Cinder Sifters

The firm developed a cinder shifter before 1884 which they were still manufacturing over fifty years later[1]. The sifter’s purpose was to separate the waste cinders from the dust. There were no moving parts, the waste household cinders were simply placed into the top of the sifter, which had a grate or sieve arranged at a steep pitch, on which the cinders fell, the dust settling through the sieve into one compartment and the cinders rolled down the sieve and fell into another compartment. The whole operation was fully enclosed, with a lid at the top to prevent the ash blowing around and enclosed drawers at the bottom. The firm initially produced two versions, one for domestic use, which had a capacity to store the output from eighteen to twenty-four hours from one fire and a larger one for targeted at hotels, schools and houses with more than four fires in use. The only difference was one of size the smaller one stood 3ft. 1in., high, 2ft., wide and 1ft. 6in., deep; whilst the larger one measured 4ft., by 3ft., by 2ft. 6in.


The “Loughborough” Cinder Shifter Leaflet c. 1890.

In the 1890s they were producing a couple of much cheaper alternatives, which were not fully enclosed and there was only one drawer or no drawer at all. With the one drawer version the dust was collected into the bin and it was anticipated that the whole contraption would be housed in a brick container, either adjacent to the dust-in or next to the coal-bin. The arrangement with no drawer, a vertical board placed, between the sifter which was expected to be anchored to the wall, and the ground kept the cinders and the dust. This model was also being advocated for use as a garden sieve.


Two Drawer Automatic Cinder Sifter

However, by the late 1930s they were only producing the small fully enclosed domestic version, priced at price of £2 15s., which included carriage to any railway station in England or Wales[2]. This price was up from the £1 10s. price in the 1890s, but down from the £3 of 1925.


One Drawer Automatic Cinder Sifter

In the 1890s[3] the firm were obviously targeting the sifter at a certain clientele. As part of their advertising material they were advocating the sifter would save their owners from “enormous waste of cinders in every household, the sifting of which has hitherto been such a dusty operation that it has been invariably shirked on the part of the servants at cost to their employers which would horrify them were thy to calculate it” They also proffered several other advantages for the sifter including storing the sieved cinders during the summer months and using them in the greenhouse boiler over the winter, as a way of saving on costs and using it on gusty days to counteract problematic smoky chimneys. However, perhaps their boldest claim was that the sifter was the essential piece of equipment as “our doctors’ and coal bills would be lower, our purses heavier, our spirits lighter, our towns cleaner, and the smoke abatement agitation a thing of the past”.


Simple Automatic Cinder Sifter with No Drawer

The model whilst not selling in enormous numbers appeared to provide a steady income. In 1884 they sold about 68 cinder sifters, worth over £96, of which two thirds were the standard domestic model with two drawers and almost 20% were of the simple model with no drawers. The following year almost exactly the same number was sold, worth over £110, of which almost 80% were the standard domestic model and less than 10% the simple model[4].


Alternative two Drawer Automatic Cinder Sifter c. 1925



  1. Messenger & Co.’s Catalogue, issued September 1938.
  2. It was the owners’ responsibility to arrange transport from the station and subsequent installation.
  3. Messenger & Co.’s Price List for Hot Water Pipes, Connections, Radiators, Ventilating Tackle, etc 1897.
  4. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE 2121/06 – General Ledger ‘B’ – January 1884 – September 1888.