A perfect description of the late 18th century bonnet, likening it to a now defunct item. Yet as a girl spending school holidays at our cousins’ farm in Derbyshire, I remember my great aunt Lena going out to the coal-shed and scooping up scuttle loads of black rocks to drop in the Aga oven in the kitchen. The Aga heated the household water, the house itself, dried the laundry hanging over it, and cooked meals.
It also, and this was a treat, was used for toasting tea-cakes on the end of a brass toasting fork in the embers of one of the ovens. It’s beyond me how scones have made it as the default ‘English tea’ item when toasted tea-cakes have much more flavour and comfort-food value. Clever marketing by the tea rooms so they don’t have the extra bother of toasting something.
‘… and though Hetty liked so much to look at her fashionable little coal-scuttle bonnet, with the wreath of small roses round it, she didn’t mind it to-day.’
Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 243