52 Ancestors …. Week 13.

This week’s theme is Light A Candle.

Light a candle in memory of …. whom? Just about any and all my ancestors … No, no, that would be rather too many (!)

So I chose to interpret the theme as something which any one of my Great Grandparents would most likely have said many, many times in those pre-electricity days. Something which we say occasionally even now when wanting to create a romantic atmosphere … or perhaps when the mosquitoes and sandflies become annoying.

Consulting Mrs. Google:
“Artificial light in the 1800s changed concepts of time, work, leisure activities, and consumption. Lighting systems shifted from candles, to whale and other oils, to coal gas…The first electric light used in a home in England was in Swan’s electrical workshop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1881.”

And .. “Before gas or electric lighting were invented, the greatest light source indoors usually came from the fixed fire in the grate. Home activities revolved around the hearth, with candlelight or oil lamps providing dim (but mobile) light around the home. Move an arm’s length from the candle, however, and you couldn’t read, draw or mend.”

And …“While the rich used candles (probably made from beeswax or spermaceti wax extracted from the head of the sperm whale), others were not so fortunate. The less wealthy commonly lit their houses with stinking, smoky, dripping tallow candles which gave out very little light. The poor mostly used even feebler and fast-burning rushlights, usually dipped in smelly animal fat. The average 40cm rushlight only burned for about an hour. “

So what did my Great Grandparents use? Fortunately most of them came from homes where their father had a trade or profession – my paternal GGGFs were a shoemaker, a schoolteacher, a doctor, a merchant tailor, a shopkeeper, another schoolteacher, a Welsh farmer and one mysterious very wealthy young man who turned up in Australia in 1840 and became a grazier (wealthy land and stock owner). Apart from the Welsh farmer, all would have received a regular income and most likely have been able to afford reasonable candles which burnt for long hours.

Nowadays we just flick a switch, or when there is a power outage use a generator or resort to battery-fed torches or LEDlights. I wonder what my ancestors would think of me in our modern caravan with lights fed by solar panels, and bottled gas to cook by. Come to think of it we do still carry candles – the small round insect-repelling sort.

1 thought on “52 Ancestors …. Week 13.

  1. We inherited Grandfather Henry’s reading light. It must have been a very early one, as it had a two pin plug; both cylindrical and with no earth lead. At some stage, it was given a modern plug and we used it for many years. It must have been horribly dangerous, as it was made of brass. Would it have dated to the days of DC? I can only assume that it was. If it is still in use, I hope that it now has a modern flex.

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