A Potted History Of Household Lighting
Electric lighting is considered a necessity in modern day property and to be honest we probably don’t even give it a second thought. We only have to experience a power cut and before we know it we’re helplessly trying to fumble around for the torch or remember where we put those candles which make their one and only appearance around Christmas time if they’re lucky. With this in mind, just imagine what life was like before the onset of domestic electricity.
For centuries the only real light-source-of-choice for the poor were rush lights. By repeatedly coating a rush in animal fat layers were built up giving you what was in effect a very scrawny candle. They were placed in special holders and would last around 20 minutes. If you wanted more light you would ignite both the top and bottom, hence the saying ‘burning the candle at both ends’.
Bees wax candles
These were the preferred source of light for the rich and they were so prized that a daily ration of candles were included in the employment conditions of many maids and servants. Candle ends were fought over but were often reluctantly given to the senior servants who would then sell them to supplement their often meagre wages.
Many stately homes were adorned with gleaming mirrors and glistening silver and gold partly because of a status symbol but also because they were great at reflecting candle light. In fact when people entered the Palace at Versaille they were said to be amazed at the light that emanated from it. For everyday folk on the other hand, once it became dark their time was limited to the length of the candle and the twenty minutes for which a rush light lasted became an all too familiar unit of time.
The light bright interiors of Georgian houses gave way to the dark rich tones of the Victorian age. This was done in part to hide the soot produced by oil lamps. One footman remarked that ‘he’d been in many a grand house where the air was thick with smoke and the stench of oil resided over every room.
Gas had been around since 1807 when Frederick Windsor (an early entrepreneur) gave a public demonstration of a new lighting concept for George III’s birthday celebrations. This new fangled ‘illuminated air’ was both marvelled and feared by the thousands of people that witnessed it. Windsor reassured potential clients that gas was in fact ‘better for our lungs than air’. By 1840 gas was first appearing in homes and before long it became the middle-class lighting-of-choice. It instantly gave people the ability to sew or to read in the evenings with minimal effort. However as many found out it did have major flaws. Aside from being prone to explosion it also deposited the room with noxious deposits.
In the 1880’s domestic electricity arrived, but it was incredibly expensive and only really affordable by the wealthy. At the time a standard light bulb cost the equivalent of a weeks wages. As a result it wasn’t until the 1930’s when electricity was standardised that it become cheaper and available to everyone.
If you have an electrical problem then why not call out the professionals. At Static Electrics we have the skills to deal with all types of electrical issues from changing a lamp, through to a complete re-wire, so contact us today on 0429 139 039 for a competitive quote.