The history of AGA
The truly quintessential heart of the home.
The history of the AGA cooker is one of award-winning innovation and a noble heritage going way back to 1922.
It was way back then at the very beginning when blind physicist Dr Gustaf Dalén originated the world’s first heat-storage cooker.
(Did you know? Dalén was bestowed the Nobel Prize for his work in augmenting the automated lighthouse, a development which has saved countless lives).
Dalén was motivated to create a more efficient cooker for his wife, Elma, who begrudgingly had to bear their old-fangled range.
He created an efficient cast-iron cooker with low large hotplates and two ovens, allowing it to cook multiple meals simultaneously. The now influential AGA was born and by 1929 production was under way at the AGA factory in Smethwick.
In the 30’s, the successful advertising tycoon, David Ogilvy, went on to form the global advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. He was one of the company’s first salesmen and his ‘The Theory and Practice of Selling an AGA Cooker’ has been defined by Fortune Magazine as ‘the finest instruction manual ever written’.
In 1934 the first AGA Cookbook was presented by American journalist Sheila Hibben. She described the stove as providing ‘all the conveniences and economy that modern engineering demands’.
(Did you know? In that same year, 16 members of the Graham Land Expedition Team decided to take an AGA cooker to the Antarctic. For over three years the teams’ AGA cooker enabled them to eat well and live in warmth and comfort, even though the temperature outside was dropping to as low as -40°C!).
With the rise of WW2 in the 40’s the AGA cooker grew into a godsend for many families in Europe. The British government secured orders for AGA cookers for canteens in munitions works, general feeding centres and hospitals. The severe increase in consumer demand meant that the waiting period rose to a staggering 27 weeks. A second production factory was created in Shropshire due to such high demand.
The 50’s proved to be another successful decade for the AGA as their sales had increase to over 50,000 units per year. The cookers had gained the status of being the heart of fine living and dining, making it must-have feature in the kitchens of the middle-class.
In 1956 a big change was on the horizon. For 34 years the beloved AGA had only been available in cream but the company decided to expand to four more colour options. The introduction of the latest De Luxe models in pale blue, pale green, grey and white proved massively popular with AGA fans.
(Did you know? The trendy BBC Radio 4 soap ‘The Archers’ featured an AGA in Doris and Dan Archer’s kitchen. The producers were unable to recreate an authentic sound of the cooker so they decided to have a real AGA door built in the studio).
The swinging sixties now just happened to pop along which major cultural and political impacts. With the decline in the use of solid fuel, the first oil-fired cooker was launched. This was closely followed by the introduction of the first gas model in 1968. These cookers were the very first to use the iconic black lozenge logo and the AGA colour palette was further made to include dark blue, red, yellow and black.
In the 70’s, the founders of AGA switched their focus to innovation and introduced just a single new model appeared during this decade, the EL2 AGA cooker in 1975.
The flourishing 80’s decade began in style with an extravagant birthday party held at the Royal Garden Hotel in London to celebrate AGA’s 50th anniversary. The company continued to thrive and its status as a national institution was even acknowledged by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who ‘dropped by’ the Coalbrookdale foundry in 1981.
(Did you know? In the 1980s the AGA cooker started to feature in romance novels by authors such as Jilly Cooper. The move saw the use of the term ‘AGA sagas’).
Now the 90’s, the unveiling of the module was in 1996 – a traditional electric cooker with classic AGA detailing created to fit on the side of the range. Following on the same year the ‘companion’ was confirmed – akin to the module but freestanding. By 1998, the pair were available with the choice of various gas hobs. The company also arranged their colour options and made the decision to add, remove or adjust several colours from their range. Additionally, a new AGA book was introduced to gain awareness for the company. The book was simply named ‘The AGA book’ and was written by Merry Berry who was described by the Mail On Sunday as being “to AGA what Pavarotti is to opera”.
Enter the millennium, a groundbreaking engineering breakthrough occurred in 2003 when AGA fitted a 3-oven AGA cooker into a space that was occupied by a 2-oven model for the last 80 years. Introducing the 13-amp electric model in 2004 – complete with conventional household plug – changed the AGA family for eternity. No fuel was needed and the cooker can be placed almost anywhere in the kitchen.
The company celebrated their 300th anniversary in 2009 at its foundry. Now listed as a World Heritage Site, Coalbookdale was recognised as the first place in the world where iron ore was smelted with coke instead of charcoal. This was an innovation that ignited the Industrial Revolution and literally changed the world.
But they weren’t ready to slow down! In 2011 came the creation of the AGA Total Control, the first ever fully programmable model which included an on/off switch. This award-winning model displays a simple to use touch-screen panel which allows users to determine which part of the cooker is turned on, meaning heat is able to be channelled to each open and each hotplate separately..
Modern AGA’s are still made in exactly the same way as they have always been. Putting it simply, molten iron is poured into moulds. This straightforward method gives the castings a characteristic surface. Each one is individual which sets the AGA apart from the universal mass-produced sameness.
While many and most cookers are sprayed in very quickly, the AGA’s many protective coats of glazed vitreous enamel can take up to three days to administer. It is this enamelling that helps to ensure the working life of an AGA cooker is gauged in decades, not in years.
It goes without saying that the present day AGA also contains the latest state-of-the-art technology and is subject to stringent quality controls and conformity to the current environmental standards. Every component of an AGA cooker – and there are quite a few – is meticulously tested and colour verified before it leaves the factory in Shropshire. This is Great British manufacturing at its very best.
We didn’t even know where to begin with AGA. Now we have the full picture and history, we do know exactly where we bet our money on this luxury brand and we are proud to say that we happily incorporate AGA cookers into our bespoke kitchen designs. It is either holding a place in your heart or on your wish-list! Well, decision time?
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