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Collectively known as apron fronted sinks. The names of these sinks have largely become interchangeable over the years. A Butler sink became so called as it was usually fitted into the Butler pantry in a kitchen. Sometimes simply called a stone sink, a reference to stoneware although the sinks of the time were actually made mainly from fireclay. The front of the sink was designed to overhang the cabinet underneath, to save your back and to ensure water splashed onto the floor when removing items and not on to the structure below.
A Belfast sink is a particular style of Butler sink. This name stuck during the Victorian period when water supply was first regulated and many authorities simply adopted the "Belfast regulations." As water was plentiful in this area a "weir type overflow" was adopted. To this day a weir overflow defines the identity of a true Belfast sink. For the same reason Belfast sinks are often deeper, requiring a thicker wall to the sinks. Above a quality Belfast sink by Shaws of Darwen.
In contrast, London had a need to conserve, not just water but more importantly the sewerage waste which was becoming a real problem in London at this time. Consequently a rival "London Pattern" Butler Sink was adopted in London and some other areas. Originally most had no overflows to discourage waste. Most London pattern sinks these days have an overflow fitted. The sinks were often, although not always, shallower in nature allowing for a thinner wall to the sink.
Another popular type of apron fronted sinks are the Farmhouse style sinks. These sinks were initially designed to be functional sinks, mainly in rural areas and before running water. The water was bucketed into the sink so they made them large and deep to enable them to wash anything from clothes to children. Like the butler style, the front of the sink (the apron) protruded slightly from it's supporting structure to both reduce fatigue by limiting the extent of bending over to use the sink and to ensure any splashed water would end up on the floor and not the cabinet. Today, Farmhouse sinks have kept their large rectangular shape but most are a lot shallower.
Around the end of the 19th century French farmhouse sinks started to become popular in around Europe, the US and Canada. The fine French clay enabled a more elegant design with thinner walls yet with no compromise on strength and quality. Above, a fine quality French farmhouse sink by Chambord
Apron fronted sinks can be found in other colours, like this Sapphire Farmhouse sink from Kohler.
They can be found in other configurations and materials such as in this double, ornate copper, farmhouse sink.
Apron fronted sinks are most commonly fitted under-mounted to the worktop but some can also be fitted as a simple sit-on sink like this double apron sink from Ikea.
There are many models of stainless steel, butler sinks available like this modern style, stainless steel sink from Astini.
A combination drainer, butler sink from Shaws of Darwen.
A single bowl, butler shelf sink from Shaws.
Butler sinks are suitable as a stand alone sink, either supported by legs or on a free standing cabinet.
Your worktop supplier may be able to fabricate a bespoke sink in marble, granite or composite stone to match or compliment your worktops.
Solid granite farmhouse sinks are available in a rock dressed, carved or polished apron front.
As well as often being more affordable, composite stone farmhouse sinks can offer a viable alternative to fireclay. Shown is a matt white acrylic sink from Vigo.
Fancy something a bit different ?
A brown leather clad sink from Chambord. Also available in black leather.
Sizes of Belfast sinks. Most modern Belfast sinks are 595mm x 460mm x 255mm or approx 23.5" x 18" x 24"
Tip! If you are using a modern, metric, kichen sink base unit, double check your Belfast is metric too. Most units are made with a 600mm opening to accommodate a 600mm sink. This means a 24" imperial sink will not quite fit. Also check the height of the opening. Some are made 225mm for use with a 220mm height sink and not for the more usual 255mm height sink.