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Object of the Month

BTH Beehive Refrigerator 1930s



Monitor-top refrigerator with legs produced at BTH (British Thomson-Houston Co. Ltd.). 'Beehive' cooling unit mounted on top. Fridges became popular in the 1930's as the use of preservatives in foods became more limited and food storage at home - especially in the summer - became more problematic. Small plaque on front with the BTH logo which reads 'Electric refrigerator, Made in Rugby, England'

In a poll recently completed by 45 leading British scientists, refrigeration came out on top as the most important innovation in the history of food and drink. This highlights the value that a fridge such as this must have had in the family home. It was during the late 1930s that fridges were becoming a more accessible luxury in the UK. They changed the way people shopped and enabled those, particularly without access to fresh produce, to have a more varied and nutritious diet.

This particular example was made and distributed by British Thompson Houston (BTH) in Rugby. Its name, the Beehive, refers to the cooling mechanism, which sits on top.

2020 marks 118 years since BTH established its Mill Road Factory site in Rugby.  BTH were manufacturers of generators, motors, control gear, turbines, aircraft ignitions, and lighting and domestic appliances. Their achievements included being the sole suppliers of Rugby's electricity until 1923, producing the first crystal set receiver in 1912 and designing, manufacturing and testing the first jet engine in 1937. As an employer, BTH also provided welfare, education and leisure facilities for its staff and apprentices making it a very popular place to train and work.