A good period style Butler sink has been on people’s must-have kitchen essentials list for a couple of decades now. If you’re thinking about getting one you might want to check this out: what’s the difference between a Belfast Butler and a London one?
Until the 20th century, there was unlikely to be a such a thing as a kitchen sink, basically there was a ‘dry’ kitchen
and a ‘wet’ kitchen
and anything involving water was done in the scullery, the kitchen only being used for cooking. The Bultlersink in the ‘wet’ kitchen or scullery, was usually placed beneath the window in order to get good light. The evolution of the sink was: stone, or wood lined with lead, copper or zinc. Fireclay sinks were produced in the Midlands from the eighteenth century and ceramic sinks from the middle of the nineteenth century.
Apparently, in 1897 when the first Butler sinks were being manufactured, water was not plentiful in London. However in Belfast water was not in short supply. Therefore two models of the sink were produced: The Belfast Butler sink has an overflow,
whereas the London Butler sink has none.
It has often been said that this is because in Belfast where water flowed freely the Butler sinks could be designed to allow for overflow as wasting water was not a big issue. Meanwhile in London people were encouraged to conserve water because if they simply forgot to turn off the tap, they would have a flood to clear up. This is actually a moot point but you get the idea. It may be called a Belfast sink, a Farmers sink, a London sink or a Butler sink and any of it’s modern variants would be perfectly at home in any Victorian scullery then or now.
If you’re picking up a genuine vintage one just make sure it’s got an overflow!