14th Century Curfew

Medieval curfews, also known as “couvre-feu”  or fire covers, are ceramic or iron covers used to keep the embers of the fire overnight. They are an example of how doing things the medieval way is easier than trying to adapt modern ways to this lifestyle.

The current convention, and a requirement of many sites, is to put the fire out each night ,and then restart the fire each morning.

This causes a lot of additional work, particularly if water is used to put the fire out each night, as new kindling and tinder must be used to build up the fire to the ember stage.

Using a curfew to keep embers overnight, allows the initial work to be skipped, and the fire can be built back into a proper cooking fire quite quickly. It also takes less skill and know-how to get a fire going again when there are embers as a starting point, compared to starting completely from scratch.


Some extant example of curfews are

The Medieval Household, Daily Living C.1150-C.1450 has some drawings of fragments found of some ceramic curfews, plus some good history and written descriptions.

British Museum has two potential 14th century curfews but no images of either

Curfew 1 and curfew 2


A French example

No date given except for “lower middle ages”.



A page on the archeology of Villeneuve-d’Ascq says that this is a photo of a 13th century terracotta fire cover


Seems to have been two styles of curfews – one in which the curfew covered the coals completely and one in which the coals were banked up behind it


15th century, beautifully styled couvre-feu


This 19th century book refers to an early 18th century work in which a curfew has been drawn for reference. Again a half bell, presumably because the fire is being bank in a corner.



a much later example, the V&A has a brass fireguard which is from the 17th century



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