In fact, cellars have existed ever since someone first dug a storage pit and covered it with a house.
They became more formalised as the rich and powerful built more expensive houses, and for centuries were the preserve of wealthier classes, who used them to store food, wine, and – in the case of dungeons – captives.
It was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the cellar became commonplace in ordinary homes, and part of it was usually reserved for coal. A typical middle-class family would burn through a tonne of it in a month, so somewhere secure was needed to store it.
In many homes, the cellar was used in much the same way as the loft – as an out-of-the-way place to store old possessions: perishable stuff – papers, clothes and books – in the roofspace, and hardware such as prams, bikes and tools in the cellar.
That’s because as well as being dark and cool, cellars are often damp, which is why a whole industry has developed around making them dry. A fully “tanked out” cellar can provide a useful extra room, and many are now playrooms, cinema rooms, offices, gyms and extra bedrooms.
Despite their many uses, few houses are built nowadays with cellars. That’s largely because it can cost 50 per cent more per square metre to build below ground than above it, but each square metre’s sale price is considerably lower than that of above-ground living space.
It’s a shame, since cellars can add so much to a property in terms of utility and character, and it means that if you really want a house with a cellar, you’re probably going to have to look for something rather older than a newbuild.
The following three properties all have cellars of differing sizes, and all are currently for sale in our area.
In Harrogate, 3 Wedderburn House was built for Scottish lawyer Alexander Wedderburn MP, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain at the turn of the 19th century. The Grade II listed house was built in 1786 by John Carr, the York architect of Harewood House, and it has since been divided into three smaller properties.
This one has three bedrooms, with a fourth leading off one of them, two bathrooms, kitchen diner, utility room, two reception rooms and a cellar accessed from the hall. Outside, the property has off-street parking, a single garage and a sunny west-facing walled garden.
In Boston Spa, Jasmine Cottage is a Grade II listed Georgian house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, pantries, three reception rooms and cellars. There are gardens to the front and back, as well as an attached two-storey former grain store with external stone steps and two single garages below.
Finally, 1 The Cross Keys dates from the mid-1700s and forms part of a former inn which operated as a pub until 1957, when it was converted into three houses. This one has two bedrooms, two shower rooms, dining kitchen, sitting room, and a large, dry cellar that could be used for a number of purposes.
Outside, there’s a stone-flagged private parking area with log storage.