, this was only available with 770-watt elements, with four different although suitable finishes, polished brass, oxidised copper, oxidised silver and chromium plated. The 3-bar versions were priced at £5 for the polished brass, 6 guineas for the chromium plated, whilst the 4-bar ranged from £6 10s. 0d. for the polished brass to £8 for the chromium plated.
The “workshop” fire, first produced in 1918, having proved very popular, was still in production. It was being offered in three variants, with 1-, 2- or 3-bars. Interestingly the catalogue refers to it being commonly used in crane cabins.
Probably the most unusual heater in the catalogue was the “105” cooker-fire and appears to have been based upon the original Arora grill. In one format, it could be used for boiling, frying, grilling or toasting, by unlatching the side and removing the reflector. When required as a ‘normal’ fire, the grill pan was replaced by the side with its nickel-plated reflector. Uniquely it had three 500-watt elements, each of which could be operated separately. It was the only model that the firm produced using ½ K.W. fire-bars, with replacements priced at 6s. each.
The collection of 7 domestic appliances ranged from an electric towel rail through to electric cookers.
The towel rail, officially known as a towel horse, comprised of a triangular shaped frame of white enamel with a towel rail of polished aluminium. It used an economical 250-watt element, which has estimated to have only cost 1d. for eight hours’ usage. Priced at £1 10s. 0d, it measured 33in. high, 24in. wide and 8in. deep at the base. It was delivered flat-packed in six-parts for self-assembly and unlike today’s flat-packs the 12 nickel-plated screws were already fixed into the frame.
The firm originally produced a separate grill and boiling plate, which by the mid-1930s. had been combined into a single unit. Made using a cast-iron frame and sheet metal with a matt black finish, it used the “latest” 3-heat switch.
Similarly, the electric oven was a completely updated version of that originally introduced in 1920. Not only was it the most economical the firm had hitherto produced, it was also claimed to be capable of “cooking for six persons”, whilst measuring only 15in. by 14in. by 13in. It was fully insulated, with the heating elements being enclosed in metal tubes and came in two variants. Firstly, a two tube 750-watt model, taking 30 to 40 minutes to get up to temperature, was priced at £5 17s. 6d. Secondly a four-tube model 1.5 K.W. model, taking half the time to get up to speed, priced at £7. Neither standard model had a thermometer, which was treated as an accessory, priced at 15s. Such was the improvements in the design that instead of being floor standing it was light enough to be mounted on a stand or table, both of which the firm produced and sold. The oven and table were offered in just two new finishes, stoved black and shaded brown. A recommended combination was to place the boiler plate/grill on the table next to the oven, although it could be placed top of the oven to form a ‘conventional’ cooker.
The firm also produced a table- or sideboard-top warming plate and a 1 K.W. 4-pint capacity electric kettle finished in nickel plated cooper. Included in the range of domestic appliances were two essentially industrial products. The first was a hot cupboard that could be made to any size required by the customer, although the standard size was 2ft. 9in. high and 2ft. deep. The second was hotel grill and toaster, available in three sizes, with 4, 6 or 10 fire-bars, with a total loading of 2.66 K.W., 4 K.W. and 6.66 K.W. respectively.
The first of the industrial products was a fish fryer suitable for hotels or other public institutions. A typical layout was a double pan arrangement within a single housing, with hood above and warming cupboard below.
The second was a peel type baker’s oven with a 4ft. square baking space, which could either be placed on a shelf or with a steel stand two ovens could be mounted in a double tier arrangement. The design was such that the heating elements were mounted in an iron casing and the aim was to provide a similar result as obtained in a superheated steam oven.
The third was a fully insulated electric stoving oven, with iron encased elements at both the top and bottom.
These three industrial units were intended to be custom made to meet the customers’ exact requirements and as such the catalogue gives no pricing information.
Arora produced two different types of water heaters. Firstly, an immersion heater to be fitted into a hot water cylinder and secondly an over the sink style water heater.
The immersion heater came in three different types, T, C and D, all having a removal element housed in a cooper casing. The type T were designed to be fitted to tanks or cylinders with a 1¼in. gas thread, came in 6 variants ranging from 330-watts up to 1.5 K.W., from 6¾in. up to 22½in. in length with prices ranging from £1 8s. 0d. to £2. Types C and D were single (1 K.W.) and duplex (2 K.W.) heaters respectively, designed with special flanges to fit through a vertical wall of the cylinder. They came in two lengths, a 13¾in. version for a 15in. cylinder and a 16in. version for the larger 18in. cylinder. They also provided two separate automatic temperature regulators for their immersion heaters, priced at £2 10s. 0d. and £2 19s. 0d. Lastly, they sold an insulation jacket, described as a “Heat Insulating Mattress” for a standard 18in. domestic hot-water cylinder. With a suggested fitting time of one hour, the jacket consisted of seven 7in. wide mattresses, three 4in. wide mattresses and two half circular mattresses for the top.
The company’s over the sink water heater was a wall mounted small heavily insulated copper and tin lined inner cylinder containing one or two immersion heaters tubes within an outer sheet metal casing finished in cellulose white enamel. There were three different systems depending upon the arrangement of cold water feed and whether just one or multiple hot water outlets were required. They came with four different capacities 5, 10, 15 and 20 gallons, varying from 750-watt to 2 K.W.. The smallest 5-gallon model priced at £5, measured 29in. high and 15in. diameter. The 20-gallon model measured 42in. by 22in. and was priced at £22.
Known as the “Arora System” of tubular heaters, it was based upon the Frederick Grogan’s “Improvements in Electric Heaters” patent No. 15,430/32, accepted at the end of 1932. Within three or four years, according to the catalogue, many thousands of feet had already been installed and was becoming increasingly popular as a method of heating both small and large buildings. The catalogue described the system as being ideal for churches, factories and offices. It even suggested using it instead of the normal solid fuel hot water central heating system in residential properties. Its main advantage was the fact that it could be easily controlled, either manually or by using thermostats, something that central heating systems did not have.
This can either be interpreted as Arora being in direct competition with its owner Messenger & Co., Ltd., or between them they could provide multiple solutions and therefore, in theory, win a larger share of the market. However, there is no indication from any of the existing Messenger & Co., Ltd., records that suggest they were in the habit of recommending an electrical heating solution over their Quorn boiler-based hot water systems.
There were numerous reasons, at this time, for using electricity as a basis for a central heating system. The first was the introduction of suitable electricity tariffs in many areas, meaning that it was becoming more economical to run. Secondly, the relatively low capital outlay required. Thirdly, it often required less intrusion and disruption to install than the more normal hot water system. Fourthly, negligible maintenance costs. Fifthly, the heating tubes were long lasting, with an estimated although unproven life of 50 years. Lastly, it didn’t require anyone to stoke or clean-out the solid fuel boiler.
The heaters were normally fitted close to ground level, either actually in the floor or low down on the wall. Alternatively, they could be fitted at above head level, typically nine to ten feet above floor level, this allowed for higher surface temperatures to be utilised.
Arora’s standard tubular heaters consisted of an earthed steel tube with an element that ran along the complete length, ensuring an even surface temperature. For general use the tubes came in three differing diameters, a 2in. tube was rated at 60-watts per foot, reaching an approximate temperature of 210◦F (99◦C); a 1¼in. tube rated at 66-watts reaching an approximate temperature of 250◦F (121◦C); another 1¼in. tube, to be fitted at overhead level, rated at 90-watts reaching an approximate temperature of 350◦F (177◦C). Other loadings were also available, starting at 20-watts per foot.
The tubes could be fitted either singularly or in multiples, typically in twos or threes. The firm produced a triple bank wall fitting model with a guard rail. The standard finish was bronze, although matt black and silver grey were also available.
In situations where it was difficult to find a suitable length of wall, Arora produced, what was described as an “air heater”. Finished in stoved enamel in a range of colours, it was insulated and floor standing, with a grille opening at the top. It had two 750-watt elements, was 30in. high, 22½in. wide and 5⅞in. deep. It weighed an impressive 37lbs. and cost £4.
They produced two car heaters, one for keeping the radiator form freezing and the other to be used inside to heat the car.
The car radiator heater appears to be a small variant of the immersion heater, although using a much lower rated element, rated to use one 1 K.W. with 12 hours’ continuous usage. It was also suggested that it could be used to stop water cisterns or pipes in the house form freezing.
The internal car heater was made of cast aluminium and came with thee yards of cable, a plug and socket and was intended to be operated from a socket on the dash board. It was 11in. by 6in. by 1¼in., weighing a little over 2lbs., with a consumption of 3 amps on the 12-volt system and available in both 6-volt and 12-volt variants.
- Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: L621.3. ↑