There are countless AGA cookers in every county, city and corner of the world. From lifetime owners to brand new converts, everyone has a unique and heart-warming story to tell. Here are a few of our favourites.
Location: Ledbury, Herefordshire
Snapshot: When Mary and her husband moved into their new house just after they were married they had little furniture except for a bed and the AGA, which Mary called "the hub of our home". They later converted the coal AGA to run on oil so there wasn't as much mess and fueling it was less labour intensive. Still the AGA cooked like it had always done and kept their home cosy. In the 80s they moved house and found themselves with another veteran AGA, which ran on coal. Although the family enjoyed using a coal AGA once again they soon converted it to gas.
Finest Hour: Mary's three boys visit often and bring along the grandchildren to create new memories in front of the warm AGA.
Location: Leigh, Worcestershire
Snapshot: A constant throughout Caroline's life has been the AGA which was the means of cooking for her mother and the provider of warmth for the family and pets during colder months. Caroline says: "The kitchen was the only warm room in the house." During Caroline's 58 years the AGA has always been the heart of the family home, especially when she was growing up. Both she and her mother have cooked on it for the whole family, always getting praise for the finely cooked meals that the AGA could produce. In the very early 60s Caroline's mother, who was rather asthmatic, decided to have the coal AGA converted to oil.
Finest Hour: When the engineer arrived at the house to give a quote on the conversion he said the AGA was just too old to be converted. To this Caroline's mother promptly replied: "If St. Paul's could be converted then she had no reason to believe her AGA could not." The engineer converted the coal AGA to oil and it has worked solidly since.
Location: Swansea, Wales
Snapshot: Kath moved into her home in 2003 and the prospect of going into a house that contained an AGA was exciting for the whole family. Having gone from a simple gas cooker they were hugely impressed with the versatility of the AGA. Kath says: "My husband was amazed at the improved cake and casserole production." All the family agrees the AGA is a huge improvement on their old cooker and that all food now tastes so much better. The children especially love the toast the AGA produces and have forgotten all about the grill that used to scorch their bread.
Finest Hour: In the winter of 2007 the family were left with no central heating in their home due to renovations. But the house remained dry and comfortable as the family survived five months with just the AGA and some extra jumpers to keep them warm.
Location: Nympsfield, Gloucestershire
Snapshot: Mrs Humphries' parents, both in their 80s, have successfully brought up six children, numerous grandchildren and various pets - all in the home they built themselves. At the centre of this home is their AGA, which for over 45 years has warmed the family. Although Mrs Humphries' mother is now quite ill she still produces fantastic meals for all of her family and friends. Mrs Humphries says: "Her meringues and puddings are legendary." The AGA has also been used to shelter dogs and cats from cold winter days and keep the whole family warm. Most of the children now have their own AGAs in their family homes and love them almost as much as the old AGA that is the heart and soul of their parents' home.
Finest Hour: One Christmas the whole village wound up without electricity so many villagers piled into the house to warm themselves by the coal AGA, which continued to chug on.
Vintage: 1948, c1960s and 1938
Location: Camborne, Cornwall
Snapshot: Beth's farm has three AGAs. The 4-oven cream AGA, dating from 1948, was installed in the old farmhouse and with one scuttle of fuel is able to provide enough warmth to heat the whole house, as well as dry piles of laundry and boil endless kettles for pots of tea. The old AGA even saved the life of a half-drowned chicken, says Beth. "It had fallen in the pond, so was fished out, wrapped in an old jumper and popped in the bottom oven. It made a full recovery." The 1960s white 2-oven AGA in the summerhouse provides hot water and regularly provides breakfast for up to 20. The cream 2-oven AGA in the barn dates as early as 1937.
Finest Hour: Beth says: "An AGA makes a home and although a considerable investment rewards with excellent fuel economy and fabulous food. Even the oldest mutton melts in the mouth after a day in the AGA!"
Location: Maison de Relais & Châteaux, Beauchamp Place, London
Snapshot: The AGA was used at the opening of the Maison in London during December 2007, where it warms guests, cooks meals for busy receptions and makes the perfect conversation starter. Before the London hotel opened Nicola Liddiard, the UK director, was certain the new place should have an AGA. From the opening she has not looked back - the AGA has been cooked on by the likes of Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Paul Burns from Airds Hotel and James Dugan of Amberly Castle. Every chef that has cooked on the Maison's AGA has created beautiful dishes and all have enjoyed the experience. Nicola says: "I conducted my own informal poll and found that most of the chefs own their own AGA and swear by them for home cooking."
Finest Hour: During the opening of the Maison Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche prepared hot canapés for a lunch reception then an evening cocktail, all followed by a champagne breakfast the next morning.
Location: County Fermanagh
Snapshot: Lorraine's AGA has been on all day, every day for the last 60 years and she believes it is "just coming into its prime". Lorraine could not do without her AGA as she uses it to heat the hot water for the house, boil the kettle, bake the bread, roast the beef and keep the kitchen nice and warm for breakfast in the mornings. The AGA is well loved by all who visit and Lorraine says it makes "a house into a home". When clothes need drying at night the job is left to the AGA and the old Sheila Maid installed with the AGA in 1950. Over the years they have become inseparable and work perfectly together. Lorraine says: "It is more than 50 years old and still going strong."
Finest Hour: Lorraine believes her AGA to be one of the first AGAs to be installed in Northern Ireland (on or around 1950).
Location: County Durham
Snapshot: The AGA was installed in the 1940s when the vicarage was vacated and the house became Jesmond Preparatory School for Boys. In 1968 Peter bought the house after being so taken with the AGA. He and his wife then started a bed and breakfast; many celebrities came to stay including Hot Chocolate and Little and Large. Peter recalls: "Many residents stated that they had never ever tasted bacon so tasty as when cooked on the AGA." According to Peter, the kettle is constantly boiling for hot cups of tea. Many lambs have been brought back to life in the warming oven, as well as little chickens. The AGA is just as efficient as it was all those years ago and is constantly cooking, baking, making tea and warming those in the house.
Finest Hour: During the Second World War the school was used to house evacuees from Newcastle and the AGA was often used to cook for the staff and boarders.
Snapshot: Just after the Second World War, Harold and Barbara, having both served in the Royal Forces and having very little living space for themselves and their child, were granted a license to build a house of under 1,000 square feet. Their only extravagance for the new house was an AGA, says Harold. "It cost £110 and we were allowed to add it to our mortgage. To this day, I clearly remember the day I collected the keys to the completed house. It was March 1952. As I entered the house the cosy warmth from the AGA greeted me." Harold and Barbara still live in the same house and enjoy the same warmth and efficiency from their beloved AGA, which remains "as beautiful as in 1952".
Finest Hour: £110 well spent. Harold and Barbara believe no house can become a home without an AGA. "Both of us are now well into our eighties and hopefully long may be fed and warmed by a good and faithful friend."
Location: County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Snapshot: The AGA in the Johnston household was originally installed when Mr Johnston was a child. "We had an old black stove which had to be fired several times a day - the war was raging, my mother, a teacher in the local school, was out 'night and day' collecting money for the Spitfire fund. Time was limited and the thought of a cooker that would burn day and night and only be fired twice a day was like a dream from heaven." Mr Johnston's mother placed the order and a few days later the AGA arrived. "It was great. No school for two days and I got to help the expert build it," says Mr Johnston. The AGA soon became the focal point of the home, the family amazed at the cleanliness and its outstanding ability to cook. When the Johnstons, some 50-plus years later, had to move house from the inherited farmhouse, they took the AGA with them. "My wife said the cooker had to go with us, or she was not moving. Now it stands majestically in the new kitchen. Young ones coming in almost refuse to believe it is over 60 years old. I see no reason why it would not last another 20."
Finest Hour: Mr Johnston's late mother would have been delighted to know that her great-grandson enjoys the same warmth from the AGA she bought in 1945.
Snapshot: Installed by his grandfather, originally solid fuel and now converted to oil, the AGA at the Edwards' farmhouse is so much a part of the family it has a name - Agatha. Agatha has an endless list of roles within daily life, Mark says. "Body warmer, nurse, launderette, welcoming host and companion." The AGA takes off the winter chill, offers warmth and renewed life to weather-beaten lambs and is the first comforting sight on entering the kitchen. Agatha can even boast a cattery - "Two cubby holes to one side have been the favoured haven for feline generations," says Mark.
Finest Hour: Agatha has multiple roles, but her proudest is launching the Edwards children's cook school - toast and popcorn being the first success story.
Location: Newton, Dorset
Snapshot: Anne's first AGA was installed in her first marital home in 1959 - a 52 foot converted harbour patrol boat reputed to be one of the infamous Dunkirk Little Ships, built in 1918. The 2-oven AGA was not only an excellent cooker, but also heated the water. "It was a proper yacht AGA," Anne recalls. "Its weight on the port side was balanced by a 100 gallon water tank on the starboard side. The chrome studs at each corner screwed out and we had a complete set of chromed brass fiddles to screw in and hold pans in place in a seaway." Anne now has a cream 4-oven AGA, dating from the 1930s, complete with the original manual.
Finest Hour: The yacht AGA made a great conversation piece. Anne remembers baffled friends asking how she cooked on the boat and her reply being, "well, the AGA's quite good…"
Snapshot: This AGA came as quite a shock to Australian Janet. "I was horrified to discover that, having married my glamorous Englishman, I ended up living in a remote farmhouse and having to cook on an AGA," she says. "I said to my husband 'of course, we'll replace the AGA?' 'No', he replied. 'They are the Rolls Royce of cookers'." Janet's husband compromised by converting the AGA to oil and buying his wife an AGA cookbook. Janet soon found that the gentle cooking style of the AGA meant she burnt things much less and after a couple of years was found to be extolling the virtues of the AGA at a cocktail party. "A man came up to me and asked if I sold AGAs. I replied 'no, but I could'."
Finest Hour: "One unusual item boiled in the oven was my husband's hip joint. His surgeon gave it to him so that it could be mounted on his walking stick." The family also tried to bring back to life in the warming oven an ailing gerbil - sadly with no success.
Location: Tiverton, Devon
Snapshot: The AGA at Lock's Farm is an essential part of family life and means so much to the Brantons that it is not referred to as an it, but a 'she'. Converted from anthracite to oil, the AGA remains consistent in cooking all the meals, drying all the clothes and warming water, chilly hands and toes. Tradition means turning up the heat on a Saturday evening, ready for a Sunday roast. Having revived cold lambs and warmed milk for calves, Andrew and Nicky think farming would be hopeless without their beloved AGA.
Finest Hour: Countless Christmas turkeys - cooked overnight in the oven, without any need to check on progress.
Location: Bude, Cornwall
Snapshot: This AGA has moved from Devon to Cornwall, and from generation to generation of the Dennis family, a witness to children growing up, lambs being revived and teenagers working out how to boil the kettle on it. Jill's son, David, loved the AGA so much that for his wedding list he asked his guests to purchase AGA vouchers, so he could buy a brand new bright red one.
Finest Hour: Jill has done some maths and believes that since being installed in 1946, this AGA has produced almost 67,890 meals.
Snapshot: This AGA has been in the family for generations and has gradually been converted from anthracite to oil and finally to gas. Throughout the years, the AGA has kept the water hot, the towels fluffy and the kitchen and nesting birds cosy with the warmth from the flue. Well-loved and well-used, the AGA has created plenty of suppers of bubbling soups and delicious roasts and, according to the Heys, has been the backdrop to much laughter, secrets and family joys.
Finest Hour: Making cakes for more than 60 years since Elisabeth was a child.
Snapshot: Gillian and her family have lived with their AGA since moving to their Dorset home in the 1970s. Gillian adores her AGA and considers it an essential part of the family. "It's my wonderful old servant, without whom I could not possibly exist, as it is the heart of the house and it has saved the lives of several lambs by warming them up after difficult births."
Finest Hour: The AGA was an enduring support during the infamous storms of the 1970s. "It was the only thing," says Gillian, "that we could rely on for cooking and warmth."
Snapshot: Lady Le Marchant's family have lived and farmed at Hungerton Hall since 1939. The AGA has been in the kitchen since 1947, after the War Office gave up requisition of the Georgian mansion. Continually in use, the AGA has prepared food for all kinds of parties and has led an eventful life. "I am now 95 years old," says Lady Le Marchant, "and I suppose the AGA is about my oldest surviving great friend."
Finest Hour: Lady Le Marchant: "Cooks may come and cooks may go, but the AGA goes on forever! All my children and grandchildren have cooked on it, and it is known by my great grandchildren."
Snapshot: Judi and her husband inherited their AGA when they moved into her father-in-law's farm in the 1980s. The AGA has been there as long as Judi can remember, having moved around the house to accommodate changes. "It started life in the back kitchen when the range was removed and the house had staff living in. When my father-in-law moved in on the death of his father it was moved into the centre of the house. My mother-in-law was a tall lady and had it on a plinth to make it easier to lift the pots and pans. I then had the AGA lowered, so it hasn't sat still!" Judi's last surviving aunt recalls a domestic called Bucket, who made delicious scones. She remembers standing round the AGA on the night before the Second World War was declared, eating Bucket's scones.
Finest Hour: Making a mountainous millennium celebration breakfast for 375.
Snapshot: The AGA at Julian and Marie-Therese's home, Doldowlod Hall in Powys, is certainly one of the earliest models. In the 1930s, Julian's grandmother wrote to Bell's Heat Appliances praising the very same AGA. The letter, reprinted in AGA: The Story of a Kitchen Classic (Tim James 2002) reads: 'I should like to tell you that I find the AGA does all that you claim for it and a good deal more. This week we have in the house 12 in the dining room, 9 servants, 3 in nursery, and besides all this, involving separate meals, 130 people, the supper for which was entirely done at home.' The AGA is still going strong.
Finest Hour: Keeping generation after generation of a family fed for almost eight decades.
Location: North Norfolk
Snapshot: Local farmer Robert and his wife Rita converted their barn in 1983. "We moved here when my youngest was three," says Rita. "The barn had originally housed farm animals and the kitchen was once full of pigs!" The couple found an old wooden shop counter-top, complete with multiple drawers, and used it as a central counter for the pamment floor kitchen. "Apparently the counter-top once belonged to Lord Nelson's brother," Rita says. "All my friends had an AGA," she adds, "and I wouldn't want to be without it now. I use the AGA for everything. In the winter I cook roast beef and there's always lots of people at Christmas, so we do a local turkey. It's also brilliant for slow cooking stock overnight."
Finest Hour: Homemade strawberry jam in abundance. Rita says: "Electric rings are not big enough for jam pans, but the AGA is perfect."
Snapshot: Ernest and Marjorie's AGA has been in continual daily use since it was installed in 1954. The couple even have the original enquiry response typed letters and guarantee forms from 1954, with a royal stamp at the top of the page and original slogan "Churchill said Give us the Tools. The Housewife said Give me an AGA." The couple have looked after the AGA so well that even the original toaster is still in use. Ernest says the AGA has been out only once and it was not necessarily a good experience for him. "Some years ago, during a very hot summer, my wife and daughter went on holiday, leaving me and our German Shepherd in charge of the house. The Memsahib thought it would be an ideal opportunity to let it down, and clean the top. The planned barbecue was foiled by an unkind wind from the Cheshire Gap so Plan B was invoked. Camping Gaz grill was dug out. Not enough gas. By now Plan C was to be thoroughly brassed-off; not in the mood for the pub so I settled for a ploughman's supper with Cotes du Rhone and German Shepherd decided he would have flat biscuits and canine chunks with Chateau la Pompe!"
Finest Hour: The AGA is part of the family and they can't imagine cooking on anything else. "There's nothing we would rather have," says Ernest.
Snapshot: Keith and his late wife, Evelyn, inherited their AGA when they moved to their country cottage just outside Plymouth in the 1950s. The couple were possibly the world's oldest AGA owners - at the time of Evelyn's death she was 98 and Keith, 96, still lives in the house they shared and continues to use the AGA. The couple's son, Charlie, says his parents never used anything else. "It has been their only method of cooking, and has been alight, apart from the odd service, continuously. However, they did succumb to modernisation by having it converted to oil in 1997, when they began to struggle lifting the coal hod." Charlie says that generations of family and friends have been comforted by the AGA. "But not only humans - Keith kept a Jersey house cow years ago, whose sickly calf was standing in front of the AGA, overlooked by some rather prim home help, when the vet wandered in and pronounced, with a wink, 'I'm sorry ma'am, there's nothing else for it. We'll have to bring the mother in too!'"
Finest Hour: Reviving calves and feeding folk for lifetimes.
Snapshot: Rosie and Richard moved into a their barn conversion in the early 1990s. The oil-fired AGA has a Companion, attached 10 years after the AGA was installed. Busy farmers and prolific entertainers, the couple use their AGA constantly, the cooker playing a significant role in both working life and family life. "I can't imagine working without one," says Rosie. The AGA is used for numerous family parties and charity event meals, cooking lasagnes, fish pies and casseroles for up to 100 at a time. "The deep AGA trays are good for cooking for lots of people - I just fill them up and slot them in," says Rosie. "The AGA is great for savoury food and making the kitchen feel warm - and it cooks better than anything else."
Finest Hour: Rosie thinks an AGA so essential to domestic life that when each of her three sons turned 30, they were given their own AGA.
Snapshot: Originally coal-fired, the AGA in Cynthia and Joe's house was converted to gas in 2004. The couple's granddaughter, Laura, remembers the AGA with fondness. "I have happy memories of my sister and I writing letters to Santa and dropping them down the coal hole in the centre of the hot plate and rushing outside to see them going up the chimney." Laura still enjoys coming into the kitchen on a snowy day and leaning against the AGA for warmth.
Finest Hour: Joe coming home from work to Cynthia and a huge pot boiling away on the hotplate and enthusiastically exclaiming "ooh, I love your stew!" only to find she was, in fact, boiling his underpants!
Location: County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Snapshot: Richard and his wife Joanne installed their 13-amp black AGA when they renovated their kitchen in 2006. Joanne had longed for the warmth of an AGA and the ability to "bake and cook at anytime". Environmentally aware, the family decided to produce their own electricity using a wind turbine, which they use to power the AGA. "In nearly three years, we have spent less than £100 in total on electricity and our AGA has never been turned off. It has revolutionised the way my wife cooks, with stews going on at lunchtime to simmer all afternoon and AGA toasties for the kids, baked potatoes, cakes and buns all being house specialities."
Finest Hour: The McCracken AGA works hard - cooking all the family meals, drying clothes, heating the house, rescuing sick lambs in the spring and, of course, keeping Rosie the dog warm.
Snapshot: Pippa's family have always had an AGA. Arable farmers for generations, the family have never cooked any other way. Pippa's farmhouse is an eclectic mix of designs, some parts of it having been added over the years. "It's a beamed property and a mix of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian," says Pippa. During the terrible Easter floods of 1998, the farmhouse was flooded so badly that the top oven of the AGA filled with water. "There was three feet of water downstairs," Pippa recalls, "but the AGA man came and re-lit it and it was back to normal - it was the only thing that worked again after the floods!" Pippa has six dogs - labradors, terriers and a pug, who all crowd around the AGA for warmth. The AGA cooks everything, but Pippa's favourite is traditional roast beef with all the trimmings or her speciality lemon drizzle cake.
Finest Hour: Surviving the flood and saving the pug. "Just before Christmas last year the pug fell in the pond - he was very weak, hardly moving, so I rubbed him dry in a towel and popped him in the bottom oven and he revived!"
Snapshot: Jo and David moved to their idyllic country farmhouse in 2001. The house is set in four acres of land and is surrounded by cornfields. "We've lived here for eight years and I still feel like I'm on holiday," Jo says. The AGA - named Martha - dates from around 1950 and was in the house when the couple moved in. "We'd had an electric hob and oven before we moved in, so we started practising with AGA cooking by trying to use the oven more and doing things from Mary Berry's books," says Jo. Embarking on a hobby and wanting to do something that got them "out of the office," says Jo, the couple eventually found themselves the proud owners of 55 sheep and numerous cattle. "We used to keep livestock, longhorn cattle, Jacob sheep and Hampshire sheep - Martha cooked some of them!" Sadly, Jo then became ill and was unable to work, so the farm had to be scaled down for David to manage. "All the sheep went off to good homes, though; we made sure of that," says Jo. The couple still have four dogs to take care of - three Bichon Frises and one German Shepherd - and a Land Rover called Dora.
Finest Hour: Achieving the perfect roast lamb. David, with Martha's help, does all the cooking and does a particularly good roast. Jo says her mother called it "pre-war lamb, because it tasted so untouched and good… you can just pop it in and leave it to Martha!"
Location: Northern Cyprus
Snapshot: Leah grew up with AGAs and Rayburns and was a devotee of Mary Berry's cooking classes until the family moved to a Tuscan stone farmhouse in Northern Cyprus in August 2004. Leah remembers telling her husband: "I'll go anywhere with you, as long as I can have an AGA!" Although her husband thought her quite mad as the summer temperatures are usually 40º C, Leah got her wish - but not without some rather significant setbacks along the way. "I'd ordered my new black AGA and there was some space on a friend's shipping container, so on the AGA went at Felixstowe and all was going swimmingly until the crew decided to transfer the container on to a river ferry, which then sank. My AGA is now three kilometres below the sea, just off the coast of Famagusta." Sadly, says Leah, the AGA was not all the family lost. "There was a 65-inch plasma TV, a new oak kitchen and a bathroom suite on that container too!" The loss ended up costing thousands of pounds. However, being a stalwart supporter of AGA, Leah got straight on the phone and asked for another one exactly the same, which arrived safely. "It must be the only AGA in Northern Cyprus," says Leah who enjoys cooking Mediterranean roast vegetables and Moroccan lamb dishes in her English country kitchen. The AGA keeps up the British tradition of drying Leah's three daughters' school uniforms and keeping the many cats, dogs, chameleons and goldfish warm.
Finest Hour: Arriving just in time for Christmas - only four years late.
Snapshot: Greys Court was the family home of Sir Felix and Lady Brunner until they gave it to the National Trust in 1969, but continued to live there as tenants. The Tudor manor, dating from the 14th century, has ornamental gardens, a maze, a 200ft well with a giant donkey wheel and a beautiful courtyard. The AGA is seated in an original Tudor fireplace, which was uncovered during renovation of the kitchen in the 1980s.
A former actress, chair of the Women's Institute and founder of Keep Britain Tidy, Lady Brunner enjoyed cooking jam on the AGA while the house was open to the public. "She had a theatrical and liberal approach and loved to share," says Laura, the House Steward. In Lady Brunner's speech 'Owner - Donor - Tenant,' she talked about how she would avoid cooking fish or cauliflower on public open days and how she managed the day-to-day effects on her domestic life. "One thing the theatrical background gave me has been a real help. My family were trained for three generations to be 'servants of the public'. Trained for and dedicated to the part. When I am frenziedly tidying up, doing the flowers against time, giving the AGA a last minute grooming, I am thankful to have belonged to a profession in which serving the public comes naturally." Lady Brunner enjoyed cooking all sorts of exotic recipes and ensured that Greys Court was a home, not a museum.
Finest Hour: Playing centre stage with the charming Lady Brunner making jam in view of visitors who, on arriving in the kitchen, often commented on how nice it would be to live at Greys.
Snapshot: Suzi renovated her old farmhouse in 2006 and has always had a passion for cooking. "I love to cook for friends and family. I think it's just the nicest thing to share," she says. The AGA and its electric companion have helped her prepare Christmas dinner for 18 guests. Luckily she has more than enough space. "I've got four ovens, a grill and six hotplates, which is a lot of facility!" Suzi's two children learned to cook on the AGA and Suzi advocates her all-in-one AGA breakfast or 'big boy's breakfast' - a giant plate of eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and any other appropriate delights. "It's usually served mid-morning. Everything goes in the pan at different times and everyone grabs what they want off the one big plate."
Finest Hour: Through consistently performing well, Suzi says that her AGA is more than just a cooker, but instead more like "an old friend."
Snapshot: The AGA has been in the Shanks family for four generations and seen many changes in the household. Although bruised from many years of use, it remains at the centre of family life, says Margaret. "It may not be beautiful but it does exude a capable, homely sort of charm." The AGA, seated at the head of the kitchen, has been unceasingly supportive, says Margaret. "Offering forth tea and comfort in times of crisis, we have celebrated new life and success before it. My children have indulged in teenage tears and angst, stolen first kisses and vexed partings before this silent presence; it has revived and preserved in its warm embrace the half frozen orphan lambs fetched from the icy fields in the middle of the night and heated the milk to nurture it to bawdy adulthood."
Finest Hour: Enduringly consistent, this AGA has had many fine hours, through the "unrelenting move from the cart horse and scythe to industrial style mechanisation; to post-war plenty and suppers of Moroccan stew with couscous."
Snapshot: Former restaurant owner and cookery writer Ann has since lived with five different AGAs and has grown to love AGA cooking. "I wouldn't be without one now," she says. The cream AGA in Ann's 17th century manor house is an early installation, complete with the tap on the bottom oven door. The kitchen's traditional look remains, with the AGA, a small sink in the corner, a large table and a pamment tiled floor. Through the central chimney, the AGA's heat climbs up to the bedroom above the kitchen, ensuring constant hot water and never any need to iron. "It's really the most economical thing in the world," says Anne. The two Lancashire Heeler dogs, Bon Ami and Charlie, live by the AGA in the winter, becoming a "total nuisance" for Anne when she's trying to cook her favourite Mediterranean roasted vegetables.
Finest Hour: Reviving two baby geese for four days during one cold March.
Snapshot: Gill's family home, Treberfydd, is a Grade 1-listed house near the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. Treberfyd was built in 1852 and is renowned for being a fine example of Gothic architecture. The house is used as an exclusive events venue and film set - Dr Who was filmed there in 2008. The coal-fired AGA was installed in the 1930s, to replace the original Victorian range. "It would be riddled morning and night - one of the most evocative sounds in the world," Gill recalls. The AGA was used to perform a great many tasks other than cooking. "We burned all our tissues in it to stop colds spreading and it was especially good at airing clothes - I would put my school uniform in the bottom left-hand oven, and it was warm as toast when I put it on in the mornings." Gill also learned to make perfect meringues - "left overnight in the plate oven to not so much cook, but dry out, they were delicious". In early spring, the AGA set about reviving orphaned lambs which "sometimes with three legs or one eye" slept in boxes by the oven doors "and often lived much longer than their fitter counterparts". Power cuts, though frequent, failed to interrupt daily life and the AGA continued with its duties nonetheless. "The power lines were laid very close under the earth, so in ploughing season we got used to no electricity."
Finest Hour: Gill is a determined AGA cook and knows the perks. "I cannot live without hot plates - such a pain if you don't have an AGA - such a habit if you do."
Snapshot: When Kim moved into her house in 1991 she was overjoyed to find a solid-fuel cream AGA in the kitchen. A neighbour who was a plumber called round to fix a leak and was thrilled to see that it was the same AGA he had installed as a 17-year-old in 1957. "He told me it was second-hand and had come from an old barn not very far away," says Kim. Since then, the AGA simmering oven has dried out rugby boots, made candles, baked school projects, warmed new-born lambs and cooked a "mountainous quantity of food over the years". Kim has now had the AGA converted to oil and says she'd be unable to live without an AGA in her house.
Finest Hour: Managing to keep a guinea pig and a hamster alive when they were "on their last legs".
Snapshot: Illustrator Alison found her business idea through her AGA in 2004. "It was a flash of inspiration - I was sitting in the kitchen pretending to work, staring at the dogs and the AGA, so I began featuring the AGA in my illustrations. That's when the business started." Alison's original quirky and quintessentially British greeting cards designs were quickly spotted by AGA and she has recently been commissioned to illustrate another five designs for AGA mugs. Alison has a big kitchen, full of dogs - a Golden Retriever, a King Charles Spaniel and a Jack Russell all take prime position before the AGA, "steaming themselves" after long, damp walks. Alison doesn't mind clambering over her beloved "wet dog chaos" to cook. "The AGA is in constant use, there's usually something baking - fruit cakes or biscuits - and I do lots of roasts and casseroles. The temperature is so easy to cook with." Alison can put something simple in the oven in the morning and go to her studio "or glorified shed" at the bottom of the garden to work and by lunchtime, she'll have a "perfect" jacket potato.
Finest Hour: The AGA was the source of inspiration for Alison's cartoon designs - which led her to be a successful illustrator.
Location: Kilburn, London
Snapshot: In 2003, former interior designer Héléne Roux opened her chic guesthouse, Chalet en Vue, in the beautiful ski resort of Le Carroz D'Arrache, in the heart of the French Alps. Héléne installed a pewter 4-oven AGA and was so happy with it she then decided to have a claret 2-oven model in her home accessories shop in Les Gets. In 2008 Héléne opened Café de Balme in a two-storey house, now home to the 4-oven black electric model on which Héléne prepares pies, tarts and cakes for her café guests. The café also has an AGA showroom, displaying black and cream models.
Finest Hour: Preparing a range of culinary delights for customers of the deli-café. Visit the website.
Location: Kilburn, London
Snapshot: A food blogger and pioneer of underground restaurants in the UK, Ms Marmite Lover has been a fan of AGAs since childhood. Her parents had one in their house in London and she says they're perfect for chilly damp Victorian houses, such as her own in North London. It's in this house that MsMarmitelover runs her underground restaurant with the help of her teenage daughter, who acts as a waitress. All the food is cooked on the AGA and, from September 11, the restaurant will be open two nights a week serving AGA-cooked food along with MsMarmitelover's own brand of quirky cool.
Finest Hour: The AGA routinely copes brilliantly with around 40 covers at the restaurant, cooking three courses and often home-baked bread too.
Vintage: c 1930
Snapshot: In the early 1930s, Ernest Hartley built Akroyd House, inspired by the architectural designs of Charles Voysey. His granddaughter, Tessa Goldsmith, remembers the place with huge fondness. It was, she says, an exciting, large, mysterious place "with dark corridors hung with large paintings, a billiard room and stone fireplaces with high carved mantle-shelves". The kitchen and AGA were central to domestic life. "It was a warm, friendly comfortable room, where children weren't in the way. On the whole side of the warm yellow kitchen was the AGA, with its hod of coke standing ready. Grown-ups were always inquiring about the AGA. Until I understood that the AGA was a thing, I imagined it to be some kind of a spirit hidden in the dark places of the house," says Tessa. The AGA heated the airing cupboard, stacked full of "lovely-smelling" freshly laundered sheets, and warmed the towel rails in the bathroom. In the early mornings, Tessa and her younger sister, Joanne, would come down to hot toast, made by Nellie the house-maid, who would "put slices of bread inside a flat wire mesh cage, under one of the cream-coloured lids with curious handles of spiralled wire". The children warmed their cold fingers "by curling them round the shiny rail where the tea-towels hung, or - daringly - by touching the black enamel around the lids." Tessa's grandmother cooked joints of meat, biscuits and Haver cakes, which were "looped over the clothes rack before being hoisted high over the AGA to dry."
Finest Hour: This AGA was truly the heart of the home and a huge part of Tessa's childhood memories. "Without the AGA, in summer or winter, the house lost its heart."
Snapshot: Patrick Henriroux is a Michelin-starred chef and runs the famously elegant restaurant La Pyramide in Vienne, France. Patrick is also vice president of Relais & Chateaux, an international collection of luxury hotels and restaurants. Patrick discovered his first AGA in Lyon in 2003. "When I saw this cooker I knew it was the one for me," Patrick told the Michelin Guide, Etoile. The AGA revived nostalgic memories of the warmth of his grandmother's kitchen and he learned to appreciate the constant contact with the cooking material, believing it to be "solid and reassuring". Patrick compares learning to cook with an AGA to the excitement of a Formula One car. "First, you learn how to drive, then you play with the possibilities," Patrick says. Having the capacity to use various cooking ovens, working at different temperatures, is an "exceptional quality," says Patrick. "You can cook instinctively or you can simmer. An AGA is easy to use, powerful and heavy - all qualities that enhance its capabilities. Since I've had my AGA at home, the kitchen has become the heart of the house. The family always meet around the AGA in the winter time."
Finest Hour: Performing so well that a top Michelin-starred chef is now a life-long fan. Patrick says: "With an AGA, you can cook with pleasure and love. To try it is to adopt it for good."
Snapshot: Installed in the headquarters of AGA, over the past 20 years this dark blue model has famously taught, trained and fed more than 4,000 people from all over the world. The AGA has played host to many politicians, celebrity and VIP visits. It regularly features in AGA videos and DVDs and in AGA Living magazine, as well as publicity material, such as product of the month leaflets and AGA brochures.
Finest Hour: A special royal visit, when Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne, an AGA owner herself, visited the AGA offices. She is pictured with AGA's Dawn Roads.
Snapshot: Founder of the bespoke interior design company, Smallbone of Devizes, Charlie Smallbone has held a life-long love of AGAs. "I must have been about seven," he says, "when my parents and I moved house and I remember a coal-fired light blue AGA being very central to their excitement about our new home." In the 1970s, Charlie and his wife, Sue, moved into their first home after starting their business together and inherited a cream coal-fired AGA. "It was definitely the hub of the house - no central heating in those days! We cleaned it all out and got it going - must have been my experience growing up with an AGA!" Now, the family have traded in their original oil-fired AGA for a "beautiful" black four-oven model, installed in 1988. Charlie - now working with Fired Earth on the evolution of its kitchen collections - says: "Without doubt, the AGA has a cherished status in the Smallbone family - just the other day my daughter Lucy called it a 'family friend'."
Finest Hour: In the 1979s, the cream AGA played an important role in the fledgling Smallbone of Devizes. "We used to fill the kitchen with furniture we had dipped in caustic soda to strip it. The heat from the AGA accelerated the drying process, so we could then renovate the pieces, sand, wax and finish them."
Vintage: c 1960s
Snapshot: Guy's Head Lighthouse sits on the mudflats on the bank of the River Nene in Lincolnshire. The AGA has seen better days, but is still very much part of the family. "We use it mainly as a slow cooker now," says Philippa, "as it doesn't heat up as well as other AGAs, but it's perfect for my overnight stews." The AGA's gentle heat is also perfect for warming up the lighthouse.
Finest Hour: Providing a rest and recharge spot for the Normantons' Giant African Tortoise, which has its very own step-ladder to climb into the bottom oven for a quick warm-up. The AGA also has shelves built on one side, the lowest of which acts as a bed for Samphire the Springer Spaniel.
Snapshot: Steve and Brenda bought their solid-fuel AGA in 1991. It came complete with the original 1940s guarantee, registration forms and handbook. Steve lovingly refers to the AGA as his "baby" but, as Brenda says, is a little less inclined to feed it in the colder months. "He doesn't always feel like getting the coal in then!" Brenda dries her silk flowers and airs the ironing on the AGA and says "there's nothing nicer than coming in from the cold and getting warmed up by it". Some of Brenda's friends have asked how she manages to cook on something with no dials. Brenda's answer is simple: "I would have trouble cooking with a conventional oven - I'd probably forget to turn it on!"
Finest Hour: Cooking Christmas dinner for 12.
Snapshot: Writer and designer Sophie's AGA was installed into the fourth floor kitchen in her West London home in 1986. It saw her through her 20s and into motherhood and since then has been an invaluable ally in writing her cookery books. Sophie uses her AGA every day to cook for her children, Felix and Coco, as well as the "huge and unruly" extended Conran clan. "All those clichés are true," says Sophie, "it really is the heart of the home."
Finest Hour: The AGA's finest times were when Sophie was working on her two cookery books, Sophie Conran's Pies (Collins, 2006) and Soups and Stews (Collins, 2008). It also featured in a national AGA advertising campaign, when famed photographer Mary McCartney captured Sophie baking in her kitchen.
Snapshot: Installed before the Second World War, the huge AGA in this Jacobean mansion would originally have been used by the housekeeper for cooking numerous family meals - game casseroles, fruit cakes, breakfasts of kedgeree and devilled kidneys and kippers. The house and grounds endured many changes over the years, alternating as a children's refuge, hospital and army base. The AGA was eventually used to melt glue for the repair of antiques until finally - battered and broken - it was collected for renovation by AGA specialists. Stripped, blasted, burnished and cleaned, the AGA has now been restored to its former glory and installed with a special flue manifold system to accommodate the twin oil burners.
Finest Hour: Making endless cups of cocoa for broken-hearted housekeeper, Gertrude, who lost her fiancé in the war.
Vintage: First AGA (parents) 1949; another in 1985; third in 2007
Location: New Jersey, USA
Snapshot: "My first experience of an AGA was when I was growing up in Scotland," says Peter, an international management consultant who now lives in New Jersey, USA, with his wife, Solange, who is also a management consultant and a keen cook, who trained at the French Culinary Institute. "My parents had a cream anthracite-fired heat-storage model with a module on the left-hand side, which had a large plate warmer on which I'd sit in the winter. One of my chores was keeping the AGA fuelled and cleaning out the ashes. My second experience was with a red gas-fired model that was in our current home, built in 1865, when we bought it. It was one of the house's selling features and a blessing in the New Jersey winters. Our third, and current AGA, was installed when we re-modelled our kitchen in 2007."
Finest Hour: All four ovens on the go and all at different temperatures.
Snapshot: Entrepreneurial architect and conservationist Kit and his wife, Sally, a former model, live at Gunton Hall, a Georgian mansion surrounded by deer parkland. The house was originally designed in 1742 by Matthew Brettingham and later extended by the Wyatt brothers. While maintaining Gunton's original gothic charm, Kit restored and converted the derelict estate into a series of smaller houses. Sally has a love of flying, so Kit built her a runway for her own plane across the grounds. The couple's white AGA sits in the main hall kitchen and has hand-painted Delft tiles behind it; above it hangs an abstract painting by renowned artist Patrick Heron. The couple love entertaining and have had many dinner parties, cooking everything on the AGA. "For my birthday, we had beef Wellington, which was delicious, and of course the AGA makes the whole thing so easy," says Sally.
Finest Hour: Warming up the Martins' three dogs, Lottie, Flight and Bertie, whatever the weather.
Snapshot: When Myfanwy and Brian moved into their Georgian town house in 1987 they were determined to get an AGA. "We've got friends who are farmers and they had a 1930s AGA they used non-stop and I'd always thought I'd like one of those," says Myfanwy, who was not in the least intimidated by learning to cook on an AGA. "I went to one an AGA cooking course, just to make sure I was on top of it, but it's really so simple. We have a lot of dinner parties - we've got a huge family who descend on us regularly and our two black Labradors sleep next to it all the time." Myfanwy admits she is now an AGA devotee and hopes the AGA will be passed down through Freeman family generations.
Finest Hour: Myfanwy loves to cook whole fillet steak, stuffed with garlic. "It takes about 45 minutes and it comes out a perfect rare."
Vintage: 1998 and 2001
Snapshot: Renowned bon viveur Mark inherited his mother's beloved bottle green AGA, which she had particularly loved because of its ability to heat the whole of her small house. Then, Mark and Annie were given another when they launched the hugely popular cookery school, The Cooking Experience, where it continues to have a leading role in classes and demonstrations. The two AGAs sit back-to-back and share the same chimney.
Finest Hour: Mark was called upon to demonstrate on a 13-amp electric AGA on Southwark Bridge in London during the Thames Festival. The AGA had to be installed in the middle of the previous night and uninstalled the same day at the end of the festival. "She worked hard all day," says Mark. "I used her mercilessly, but the heat remained steady despite several power failures!"
Snapshot: Photographer and DJ Raven had his electric AGA installed in 1987 when he renovated the kitchen in his country farmhouse. "It's great for keeping the kitchen warm at night. I use it for everything from roast lamb and baked potatoes to boiling the kettle." The kitchen and pamment floor were built around the AGA and have been host to many of Raven's dinner and dance parties, where the AGA faithfully offers the non-dancing guests respite, a warm drinking spot and the occasional romantic opportunity with a fellow guest. "My children have grown up cooking on the AGA too - Archie (pictured) can do a mean tomato pasta," says Raven.
Finest Hour: Grace, Raven's youngest, achieving perfect pink cupcakes.
Vintage: c 1960s
Snapshot: Anna inherited her Duck Egg Blue AGA when she remarried and moved south to a new house. It is, she admits, in need of a little attention. Rebecca, Anna's sister, works at AGA and is keen to help. "I've ordered some AGA enamel and AGA chrome cleaner, but I suspect it will need a bit of an expert clean and a facelift from the AGA people." Further help is at hand. When Anna's mother visited she demonstrated how to iron sheets on the hotplate cover. "Our mother learned that technique years ago," says Rebecca, "when our parents had some self-catering apartments in Devon and she had her own 4-oven AGA. As you can imagine, there were quite a few bed sheets to iron back in those days!"
Finest Hour: Conjuring up perfect roast chicken after a family day on the beach.
Snapshot: Award-winning garden designers to the Prince of Wales, Julian and Isabel live at Hanham Court Gardens, a rural manor house built on a monastic foundation with its own 13th century church, magical woodland garden and miniature wild flower park. Their oil-fired AGA was inherited with the house, but had originally been taken out. "We found bits of it buried around the garden," says Isabel. The top oven door, currently under repair, still has the red ball, which serves as a reminder that the AGA is being used. The family call it the 'red eye'. "Pretty helpful for us, as we're always forgetting," says Julian. The ball has now been replaced with a modern version - an AGA oven magnet that reads 'I'm cooking'. The Bannerman AGA does lots of garlic bread and sausages and, according to Isabel, makes "the best meringues".
Finest Hour: "Drying moss and shells for grotto work and roasting picture frames to make them look old."
Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Snapshot: This AGA is housed in one of Russia's leading interior design venues, the Balthaup Centre by Design Gallery in the heart of Saint Petersburg, close to Russia's most famous street and shopping parade, Nevsky Prospekt, and just five minutes' walk from the historic Winter Palace. The Design Gallery, owned by Fadey and Lena, was renovated in 2004 to house a series of design studios for high-end products and houses an AGA showroom, where regular demonstrations are held.
Finest Hour: This AGA was the first to be installed in Russia.
Snapshot: Rebecca loves her Duck Egg Blue
AGA. The family spend lots of time together in the kitchen of the
house - a former rectory - so the AGA is always being called upon.
"It's reliable, versatile and we use it for every meal," she says.
"It's great for cooking fish and roasting sweet potatoes." The
youngest of the children has even learned to cook jam tarts on the
AGA. "Everyone loves food and the AGA really is the heart of family
life," Rebecca adds. "Plus, it's really good for defrosting and
drying out clothes."
Rebecca spent her childhood in the country, where her family grew vegetables and were pretty much self-sufficient. It was this start in life that made her feel strongly that she'd like to begin small-scale production of eggs, blueberries, speciality herbs and fruit and vegetables. Her company, Earthy Eaters, sells its produce through small-scale local outlets.
Finest Hour: Rebecca's AGA starred in the AGA Local Life advertising campaign showcasing the very best of local producers. Then there was New Year's Eve 2008, when the AGA coped admirably with a champagne and fireworks supper party for 15.
Snapshot: An AGA demonstrator and a baker by trade, David grew up with an AGA and believes it's the best way to cook. "I don't know what I'd do without it. It really does do the world's best cooking." Living a stone's throw from the beach, the family decided on a big dark blue model - "the bigger, the better," says David. The family cat also relies on the AGA for the perfect snoozing spot. "We don't dare turn it off - the cat would throw a fit!"
Finest Hour: Cooking a traditional Christmas dinner for 16.
Snapshot: Designer Emma Bridgewater - known for her gorgeous pottery, ceramics and textiles - lives in the family house inherited from her mother. The blue AGA sits at one end of a flagstone-floored basement kitchen. "We cook at one end and eat at the other. It's very cosy," Emma says. "In summer it's lovely to slice up courgettes from the garden and pop them straight on the AGA simmering plate for a few minutes, until they're blackened, then just add a bit of cracked pepper, lemon juice and salt."
Finest Hour: "Saving our lives! We had a very retro-winter, when the river flooded and the local meadow froze over and became a skating rink. Our heating broke, so the children all huddled around the AGA. It felt quite primitive, but was lots of fun and the AGA kept us from freezing too."
Snapshot: The aubergine AGA in the Shawo family kitchen makes a real statement in their recently renovated cream kitchen. Mary loves the feel and colour of her AGA and says the simmering oven is perfect for the Middle Eastern food she loves to prepare. "The main reason to have an AGA," she says, "is, of course, for the fantastic cooking." But she also confesses to feeling a real emotional attachment to it and refers to it lovingly as "her baby".
Finest Hour: Mary's husband was interviewed for a documentary on successful Iraqi businessmen and the AGA also featured.
Snapshot: The Crawfords renovated their early Victorian house to hold a larger kitchen, dining room and conservatory and, crucially, to house the AGA they had always wanted. Fiona and Paul love entertaining friends and cook everything on the AGA, from shoulder of lamb and gratin dauphinoise to simple pasta sauces. "The simmering oven is terrific for tomato and onion sauces," says Fiona. The yellow AGA even has matching lids.
Finest Hour: Keeping new-born kittens warm in a box nearby. "It's also great for when we come in wet after a walk and for drying out wellies on the overhead rack."
Snapshot: The Baskervilles had always wanted an AGA, so when the time came to replace their domestic boiler they decided to move it to the garage so the brick chimney could be re-built for an AGA. The family love everything about their claret AGA, which "gives warmth and style to the kitchen, making it the centre of the home".
Finest Hour: Just being there, ready to go at a moment's notice, with no need to pre-heat the ovens.
Location: West Midlands
Snapshot: Clare used to work for AGA so knew all about them, but sadly had never had the right house for one. Then the family moved into an Edwardian property, began renovating and Clare begged her husband for the cooker she'd always dreamed of. And when the fully programmable AIMS AGA was introduced the decision was an easy one.
Finest Hour: While the Engelkes were renovating the derelict kitchen, the AGA did a fantastic job of keeping everyone warm even though there was no back door!
Vintage: c 1994
Snapshot: Former British ski champion Finlay Mickel and his wife, Daca, inherited their AGA; now Daca can't imagine life without it: "Coming from Australia, I knew nothing about AGAs," she says, "but Finlay's mother gave me lessons." Daca embraced Scottish tradition at her first attempt by baking scones. "They didn't come out exactly as I'd hoped," she laughs. Since then she's become something of an expert with Sunday roasts and pancakes. "The timing on the AGA is perfect."
Finest Hour: Drying out Finlay's Olympic tracksuit bottoms on the AGA - and burning them. "I was in big trouble - they went from blue to red!"
Vintage: c 1950s
Snapshot: The Courtauld family home dates from 1612 and when they inherited it from Thomas's grandparents it came with an AGA. The duck egg blue model sits on a plinth in the kitchen and Amelia hates the idea of being without it, seeing it as a vital part of family life. "It's a warming influence," she says, "and the children have grown up using it - pulling up chairs to it to help with baking cakes or on winter mornings going to it to warm their backs with bowls of cereal clasped in their hands."
Finest Hour: Magically turning roast chicken leftovers into risotto. Amelia says: "I use the stock from the chicken and heat it overnight and everyone looks forward to one or two days later, when we'll have the most delicious risotto."
Vintage: c 1960s
Snapshot: The Brettingham Smiths run a picturesque 18th century B&B, Glebe House, where their AGA is very much the heart of both family and working life. Mary adores cooking and relies on the AGA for baking bread, ironing sheets and to dry clothes after a day of sailing. "The AGA is never off," says Mary. "With our British summers, we love the warmth of it in the cool evenings, and there's nothing else to cook on!"
Finest Hour: "It's had many fine hours, is the heart of our home and usually has someone hovering around it," says Mary.
Snapshot: The AGA at Simon Finch's arts and crafts house, Voewood, has a very active role in daily life. Indra, who runs the house, says: "The AGA here does everything, from cooking for 150 people and drying Simon's clothes, to making endless tea and coffee and the most amazing toast." The AGA is not just a practical support, but a comfort too -Shakti, the golden retriever, is always to be found curled up nearby and guests find themselves gravitating towards it in conversation.
Finest Hour: Melting the electric kettle. Jack - Simon's teenage son - put it on the AGA to boil. Indra later discovered the warped remains of plastic in the bin.
Snapshot: The Meath Bakers live in a 19th century Norfolk house and are partners in the Walsingham Farms Shop Partnership The AGA sits perfectly within a super-modern stainless steel kitchen. "AGAs don't have to be just for the retro farmhouse," says Lizzy. "They are timeless, so can be slick and modern too." Simple to install and a "totally enjoyable cooking experience", the Meath Bakers love the AGA so much they endlessly have to defend its lids from being sat on by their children.
Finest Hour: Dinner for 50, lunch for 100 and drying out in the simmering oven a pair of ballet pumps owned by movie star Romola Garai (Atonement, Vanity Fair and I Capture the Castle).
Vintage: c early 1970s
Snapshot: Architectural painter Hugh has been commissioned by the Royal Family and the National Trust and has international collections in the V&A, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao and the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff. Hugh and his wife, Anne, live in a medieval tower outside Edinburgh. "The tower dates from the 1560s and is damp, so our AGA is on all the time," says Hugh. We use it to cook bacon and onion hotpot, iron our sheets and dry out my watercolours." The AGA, inherited from Hugh's mother, is considered part of the family and is cleaned every Monday. "My mother is fiercely protective over it," says Hugh, "and insists on everyone keeping it polished."
Finest Hour: Noted Scottish watercolourist Harry More Gordon featured the AGA in a portrait commissioned by Hugh's parents, Ian and Fiona Buchanan.
Location: suburban Stafford
Snapshot: Dawn's AGA has been in service for just over 10 years. It was installed just before she moved in. Having moved from a house with a 2-oven blue AGA, Dawn was thrilled to have an even bigger model. As AGA's head of international training and product excellence, Dawn makes sure her AGA is always working hard. As well as being used for recipe testing - Dawn develops all the recipes for AGA Living magazine and writes cookery books - her AGA also appears in the AGA DVD, demonstrating the art of the perfect pizza. Dawn's AGA was one of the first to have been part of the AGA upgrade programme and now has AIMS, allowing her to programme it to suit her busy life. Dawn also loves her AGA so much that she ensured her car's number plate contains the word AGA.
Finest Hour: Dawn's AGA has made at least a ton of flapjacks
Vintage: c 1946
Location: Exmoor, Somerset
Snapshot: Rachel adores the quirkiness of her ancient AGA. "I love everything about it", she says. "It has its own character and it's own very distinct temperature, the top oven is a furnace."
AGAs feature heavily in Rachel's books. There's even one
pictured on the cover of The Mummy Diaries.
The American edition of her latest book, Shire Hell is published under the title In a Good Place. At the back of the book, there's a glossary of terms and AGA comes top of the list.
Here's how she artfully describes it: "The AGA is a two- or four-oven cast-iron cooker, but oh so much more than that. Draped with socks and Irish linen, tea towels and always containing something crumbly in the roasting oven, the AGA, like a lovable old Labrador, is the warm heart of the country kitchen."
Finest Hour: Every hour, although Rachel does complain that she has trouble cooking, as she is always having to move people out of the way. As is true the world over, Rachel's guests gravitate towards the AGA and lean on it in an inconvenient fashion.
Snapshot: The AGA at the Cooper's home in Gloucestershire is dark blue and has a tiled picture behind it depicting badgers, foxes and an owl and also has the Coopers' dogs included in the typically rural scene. The kitchen is definitely the heart of this home and, more often than not, there's a kettle boiling away on the AGA and a crowd of interesting people around the kitchen table. Jilly's AGA is called into service daily to cook food for her beloved animals, including her rescue greyhound, Feather. It also cooks for her husband, Leo, the writer and historian, and their two children, Emily and Felix, when they are home. Dinner is also often cooked for Felix's dog, William, a rescued mongrel who came from Battersea Dogs Home.
Finest Hour: Jilly's AGA features in several of her novels as belonging to romantic hero Rupert Campbell-Black who Jilly says is based on an amalgam of the most glamorous, up-market men in Gloucestershire.
Snapshot: Cookery writer Louise - author of numerous cook books, including The Aga Year, The Traditional Aga Book of Slow Cooking, The Traditional Aga Cookery Book, The Traditional Aga Four Seasons Cookery Book and The Traditional Aga Party Book trained as a home economics teacher, with the college making much use of the several AGAs on site. The first thing she installed when she renovated her kitchen at home in Bath was her cherished AGA. She says she has never regretted her decision "because the food is great - moist and tasty - it is easy to maintain and clean and it keeps the house lovely and warm."
Finest Hour: Louise's AGA played a starring role in the photoshoot for her cook book, The Aga Year.
Location: Home Counties
Snapshot: Food writer and AGA demonstrator Lucy - author of Secrets from a Country Kitchen, Aga easy, Secrets of Aga Cakes and her latest,# Tips for Better Baking - says she wouldn't cook on anything else. She says: "It is always on and ready to go. The food always tastes better, it does the ironing and is warm, meaning everyone always huddles around it."
Finest Hour: Friends came round for a barbeque and wanted to cook on her chimenea (an outside clay oven with a chimney). But it was not cooking the food all the way through, so Lucy quickly put the food in the AGA and then put it briefly on the chimenea for an authentic smokey taste. "A conventional cooker," says Lucy, "simply wouldn't have been ready and they would all have had to wait a long time to eat."
Snapshot: Since Lynne did some work experience with AGA more than 18 years ago, she's wanted one of her own. Over the years she's fallen in love with those she's seen in friends' houses and was delighted when her kitchen extension was finished in 2006 and the AGA installed. Lynne is rather tall and so has had her AGA built on a raised plinth using bricks reclaimed from the renovation of her kitchen. She also had her kitchen furniture built to be higher than usual and has finished it off with handmade classic floor tiles from Fired Earth.
Finest Hour: "I think the best moment was the day it was installed," says Lynne. "I'd been living without a kitchen for six months, so that night I cooked a traditionally British steak and kidney pudding for my husband. He was thrilled!"
Vintage: 20 years old
Snapshot: Mary - one of the UK's favourite food writers and the author of countless cookbooks - has always had an AGA. She loves the cooking, the ambient warmth and the cooker's ability to do so many other things, including to dry clothes.
Finest Hour: Mary's cookery school was hugely popular and massively respected. Often she would have to cook for as many as 20 people twice a week. The AGA would be used to cook 12 dishes for the class sessions, as well as the lunches for the participants. Unsurprisingly, Mary believes that with careful planning the AGA can do "amazing things".
Location: Isle of Wight
Snapshot: Amy has had four AGAs since she moved to the country. She moved from the USA in 1980, when she was 12, to a house with an AGA and has had one ever since. Amy, a food writer and author of many AGA cook books, believes no kitchen is complete without an AGA.
Finest Hour: Typically each Boxing Day Amy has to feed a veritable house-full, with 43 guests being the most so far. The AGA, she says, has never failed but to cope brilliantly.
Location: Lake District
had wanted an AGA since she was around 13, but had to wait 45
years. It is, though, every bit as good as she had hoped. "It
changes your way of life," she says.
Her husband Geoff adds. "We bought a 400-year-old dry stone barn and the kitchen's on the first floor. We both used to be head teachers, but we're now more or less retired. Now we live in the kitchen, people drop in for coffee in the kitchen, we entertain in the kitchen.
"The AGA has completely refocused us. You just eat differently. The jacket potatoes are fabulous, so are the pavlovas and who eats Melba toast every three days?"
Finest Hour: Saving Gilbert! Geoff began breeding sheep four years ago and now has 16 breeding ewes. Gilbert's mother, Gin, and her sister, Tonic, are Masham sheep. "They're curly and look as if they've had a perm," says Geoff. "Gin had twins, but I didn't realise that she had only one working teat. Once a lamb locks on to a teat, it owns it and so, as Gilbert's sister got the working one, he was starving. I got up one morning and saw him lying down in the field with hardly a breath in him. He was shivering and when I bought him in to warm up, he couldn't even take a bottle. So, I tube fed him and then popped him in the warming oven of the AGA. It was an absolute success. Pam was stroking his head and he began to perk up and look around. The photo here is about four hours after he was brought in and just after he'd taken his first bottle. It was an absolute success."
Vintage: Installed in 2007
Snapshot: The Harveys' house is a stunning conversion in a quiet south London mews. The gleaming black AGA is positioned at a slight angle in a thoroughly modern kitchen bathed in natural light from huge ceiling windows.
Finest Hour: Julia, who runs an outside catering company, once used her AGA to help with the preparation of food for 200.
Vintage: c 1960s
Snapshot: The AGA was in the Kents' rambling Georgian manor house when the family moved in. They replaced everything else in the kitchen but left the faithful workhorse. Pauline uses it for all cooking and many wedding and birthday cakes have been made because they feel the AGA really excels at this. Also, if their dog gets depressed it will always sit by the AGA to cheer itself up
Finest Hour: The Kents once suffered a power cut that lasted nearly a full day, but they still managed to have a full roast dinner by candlelight. They told the children ghost stories around the AGA, but the young ones got so scared they couldn't sleep that night. Now the children ask for another power cut so they can re-live the experience.