/ Home & Energy

Your tales of retro kitchen appliances

In 2011, we put out a call for owners of old appliances to come forward and tell us all about them. Since then, we’ve received dozens of stories from proud owners about their vintage appliances that simply refuse to die.

Last year, we asked ‘is older better when it comes to kitchen appliances?‘. The stories we received were a fascinating insight into the longevity of the appliances in our homes. But they also shone a light on the way older design ideas consistently creep back into modern product design.

One such story came from Gina Bury who told us about her National NE6330 microwave, which dates back to 1978 and is still used everyday. Gina’s microwave has 33 years on the clock and setting it is akin to tuning an old radio – you move an indicator along a dial to set the cooking time. But in design terms, it doesn’t necessarily look its age.

Coming back into fashion

Gina’s microwave is square-fronted rather than rectangular, and you can see this kind of design in the Whirlpool Max range of microwaves – the ones that look like portable TVs. Other modern looking design touches include a pull-down door, which can also be found on many modern microwaves models, including from AEG, LG, Neff, Panasonic, Samsung and Whirlpool.

It’d be interesting to see if you’ve noticed any classic design coming through in modern appliances, or if you’ve spotted any retro appliances in other peoples’ houses starting to look ‘modern’ again. Please comment if you have any examples or, even better, send us a picture and let us know how old your appliance is.


Talking about her National microwave (a Panasonic brand from back in the day), Gina said:

‘I prefer it to my newer cooker. It’s heavy by today’s standards but it’s very easy to use and the simmer feature is great for casseroles. I’ll be sorry when it gives up the ghost.’

We also heard from Mark Kelly, whose Baby Belling cooker from 1961 baked six Christmas cakes for friends and family last year. And Vicky Millins said her Morphy Richards iron from the mid-50s lacks steam but it’s still great for clothes repairs. In our previous Conversation, Pat Manley shared this story about a very popular old appliance:

‘As a big treat, when we got married in 1969, we bought a Kenwood Chef and it’s still going strong. We had to buy a new plastic (acryllic?) lid for the bowl as it was crazed and then fractured. Absolutly no further problems.’

Do you have any appliances that don’t look or act their age? Or do you suspect that they just don’t make them like they used to?

David Mullahey says:
16 June 2012

We have a Sony Black Trinitron Colour TV (portable) bought in 1991 and going strong, with sharp picture and crystal clear sound (now attached to a Freeview Box). It has outlasted at two or three other subsequently purchased TV sets.

Gwyn says:
18 June 2012

When we purchased out house almost 30 years ago the Central Heating boiler looked old. Subsequent investigation dates it as some time before pre North Sea gas conversion of 1966?. Best guess is it’s 50+ years old, and in the last 28 years has only failed once – needing a new solenoid.

We also have 2 Bosch washing machines. To differentiate, the “new” one is about 14 years old, and the “old” one is clocking in at 33 years and still does all the outdoor muddy clothes.

Angus Galbraith says:
25 June 2012

We have an Electrolux fridge/freezer that my parents bought us for a wedding present in 1974. It’s has a few thermostats & a couple of compressors over the years but that’s all.

Roger Campling says:
2 July 2012

We bought a Parnell Tumble Dryer in 1961. It had plenty of use during the 1960s when the children were young and has been used intermittently ever since. It is still going strong and the only fault in all those years was when the timer ceased working; this was replaced under guarantee!

Frances Pearsall says:
19 July 2012

I have my grandmother’s Singer Sewing Machine which I am still using. A hand version bought by her in the mid 30’s (the instruction booklet is for machine No 99) she made many clothes for me as a child as well as curtains, cushions etc. It passed to my mother and then onto me, and for the last 40 years I have been using it not only for clothes and household furnishing, but also garden cushions of plastic and canvas and earlier this month for making shade netting curtains for the greenhouse. Never been modified and still going strong!

Julian says:
19 July 2012

Okay, firstly I will admit my contributions are nowhere near the region of these antiquities however I am very pleased to say that my first major purchases after graduating and getting a job are still going strong after 20years. Mission bookshelf speakers, and Nakamichi Receiver 2 (amplifier). The cassette deck and cd player still work but are consigned to storage in these days of downloadable/rippable digital media. I have misplaced the remote control between here and France where I lived with these products for 12 years (moved 3 times) but luckily one of those fancy remote controls manages it all very well. I think this is very typical for higher end audio equipment in general, with eBay and other auction sites showing a lot of older kit still in perfect working order. I doubt one of these iPhone dedicated devices will survive anywhere near as long or sound as good.

The build quality of hi-fi separates tends to be much better than most home electronic devices, which is why you see plenty of secondhand equipment for sale. All my separates (no two components by the same manufacturer) date from the 80s and are still working.

You have interesting ‘kitchen appliances’. 🙂

Julian says:
22 July 2012

oops didnt notice it was for kitchen appliances! 🙂 Ignore my comments. Or cook on valve amps.

Mollie Walton says:
26 July 2012

When my parents married in 1932, my mother bought an electric clock. It is a Smith sectric, with a square face and dark oak surround, and it has worked continuously ever since without a break or ever giving trouble.
The wiring has been replaced!
This must surely be the record.

Phil Brooke says:
19 August 2012

My parents bought a Prestcold fridge in 1956. They are still using it 56 years later.

I see this is not quite the oldest fridge still in use, but fridges seem to be amongst the longest lasting apart from clocks (at least they were then).

Jack Craic says:
5 September 2012

I bought an old hair drier the other day at a car boot sale. It had a brown Bakelite shell and research showed that it could have been made in 1929! And yet it was still in working order! I have just bought a 1950’s Morphy Richards space heater and amazingly that still works too!

David says:
13 December 2012

In 1972 we bought a Bekay 13cu ft chest freezer, a Which ‘Best buy’, and it is still going. Probably, not as efficient as a new model, but reliable. It is used for fruit and vegtables from the garden and for ‘special offers’ from supermarkets, mainly meat. This helps to pay the running costs.

J Valentine says:
5 March 2013

Ok today March 4 2013 at 9:01 pm our closest family member The Genious Panasonic microwave born 10/23/74 has passed away this evening at 9:01 p.m lol

Johnny Clarke says:
19 July 2013

Our apartment is a ‘shrine’ to the 1970s, a period of great happiness in my life, They made things to last back then, as is proof in our home. The stting/dining room is furnished in teak, G-plan astro coffee table, iconic design with it’s set in circular glass top, teak sidboard and radiogram, swivel ‘egg’ type chair on teak cross section legs, teak ercol round dining table a nd teak dining chairs with woven rush seats, ladderack shelf unit complete with glass fronted cabinet, bureau and drawers, The only modern day items are the Ikea sofa and rug…and tv etc. It’s a really comfortable room which gets much admiration from visitors.

In the kitchen we have the good old Russel Hobbs electric kettle, from 1969, and still going strong and looking fantastic, no-one will have a modern kettle still working and looking good in 43 years time, for sure. The bedroom has a wall of teak Tapley teak units hanging from their invisable wall fixings, Original Novamura vinyl wallpaper in a physcadelic print is used as a ‘head-board from floor to ceiling behind the bed.

But my most favorite thing…the Electrolux ZA65 vacuum cleaner, the same as the one my Mum had when we were kids. It’s a dream, so much better than any modern cleaner, all metal, no flimsy, rubbishy plastic bits to bend and break. It’s light, not like you would imagine an ‘old’ vacuum to be, very quiet, unlike modern ones, and great suction !

I say, why pay daft prices for modern stuff that only lasts 5 minutes, when you can buy vintage and get quality that lasts and lasts….Johnny

Kevin says:
22 June 2014

In 1975 I bought a very old green and cream Belling cooker with two rings, 1 flat plate , grill and separate oven can anyone point me in the right direction to identify it more precisely?

You could try writing or speaking to Belling. They have a useful website [look for “Belling”] with contact details. The company now comes under Glen Dimplex Home Appliances Ltd.

Bernardo Neira says:
3 July 2014

Talking about old home appliances, I still use my granma´s fridge, a G-E made in 1937. Works great and, curiously, has become a very fashionable item.

George Ritchie says:
18 November 2014

A Dimplex Towel Rail bought 1966 is still working great.

jamie says:
5 September 2015

we own a indesit dishwasher 2111aog early 80s, still going strong

I also own a National Microwave 6330. Bought in early1970s. Used more now , as I cook for one.

Does it after all these years need any servicing ,is this possible. I just wipe clean and heat water for steam vapour to clean periodically.

You have the same microwave oven as Gina, who is mentioned in the introduction to this Conversation. Yours is older and was probably very expensive, but you seem to have had good value for money. 🙂

I suggest you do have it serviced to remove accumulated dust, which could cause overheating. It might be suggested that the large capacitor is replaced with a new one.

Panasonic, which now owns National, might be interested in hearing about your microwave.