In the early 1990’s I needed a new toaster after burning through two in as many years. One Saturday, I strayed into the basement of Peter Jones – the well known John Lewis’ Partnership department store on the corner of London’s King’s Road and Sloane Square – to be entranced by a display of sleek shaped, heavy-duty and aluminium Dualit toasters.
Of course, I had seen these spectacular machines before but in a different context. Virtually every Central London’s sandwich bar, where the hungry faithful queued daily for a toasted ham and cheese or a BLT, had a Dualit toaster or two – but it was invariably a six slice models. It was comparatively rare to have one of these machines at home but this was the start of an era where more industrial looking objects were increasingly being used in the home.
I thought my needs would be largely catered for by a two slice plus one slightly wider toasted sandwich compartment version of this iconic toaster – as in our featured image – how wrong was I!
Dualit was founded in 1945 by German-born inventor Max Gort-Barten CBE (1914–2003) – pictured below – its name deriving from an early product – an electric heater named “Dual-Lite”.
By 1952 Max had designed a commercial six-slot, manual ejector, toaster – which was a commercial success. In 1954, the Dualit factory in Picton Street, Camberwell (South East, London) – as shown below – was subject to a compulsory-purchased order – usually as a result of a railway or road expansion – which funded a new factory in Bermondsey (also South East, London) an Thames -side area that had been extensively flattened during World War II.
In 2003, Dualit now under the control of Leslie, Max’s son and an experienced engineer, who joined the business in 1972 – moved to it’s current premises in Crawley (West Sussex) where the toasters and other items in the Dualit range – including a number of catering orientated products and coffee machines are produced. The toasters are still built by hand.
In 1999 Dualit obtained a patent for its upgraded ProHeat elements – basically a thin slab of mica with heating elements wound around it – that are protectively mounted within their toasters. Also in 1999 the company received a Millennium Award for its upgrade ProHeat element which features a more dense covering of heating wire and is entirely coated with a protective layer of mica – allowing more efficient heating and protection against knife damage when a piece of toast gets lodged in the element.
The Dualit toaster’s construction allows for very easy access for maintenance and on several occasions I have needed to re-buy the heating elements which even for a DIY-phobe like me are really easy to install.
What about my earlier purchase did I regret? Dualit are so good, they go on forever! Within a couple of years of my purchase – and then for the last twenty plus years – two slices have never been enough for a family breakfast! Time to buy a six slice perhaps?
Images courtesy of Dualit