Whistling kettles date back to the thirteenth century, where they were mainly used for boiling water in large quantities. The kettle was set over a fire and heated until the water boiled away inside it. The gooseneck kettle has existed since medieval times, and it is so-called because of its long spout. When the water was boiling, the spout would be placed toward the fire to heat quicker. The hot steam would be passed through a whistle at the top of the spout before entering the room. This produced a high-pitched note which was used to call servants or children to meals.

The kettles became popular with Hobbs, who heated them on large fireplaces until they began to ‘whistle’ and then poured cold water into them to make tea or coffee.

Gooseneck Kettle

The gooseneck kettle is an early design of the traditional whistle kettle. The original whistle kettles had a spout built into one end of the body, which had no handle. The gooseneck kettle has a spout designed to be attached to the side of kettles with handles, giving it its distinctive bend shape. The handle is often made of horn or animal bone and is fitted with a ring attached to the kettle body. The kettle has a long, narrow spout designed for boiling water, allowing it to be used by extending the spout into the fire. After World War II, the term ‘gooseneck’ was coined when kettles with handles were made of aluminum and described as ‘gooseneck.’

Mechanics Behind Gooseneck Kettle Whistling

The sound of the whistle is caused by steam forced through a narrow opening. The steam creates turbulence as it passes through the opening, causing the air pressure inside to drop. This results in an audible vibration or whistle. You can also achieve the same effect by rapidly making a circular motion over water with an open hand, causing the turbulence of the water itself to create a sound referred to as ‘the kettle singing.’

Gooseneck Kettle Boil Times

The time taken for water to boil in a whistling kettle depends on the fire’s temperature and the height of the kettle. A higher temperature will cause the water to boil more quickly. The height of the gooseneck attachment also affects how fast it whistles, with lower positions producing faster sounds.

How Water Comes to a Boil in a Gooseneck Kettle

Water only boils when it is heated to a temperature of 100 degrees Celcius. The water in a kettle is heated by the bottom of the kettle being exposed to the heat source. This means that the hot air from this source must pass through the water to transfer its energy. Water also requires energy to boil, meaning that it will begin boiling only when enough energy has been transferred through it, causing its temperature to exceed 100 degrees Celcius. Water is usually heated in a gooseneck kettle over a coal fire, which heats the bottom of the kettle body. The top of the kettle is usually connected to a pipe or tube leading outside so that the steam can be directed through the whistle. This leads to the whistling sound being produced by any steam passing through it. The water would have been boiled before being placed over the fire, causing steam to percolate through it once it has boiled sufficiently.


The gooseneck kettle contains nine main components: The spout, the whistle, the knop, the rim, the crowning knob, the handle hole or ring holder or eyelet, the whistle shaft or acorn, and pivot pin, and finally, one of three types of whistle tops. The design of these parts varies according to their country of origin.

The spout

It is the long, narrow tube at the top of the gooseneck kettle, allowing water to flow easily. It is usually made of wood or metal. Depending on their form, bowl, or tine, the parts that hold the spout to the body are usually called.

The whistle 

The whistle is the opening in the top of the spout, through which steam is allowed to move up and out. When water is boiling inside the kettle and steam expands and leaves the hole, it produces a high-pitched sound or ‘toot’ that has been described as ‘a screech,’ ‘the howl of a wolf,’ ‘the cry of a cat’ or even ‘like an owl.’ This sound has also been called ‘a wail’.

The knop 

The knop is the large, round knob at the end of the spout (where it joins with the kettle’s body). It can be made of wood or metal, and a notch may be punched into its underside, allowing a top rim to rest on it.

The rim

The rim is the flange on the outside of the kettle that holds the top of the whistle down. It is usually made of metal or wood and secured with rivets.

The crowning knob

The crowning knob is a small metal knob on the side of the kettle’s top spout, which fits into a hole in the rim. It is usually made of wood or metal and secured with a rivet.

The handle/ring holder/eyelet 

The handle is the metal ring attached to the bottom of the spout with a ring holder at one end and an eyelet at the other. The eyelet is fitted over a hole in the kettle’s body, allowing a chain or cord to be attached to it.

The whistle shaft or acorn 

The whistle shaft is the metal tube that carries the whistle through the kettle, usually made of metal or wood and attached with a pivot pin.

The pivot pin

The pivot pin is the metal tube that connects the two halves of the gooseneck kettle, which fits into a hole at one end, which allows it to be attached directly to either end of an eyelet.

The whistle top

The whistle top is the part that holds the whistle lid to the kettle body. It has three main forms, including a standard top (pictured above), a double top (which covers both the whistle hole and the rim), and an open-work loop (which is pierced through with holes).

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Whistling kettles were used in medieval times for boiling water. The gooseneck attachment allows this form of a whistle to be used by extending the end of the spout into the fire and heating it until it whistles and becomes hot enough to make tea or coffee.