Today, it is hard to conceive of the home as a dark place, where you would struggle to perform the most basic of tasks at night. We have all grown up with home lighting and the many possibilities that it comes with: long evenings, entertainment and family gatherings. However, for the majority of people before the 18th century, light was an expensive commodity that only a few could enjoy. In fact, there was a time when light was associated with wax and smelly animal fats, thus wasn’t designed to be enjoyed but endured.
Here are some interesting facts:
- In the 17th century lighting a candle was literary like burning money! In large households, candles were rationed and often made up part of household staff salaries. Rich people enjoyed high quality beeswax candles while most people could only afford “Tallow” candles made out of pork fat, which made them particularly smelly and smoky.
- For the upper classes, mirrors and crystals were strategically arranged to enhance the reflection of candlelight and create whimsical atmospheres “Interiors lit by candlelight were designed to magnify the limited light available.” (Lucy Worsley). It’s no surprise then that Georgian interiors favoured gold trims, silver crockery and metallic embroidery, striving to reflect the sparkle of light in every possible way.
- It was not until the 19th century, with the invention of oil and glass lamps, that working people began to consider the home as a place to retreat, relax and find entertainment.
- Light improved people’s ability to read, sew and write during the evenings; something they had not been able to explore fully before. Now, people were able to perform many other activities after their day jobs, and pursue personal interests and hobbies.
How lucky we now all are to have (smell and smoke free) lighting in our homes and work places! It really has changed the way we perceive and utilise our spaces. Hooray for a well lit home, which will always be a symbol of comfort and safety.
By Evelyn Prentice