In English homes, the fireplace has always been, until recent times, the focal point in the room. People may like to sit at a window on a summer day, but for many cold months of the year they like to sit round the fire and watch the dancing flames. In the Middle Ages the fireplaces in the halls of large castles were very wide. Only wood was burnt, and it was brought from the forests.
Such wide fireplaces may be seen now in old inns. Elizabethian fireplaces often had carved stone or woodwork over the fireplace. In the 18th century space was often provided over the fireplace for a painting or mirror. When coal fires became common, fireplaces became much smaller.
Grates were used to hold the coal. Above the fireplace there was usually a shelf on which there was often a clock and framed photographs of the members of the family. So sitting in front of the bright fire is one of the most popular hobbies of the British people.