A Brief Guide to Victorian Era Lighting
The reign of Queen Victoria was the second-longest in British history, surpassed only by our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Stretching from 1837 to 1901, the Victorian period saw an era of rapid change and innovation with the invention of many life-changing items, including the light bulb, photography, postage stamps and flushing toilets.
Lighting was just one aspect of living which changed rapidly during the Victorian era, as candles and oil lamps slowly gave way to more modern inventions like the electric light bulb. Victorian lighting can tell us a lot about how people of the past lived their lives, so if you want to know more, read on for our brief guide.
This was the most common type of lighting used in homes during the early Victorian period and candles came in one of three different types; tallow, beeswax or spermaceti. Tallow candles were made from animal fat and were the cheapest option, but they smelt awful and burnt with a very smoky flame. By the end of the century, most households were using the more modern paraffin wax candle, which was odourless and clean burning.
Oil lamps have been used since the Paleolithic age but they were still a very prominent fixture in many Victorian households. They contained a small wick protruding from a container of vegetable or whale oil, but oil lamps rapidly improved following the discovery of paraffin. After it was patented in 1850, paraffin was widely available and allowed light fittings to be more sophisticated, with many different colours, shapes and patterns.
Many streets and public buildings in London were lit using gas by around 1816, but it still wasn’t commonly used in domestic homes. Gas fittings were introduced in the Houses of Parliament in 1859 and this led to a boom in their popularity throughout the 1860s. Many townhouses constructed during this period featured a gaslight in the ceiling, with a ventilation grill above.
Electric lighting didn’t become common in homes until after the First World War, but it’s discovery was set to change lighting forever. In 1879 Thomas Edison beat rivals like Sir Joseph Swan to perfect the first viable incandescent light bulb and early light bulbs were available in many prominent, elaborate designs as a form of status symbol. While many homes still used a combination of oil lamps, gas and candles, electrical lighting as we know it first emerged during this era.
Luckily we don’t have to rely on unreliable oil lamps or candles nowadays, but there are times when your electrical lighting will still need repairs or maintenance. If you’re in need of expert lighting services, get in touch with the team at Interlink Lighting & Electrical. We offer a full range of services, including installation, LED lighting, emergency lighting testing and more, so give us a call today or visit the website to find out more.