Monday, 1 June 2009

One man and his toaster....

I love my toaster, and for the last five years my toaster has loved me.

Its so simple....
So red....
So British...

But a cautionary note. Like most things we claim to embody 'Britishness', be it in the arts, engineering, style or design - it was conceived, designed and produced by an immigrant to our shores.
Max Gort-Barten was born in 1914 in Essen, Germany, to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father who ran a company that produced wallets. He studied engineering, but as National Socialism gathered momentum in Germany his family decided that he would be safer leaving the country to work in his uncle’s chocolate factory in South Africa. In late August 1939 he flew to England, where he was to board ship for Port Elizabeth. But Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, and Gort-Barten was immediately interned.

Then, however, as a clearly friendly alien, he was sent to RAF Northolt, then to RAF Sandwich, where he worked as a civilian in Intelligence. He was subsequently transferred to aircraft production, and spent the rest of the war making and delivering parts for Spitfires at Essex Aero in Dagenham. In 1941, at the Locarno dancehall in Streatham, south London he met Hannah, who would become his wife. They were married in 1943, and three years later Gort-Barten’s family were able to join him in England.

Shortly after the Second World War Max Gort-Barten patented the Dual-Light, an electric fire with a double element, and named his new company in its honour. The name he chose, Dualit, has since become synonymous with solidly chic, hand-made kitchen products, particularly toasters and they continue to reflect an attitude that is fundamentally British. The toasters are still hand built in Croydon, south London and the base of each toaster is monogrammed by the assembler.

There is no high tech whizz bangery about these toasters. Bread is raised and lowered via a simple knob arrangement and when the toast is done and the ceramic elements turn off, it remains within the toaster, keeping it warm for up to 10 minutes. The timer is clockwork and half the fun is choosing the correct toast time, although toast can be raised and removed at any time.

With more than a passing nod to modern day energy issues, all parts are replaceable, including the effective ceramic elements and the machine can be adjusted to toast one, two or three slices of bread.

For me, this toaster, despite it's range of modern colours and finishes, is one of the few objects to survive the passing of the years with grace and style. The company remains family owned and goes from strength to strength.

I love my toaster.


  1. Who wouldn't love that shiny red toaster? And a 3-slicer at that. That sent me looking online to see if they can be bought in the U.S., and found it right away on in 10 different colors. But sadly, no red. As I've been buying/replacing small kitchen applicances recently, I'll admit to a whimsical desire for red, but bought the safe black. How smart you were to get red.

    Loved the story! I remember my grandmother's old toaster raised and lowered the bread in that way. Grace and style, it's true.

    Happy toasting!

  2. I've had "my dream toaster" for about 9 years now, and it has certainly lived up to it's expectations! It's a stainless steal Dualit two slotter. I didn't know it had such a prestigious history!

    Your red one is pretty darn cute.

  3. Loved the a story.

    Can't believe that as a Brit I have never, ever heard of this manufacturer. the Rolls Royce of toasters by all accounts!

    I was given a new toaster recently and it's a Hamilton Beach with all sorts of settings for bread, bagels etc - all i want it to do is toast, thank you.

    I remember when I used to 'toast' under the grill!!! Howzat???

  4. I love your toaster too and am jealous of your English muffins, which I dearly love and can't buy in Cloggyland. My toaster broke down a month ago though, and you've just reminded me to get another one. My last was a Philips and didn't last the year, even with all my 'low maintenance' toasting. Instead, I'll have to get one of your German-Englishman's and then toast away! Yay! But still no good bread here - they make it too light and airy.

  5. Hi Michael,

    We used to have a stainless four slice Dualit when we had the guesthouse but it was the earlier radiant wire version rather than ceramic. It worked hard but eventually gave up the ghost and the new ceramic seemed rather costly - so we went Morphy Richards! I didn't know any of the history.

    Your red one does look rather chic!

  6. great toster. Thanks for share. please visit my hub also.thanks

  7. Just bought Dualit toaster - interesting history . Thanks