No, not this Kitchener, but a common noun that stumped my wife and me when it came up in our nightly reading of March Moonlight (the last of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage series):

Everything in the brightly lit little interior, save only its inevitable kitchener, is pleasant to contemplate, each object exactly in place and bearing itself with an air of coquettish elegance; all unsightly detail contained, like the windows, with crisply starched cotton patterned with a small blue and white chequer.

Small, compact and brightly burnished, the little kitchener, the heart and meaning of the room, prevailing over its decorative surroundings, draws one’s eyes with its mystery, acquaintance wherewith places Amabel amongst the household women, shows her caught, for life, in a continuously revolving machinery, unable to give, to anything else, more than a permanently preoccupied attention.

It was not in the fat Cassell Concise dictionary I keep in the nightstand (which usually has even the most obscure UK terms), so I knew it had to be well past its sell-by date; I checked the OED and there it was:

kitchener, n.1
Pronunciation: /ˈkɪtʃɪnə/
Etymology: < kitchen n. + -er suffix1.

1. One employed in a kitchen; esp. in a monastery, he who had charge of the kitchen.
c1440 Relig. Pieces fr. Thornton MS. 53 Penance sall be kychynnere.
1614 in W. H. Stevenson Rec. Borough Nottingham (1889) IV. 319 To the black gard the kitchinners vs.
1820 Scott Monastery II. ii*. 77 Two most important officers of the Convent, the Kitchener and Refectioner.
1884 19th Cent. Jan. 110 Capons, eggs, salmon, eels, herring, &c..passed to the account of the kitchener.

2. A cooking-range fitted with various appliances such as ovens, plate-warmers, water-heaters, etc.
1851 Official Descriptive & Illustr. Catal. Great Exhib. III. 596/2 This kitchener or cooking grate is remarkable for economy in fuel.
1867 Civil Serv. Gaz. 29 June 402/1 Improved London-made Kitcheners.
1884 Internat. Health Exhib. Official Catal. 68/1 Patent Kitchener with two low ovens, boiler, gas hob, &c.

It’s obviously definition 2 that’s used in the novel. The entry is from 1901, and I’m guessing the word went out of common use by WWI or not long after. Has anyone encountered this quaint word?


  1. From the Great War, here’s a kitchener with a pun.

  2. I know plenty of (genteel) British kitchens featuring A cooking-range fitted with various appliances such as ovens, plate-warmers, water-heaters,

    They’d be called ‘Aga’s, even if they’re not actually Aga’s. Generic term would be ‘range cooker’. A lot of work since WWI has gone into making them “pleasant to contemplate”, it seems.

  3. Apparently, the word range for a stovetop with burners comes from the array of multiple burners side by side. In modern parlance, the cognate rank is more commonly used for orderly rows, but we still speak of “mountain ranges.”

  4. Checking Google Books, discovered another great Kitchener.

    William Kitchiner M.D. (1775–1827) was an English optician, inventor of telescopes, amateur musician and exceptional cook.[1] A celebrity chef, he was a household name during the 19th century, and his 1817 cookbook, The Cook’s Oracle, was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States.[2] The origin of the crisp (also known as potato chip) is attributed to Kitchiner, with The Cook’s Oracle including the earliest known recipe.[3][4]

    Unlike most food writers of the time he cooked the food himself, washed up afterwards, and performed all the household tasks he wrote about. He travelled around with his portable cabinet of taste, a folding cabinet containing his mustards and sauces. He was also the creator of Wow-Wow sauce.

    What a fitting surname!

  5. In Ireland I think “range” is more common than “Aga”. Certainly the OED definition ‘ A cooking-range fitted with various appliances such as ovens, plate-warmers, water-heaters, etc.’ now looks tautological.

  6. The LH reader who occasionally comments as Zhoen sent me a link to A Stove Less Ordinary, the blog of Howell Harris (link goes to the posts tagged “kitchener”), which has some great photos, including “Another Cottage Kitchener” and “A well-used Aga.”

    Here’s a footnote that has nothing to do with stoves:

    [2] I think her name was Mrs. Lewis, and it could be that the good deed was one I should not have regretted. One evening, walking or biking home from the college where I taught, I heard a low moaning from her house when I passed (our tiny hamlet on Llanfair Road was very quiet). I can’t remember the details now, but I figured out it was her, not an animal (as she didn’t have a pet), and went in — luckily she kept to the old country custom of not locking the door. She had fallen on her stone-slab kitchen floor, and was in agony. I went and phoned the doctors, and the senior partner came out quickly. He was quite a character — had originally trained as a vet, and everybody said that his decision to change to treating humans had been a sad day for animal health. He was thought to be a drinker, and certainly had a very bluff bedside manner. He breezed into her house, took one look at her (we hadn’t tried to move her, just covered her with coats and blankets to keep her warm), and said “Mrs. Lewis bach, I can see you’ve broken your neck!” This made her really alarmed. “No, no Doctor Lloyd, I can still move.” “I meant the neck of your femur,” he said, Ho Ho Ho, very amused at his own ice-breaking humour, which had fortunately not shocked her to death.

Speak Your Mind