The Belfast sink transcends fashion, and has been popular throughout 120 years of continuous production by Shaws of Darwen. Not just in the country houses of the gentry, where scullery maids would have spent hours each day in front of one, but the Belfast sink was a default choice for many new homes in the 1920’s and 1930’s as they were practical, robust and easy to clean.
Today the Belfast sink can be seen in every kind of kitchen design, in period properties and the most modern of apartments.
The Belfast sink is a variant of the Butler sink, the original solid fireclay rectangular sink, installed by the Victorians for their domestic staff. The Belfast is identical to the Butler except for the addition of an overflow weir. One story is that the Belfast sink was originally made for Irish export. In Ireland there was no restriction on water supply and the overflow offered protection against accidental flooding.
More likely is that the Belfast and Butler simply had different roles. The Butler sink was typically shallower than a Belfast sink. It would have been fitted in a butler’s pantry and used for porcelain and glass. The deeper Belfast would have been used for washing large items. Since they took time to fill, perhaps a large overflow was seen a useful precaution against inattentive scullery maids?
There are now very few authentic fireclay manufacturers left. Making a flawless fireclay sink is difficult and labour-intensive, requiring expertise and experience. It takes 3 to 4 weeks of mixing, moulding, hand-finishing, drying, glazing and firing; methods unchanged since Arthur Shaw established the company in 1897. Every Shaws Belfast sink is individually stamped by its maker’s name on the base, a personal seal of quality. That’s why we say a Shaws sink is handcrafted for life.