Upholding the Light:   Regency Candle Holders – Part Two

Last week, I wrote about some of the many types of candlesticks, that is, portable candle holders, which were in use during the decade of the Regency, from the very large and elegant to the rather small and utilitarian. Mention was also made of how some pieces of furniture were specifically designed to provide support for candlesticks in situations were light was needed while those items of furniture were in use after dark.

Candlesticks were the most often used form of candle holders during the Regency because they were, for the most part, portable, enabling the candle-light to be placed where and when it was needed, thus providing the full value of light for each candle burned. Except for important social events, even the wealthy tended to use candles in their homes conservatively and candlesticks best served that purpose. But those who could afford it pulled out all the stops when they entertained. And it was on these important social occasions that the two types of fixed candle holders, bracket lights and chandeliers, were most often used.

And now, for your enlightenment:   Party lights — Regency style!

Bracket lights were candle holders which most often were attached to a wall, but they might also be attached to a piece of furniture. Sconces, girandoles, and bras de lumière were some of the names used to refer to these bracket candle holders during the Regency. Though we consider these names essentially synonymous today, during the Regency, each had a slightly different meaning, design and use.

Sconces had been in use in some form or another to hold torches and later, candles, on walls since at least the Middle Ages. From the seventeenth century onwards, most sconces which held candles had a back-plate made with some type of reflective material which helped to increase the light from the candles and direct it away from the wall into the room. These back plates also had the added benefit of helping to protect plastered walls and later, paper-hangings, from the heat and soot of the candle flames. By the early eighteenth century, wall sconces had become an important feature of interior decoration, and were often hung in sets, on colorful tasselled or beribboned cords. Typically they would be hung in pairs to flank a doorway or the chimney breast of a drawing room or dining room. By the mid-eighteenth century, many wall sconces had mirrored back-plates, which significantly increased the light from the candles they held, especially beeswax or spermaceti candles, which burned very brightly. Wall scones were becoming larger and by the end of the eighteenth century, and certainly by the Regency, were less likely to be hung from a cord. They were then more often screwed or nailed directly to the wall. A wall sconce might hold only a single candle, or it might have multiple branches to hold several candles, either all in a row, or at varying heights, depending upon the design of the sconce.

As I noted above, sconces were seldom used for private family evenings, they were most often filled with candles to provide light for a social event. However, there was one exception. In some of the great houses, there were work areas and/or passageways which were either underground, or had no windows. Spaces like this were only functional with the use of artificial light, most often candlelight. In these areas, especially underground or window-less passageways, sconces were the most common form of candle holder. But since these were service areas, the sconces used there were seldom made of fine materials. Most service area sconces would be made of iron or wood, some having a polished tin back-plate to help direct the light out and down. In very wealthy homes, such sconce back-plates might be made of polished brass or copper. Typically, only tallow candles were used in such utilitarian wall sconces, regardless of the wealth of the homeowner. Therefore, this type of wall sconce might also be accompanied by another specialized type of candle holder, though it was not possible to light candles when they were in this secondary holder, nor would such a holder ever be seen in a formal, public area of a house. These candle holders were also wall-mounted, and most were made of metal, usually tin, and might be rectangular, though most were cylindrical. These were wall-mounted candle boxes which contained a ready supply of perhaps a half dozen spare candles for the nearby sconces. In many of the better houses, these candle boxes were also partially filled with bran or coarse flour, to keep the tallow candles from sticking together while they lay inside the wall-mounted candle box. The use of bran or coarse flour as a packing material was also the practice inside the main candle storage boxes for tallow candles in most well-managed homes well into the nineteenth century, and was certainly the practice during the Regency.

Decorative sconces would typically be found only in the most formal public areas of a house, such as the main staircase and hallway, principal passageways, the drawing room, the dining room, and the ballroom, if there was one. They might be large or small, depending upon the space they were intended to illuminate. These sconces would be considerably more ornate than any that might be found in the service areas of the house, and they would be made of much higher quality, and very reflective, materials. They might be made of brass, Sheffield plate, or even, occasionally, silver, or silver gilt. Glass or ceramic, especially porcelain, were popular for wall sconces from the eighteenth century. Typically, the porcelain of a wall sconce would have had a high-gloss glaze as well as numerous gilt accents, both intended to reflect more light into the room. Some glass wall sconces might also have gilt accents, particularly if they were located in rooms which included furniture or carved wall paneling which had been gilded. From the eighteenth century right through the Regency, walls, particularly in public rooms meant for entertaining, were painted in light colors, and the use of gilding was often quite liberal. This had the effect of increasing the brightness of the room when it was illuminated by candle-light. Wall sconces might also be made of fine woods with ornately carved embellishments, which, in most cases, would be heavily gilt, again to reflect as much light as possible. From the end of the seventeenth century, some wall sconces had been made of carton-pierre (a precursor of papier-mâché) which were shaped and gilded. It is possible some of these might still have been in situ in some older homes by the Regency. Any of these sconces might also be embellished with sculptural elements in a myriad of shapes, made from a host of precious materials. Many of these decorative wall sconces were so highly ornate they were not just candle holders, they gave the appearance of wall-mounted sculptures which just happened to have a few nozzles for candles.

One particular form of wall sconce, the most reflective of all, came to be known in England as a girandole. The term originated in Italy with a particularly popular type of fireworks, known as girandola. These fireworks consisted of a group of rockets that were fixed to a wheel which revolved as the rockets discharged, producing a great pinwheel of showering sparks. In France, the word for these spinning fireworks became girandole, and as such was adopted in England in the mid-eighteenth century as the name for a type of wall sconce. In 1754, in the second edition of his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, Thomas Chippendale included designs for wall sconces which he labeled "gerandoles." These multi-branch wall sconces were in the Rococo style, ornately carved and heavily gilt, with mirrored back-plates. By the Regency, the Rococo had given way to the Neoclassical, and the term "girandole" was then used to refer to any elaborate wall sconce with a mirrored back, typically with multiple candle branches. The mirrored backs of these girandoles were often convex, which also led to the term being applied to any convex mirror or looking glass, regardless of whether or not it had attached fittings to hold candles. By the turn of the nineteenth century, many girandoles were made en suite with a chandelier or two, especially for ballrooms. And, if the chandelier was embellished with crystal or cut-glass drops, so, too, would be the girandoles. Thus, by the Regency, a girandole was typically a wall sconce with a convex mirrored back-plate, multiple candle branches and hung with a number of prismatic glass pendants which not only reflected the light from the candles, but also broke it up into the many colors of the light spectrum, throwing both bright light and fractured rainbows around the room.

During the latter decades of the eighteenth century, cut-glass drops were used to embellish some free-standing candlesticks. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, a pair of such candlesticks would be placed on a mantel shelf, usually flanking a mantel clock of matching design, sans cut-glass pendants, and came to be known as a garniture de chiminée. The more expensive sets comprised the clock, the candlesticks and a pair of ceramic, especially porcelain, vases, also with glass pendants attached. I include the garniture de chiminée with the discussion of wall sconces, because they were, in essence, wall-mounted light fixtures. The mantel clock, with its matching pair of candlesticks dangling cut-glass pendants, would be placed on the shelf over the fireplace, so they would be against the wall. By this time, it was usual practice to hang a large looking glass over a fireplace mantel, so the garniture de chiminée functioned much as did a girandole. It was the fashion in most middle and upper class homes, by the Regency, to have a garniture de chiminée on the mantel of the main drawing room or of the sitting room of the lady of the house, especially if she used the room to entertain guests. Some gentlemen might also have a garniture de chiminée in their book room or library. Gradually, these candlesticks with their cut-glass pendants came to be called girandoles, though this was more common in the decades after the Regency. In America, during the Victorian era, all free-standing candlesticks with pendant cut-glass drops were known as girandoles, adding to the complexity of the various meanings of the term, especially today. But during the Regency, girandole was used almost exclusively as a term for elaborate wall sconces with mirrored back-plates and pendant prisms.

Another specialty form of candle sconce has its origins in the Middle Ages. The bras de lumière, which translates literally as "arm of light," were originally just that, large carved wood or cast iron wall-mounted torch holders which were made in the shape of a bare muscular human arm terminating in a hand which held the torch aloft. Over time, this same motif was used when making wall bracket holders for candles as well as torches. In France, the term bras de lumière came to mean any wall sconce for candles, including even those which were not made in the shape of a human arm. However, in Britain, it referred to a more specialized form of mounted candle holder. A bras de lumière in England, by the eighteenth century, and right through the Regency, was a candle holder, usually metal, which was attached to a piece of furniture or a picture frame. Most English bras de lumières were made of brass or gilt brass, though there are a few to be found which were made of silver. Unlike a candle slide, which was essentially a narrow plank of wood which slid out from the body of a piece of furniture like a drawer to hold any candlestick, a bras de lumière was attached to the external case of the furniture piece. A bras de lumière might have only one nozzle for a single candle or it might have as many five branches, though two or three branches were typical. And, in most cases, bras de lumières were found in pairs, with one attached on each side of the furniture frame. Pairs of bras de lumières were most often found on large desks or secretary desks, which included an upper bookcase section. A pair of bras de lumières were also a feature of many elaborate dressing tables, particularly those with an attached looking glass. On such pieces, the bras de lumières would be attached to either the frame of the looking glass, or to the upright supports for the glass and frame, if the looking glass was made so that it could swivel. Many bras de lumières were made so that they could rotate on their base, anywhere from 45º to a full 360º around the axis of their mount, making them easy to adjust for the best possible light while writing or dressing. Art connoisseurs who had exceptionally fine or important paintings might also have a pair of bras de lumières attached to the frames of their most notable paintings so that they could be illuminated evenly, even when viewed at night. Bras de lumières which were installed on picture frames tended to be mounted in a fixed position rather than rotate, as it would not be desirable to allow a candle flame too close to the painting surface. Gentlemen who collected pornographic paintings might also have had bras de lumières installed on the frames of their paintings, as such indelicate collections were typically kept in small hidden rooms which had no windows. Alternatively, they might instead have illuminated this small space with a number of wall sconces, depending upon the extent of their collection.

And now, the pièce de résistance of Regency lighting fixtures, the chandelier. The chandelier was the single most expensive lighting fixture anyone might own during the Regency, just as it had been for centuries before. This form of candle holder takes its name from chandelle, the French word for candle, and originally meant any device which held one or more candles, whether fixed or free-standing. By the late sixteenth century, the term was used across Europe to refer to holders for multiple candles which were suspended from the ceiling. But until the eighteenth century, chandeliers were usually to be found only in public buildings, such as churches, meeting halls and assembly rooms. They were very rarely found in homes until the latter part of the eighteenth century, and even then, only in the homes of the very wealthy, and only in the largest of the public rooms of those homes. Most early chandeliers were of metal, most often brass, as it was easily worked and could be polished to a near mirror-like surface, thus reflecting as much candle-light as possible. These chandeliers typically had nozzles for from four to eight candles. From at least the seventeenth century, there were chandeliers made of ornately carved and gilt wood, but like wall sconces of such material, the candle nozzles were usually of metal, glass or ceramic. Most candle nozzles on chandeliers would typically be equipped with a bobeche, a detachable disk that served as a drip pan for each candle. Bobeches might be made of metal or glass, and since they were detachable, they could easily be replaced as needed. Many wall sconces and even a number of candlesticks were also equipped with bobeches. Another disk-shaped accoutrement of both chandeliers and wall scones which made its appearance in the eighteenth century was the smoke bell. Usually made of glass, the smoke bell was placed above the candle flame to trap the carbon residue released from the wick as the candle burned. These smoke bells significantly reduced smudged ceilings caused by many candles aflame at once. Up to about 1830, most smoke bells were shaped like an inverted shallow dish, while after that date they tended to be deeper and more fully bell-shaped.

Initially, chandeliers were suspended from a hook or eye-bolt in the ceiling with a thick rope or chain and hung at a fairly low level. This placement allowed easy access for lighting the candles and cleaning afterwards. As time went on, most chandeliers were suspended using a series of ropes and pulleys. This system enabled chandeliers to be hung higher to cast more light, yet they could be easily lowered to insert and light the candles and for cleaning after use. When chandeliers made their way into private homes, the ropes by which they were hung were often enclosed within a sleeve of richly colored silk velvet, taffeta or satin, while the pulleys were hidden inside large ornate tassels in matching or contrasting colors. By the Regency, most chandeliers were suspended using a rope and pulley system, camouflaged with fine fabric and tassels. Though there were still a few very old-fashioned homes which might have a chandelier suspended from the ceiling by a chain or rope of a fixed length. Such chandeliers would require someone on a ladder to place and light the candles, as well as to clean them.

During the eighteenth century, chandeliers, particularly those intended for grand houses, in addition to brass and gilt wood, also began to be made of gilt and painted hard-paste porcelain. But the most expensive chandeliers were made of rock crystal, imported from the Continent and cut in England at the great glass-making houses. But soon, these glass-makers realized they could make equally beautiful, but less expensive, chandeliers using the same lead "crystal" glass
from which they made their finest glassware. In fact, glass chandeliers could be even more intricate, as molten lead glass could be shaped in ways that natural rock crystal could not. In 1771, a set of five lead glass chandeliers in the Rococo style were installed in the Assembly Rooms at Bath. The work of William Parker, of Fleet Street, London, they were considered the finest light-fixtures ever seen at that time. Assembly rooms were opening all over England at this time, and those that could manage it illuminated their new rooms with glass chandeliers. The fashion for glass chandeliers had begun, and soon they were the most admired of all hanging lighting fixtures, becoming synonymous with wealth and superior taste. Aristocratic and wealthy people all over England soon began having cut-glass chandeliers installed in at least one principal room of their homes, not only because they were beautiful and provided superior light, but because a glass chandelier had become a status symbol. If their house had a ballroom, that would most certainly be furnished with a large glass chandelier or possibly two, if the room was very large. Other rooms which might also be furnished with a chandelier were grand formal dining rooms and extensive music rooms where large numbers of guests might be entertained. Spacious foyers or entry-ways, especially those which incorporated an elaborate staircase would sometimes be illuminated by a chandelier, though it was more typical to use wall sconces in these areas. Drawing rooms, small dining rooms, book rooms or libraries were seldom, if ever, fitted with a chandelier as the amount of light they produced would not have been considered necessary for such rooms, even when entertaining guests. Nor would chandeliers ever have been installed in private rooms such as bedchambers, however large or elegant, nor in small sitting rooms or morning rooms. Anyone who did so would certainly have been ridiculed as the most outrageous parvenu, sadly lacking in taste or sophistication.

The production of a glass chandelier was extremely intricate and labor-intensive. Each chandelier was custom-made to meet the requirements of its new location and owner. All the many parts of the chandelier would be made to specifications, then the entire chandelier would be assembled at the glass-works to ensure all the parts fit together perfectly. The entire chandelier would then be disassembled, carefully packed and just as carefully transported to the site where it was to be installed. Once all the parts had arrived at their destination, specialist workmen, oftentimes the same men who had made the chandelier parts, would assemble it for final installation. First they would hang the frame, then they would attached all the many curving candle branches, then they would add the nozzles, the bobeches and the smoke bells. Finally, they would hang all the many cut-glass pendants and swags which were the hallmark of a stylish glass chandelier.

William Parker was rather sparing in the number of glass drops he suspended from the chandeliers he made for the Bath Assembly Rooms in 1771. But as the fashion for cut-glass chandeliers increased, so did the number of cut-glass pendant drops which were suspended from each one. There was only one shape of cut-glass drop when glass chandeliers were first made, a pear or tear-drop shape. But as the demand for more and more cut-glass drops increased, glass-makers began to create more and more different shapes to keep their latest chandeliers on the cutting edge of fashion. These constant improvements inadvertently led to a new pastime for many fashion-conscious ladies of means. These ladies found it amusing to periodically "re-dress" their glass chandeliers by rearranging the many pendant drops and swags which adorned them, to create new patterns of crystal ornamentation. Many ladies did this as part of their arrangements for their next social event, to ensure their chandeliers did not look the same way they had at their last social event. These same ladies might also purchase a complete new complement of glass drops and swags when a new shape was introduced, sufficient to re-hang their existing glass chandelier frame, or just enough to intersperse with older drops to create a new look. In this way, many glass chandeliers were regularly updated while the underlying frame remained the same. There are glass chandeliers which are known to have an English-made frame, but to be hung with French-made drops. There are also a number of chandeliers which have frames from an early period which are festooned with drops and swags from a much later period. More than likely the result of a fashion-conscious lady updating her glass chandelier. In addition, most purveyors of chandeliers were also willing and able to provide replacement drops and swags for any which might have been damaged during a fashionable rearrangement or by careless cleaning.

But regardless of how diligent these ladies were, by the beginning of the Regency, the fashion in cut-glass chandeliers was beginning to change, to the point that by the end of the decade, the newest chandeliers would not allow for the rearrangement of the drops and swags. A typical chandelier of the late eighteenth century had multiple curved candle branches and was hung with many hundreds of drops and swags. But by the early nineteenth century, chandeliers were beginning to change their form. During the first half of the Regency, the main central shaft of the chandelier was hidden by a "tent" of swags of cut-glass crystal buttons linked together with brass or silver chains and the candle branches were becoming much shorter. By the end of the Regency, the latest fashion in chandeliers is now known as the tent-and-balloon design. The central shaft is still hidden by a tent of crystal swags while the bottom of the chandelier appears to be an inverted balloon shape made up entirely of crystals, with the candle nozzles set on a rim around the top of the inverted crystal balloon. In some cases, the lower part of the new style chandeliers were made up of concentric rings of long rectangular prisms which were known as "finger-fringes." Perhaps the most over-the-top glass chandeliers of this new design were to be seen in the great Circular Room at Carlton House. If you look closely at the print, you will see that not only is there an enormous multi-tiered glass chandelier with finger-fringes hanging in the center of the room, there are also smaller versions hanging at each doorway. This room had four doors, so presumably there were four smaller chandeliers surrounding the main central chandelier in this room during the Regency. Each "small" chandelier would have been at least twice as large as a "large" glass chandelier in most homes at this time. The glass chandeliers (plural) which were hung in the Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House are equally elaborate and ornate. There is no doubt that when fully lit for a state occasion, these rooms must have been magnificent, the sheer brightness quite possibly overpowering to many. But with such monumental furnishings it is little wonder that Prinny’s debt was equally monumental.

However, it should be noted that during the Regency, glass chandeliers in the latest tent-and-balloon style would only have been found as permanent fixtures in a few homes, of the most wealthy and fashion-conscious. Most people living in homes which had been in the family for generations were more likely to have more traditional glass chandeliers in the style of those which were made for the Bath Assembly Rooms, but with many more, up-to-date crystal swags and drops. Yet, even these people might have a glass chandelier, and even matching girandoles in the latest style, for a very special occasion. In Regency London nearly anything was for hire, including chandeliers and other fashionable lighting fixtures. If one simply had to have an elegant glass chandelier in the very latest style for a very important social event, one could contact one of the lighting emporiums or chandelier warehouses in London and arrange to rent one for the event. The firm of Hancock, Rixon and Dunt, of Cockspur Street, in particular, made and installed chandeliers, but they also did a brisk business in the renting of chandeliers and girandoles, among other types of lighting fixtures. It is known that White’s Club hired a number of chandeliers from Hancock’s, in 1814, for a subscription ball they held at Burlington House, which was attended by the Prince Regent. Most of these lighting companies would provide experienced workmen who would come to one’s home, where they would remove any old fittings, carefully pack them away, and install the chandelier and any other fixtures which had been contracted. Later they would return to retrieve the rented light fixtures and re-install any they had had to remove. Of course, all of this came at a price. But it might well be worth the cost for the host and hostess to have modern lighting fixtures in place for their special event, particularly if they did not entertain on that scale on a regular basis, for it would cost much less to rent a chandelier and girandoles for an evening than to buy even just the chandelier alone.

In France, by the beginning of the Regency, chandeliers, particularly those of glass, were known as lustres. However, that word, as with girandole, had a different meaning in Regency England. The term lustre was used in England primarily to refer to those free-standing candlesticks with attached cut-glass pendant drops which may or may not have been part of a garniture de chiminée or, any matching vases which also had attached prismatic pendants. According to contemporary accounts, there were literally dozens of lustres, meaning candlesticks with cut-glass pendant drops, on the main table at the grand Carlton House Fête of June 1811. So many lustres in one place, in fact, that it was considered quite remarkable, since the like had not been seen before. Some people during the Regency also used the term lustre to refer to girandoles, that is, wall sconces with mirrored back-plates and cut-glass pendants, but this seems to have been a rare use of the term. And, of course, if they were French, they would have used lustre to refer to chandeliers as well as girandoles. And just to confuse the issue that much more, the glass globes filled with water that were used to intensify candlelight, which I discussed last week, were also sometimes called lustres, though that would have been considered a rather old-fashioned use of the term by the Regency.

"Branch" is another word which needs some clarification when it is applied to Regency light fixtures. From the latter part of the sixteenth century, the term branch was used exclusively to refer to chandeliers. But as more and more varied lighting fixtures were introduced over time, the term branch expanded to refer to any type of candle holder which had multiple arms for holding multiple candles. Thus, by the Regency, a "branch" might be a chandelier, a candelabrum or even a wall sconce which provided multiple candle nozzles on multiple arms or branches.

There was an interesting accessory which was often used with chandeliers and wall scones during the latter decades of the eighteenth century and right through the Regency. In essence, it functioned as a daytime ornament and at night as a sort of dimmer for overly bright light fixtures. It had the additional advantage that it reduced the number of candles needed to light any social event in which any of these fixed candle holders were used. These accessories are often called socket prisms today, and were in the shape of cut-glass spires, most often with four sides or facets, which tapered to a usually rounded point at the top. At their base, they were the shape of a candle bottom. These cut-glass spires were typically between five to seven inches high and could be placed in the nozzles of a chandelier or girandole, either to add interest to an empty light fixture during the day, or to reduce the number of candles to be used at night. These prismatic crystal spires would intensify the light produced by the candles which were used, so that a chandelier with a dozen candle nozzles might only contain six to eight candles and still provide nearly the same level of light as if the chandelier was fully lit. The use of these socket prisms seems to have been perfectly acceptable, even during the Regency, when social events were expected to be very brightly lit so as not to be considered shabby. In fact, many people welcomed the use of socket prisms, as it was estimated that a burning candle consumed the same amount of oxygen as two people during an evening event, not to mention the heat it generated. Each candle not burned meant oxygen for two more people and a bit less heat in rooms that could often be stifling. It appears that these socket prisms were generally used in private homes, most often for more intimate or informal gatherings and parties, where the full glaring blaze of fully lit chandeliers and girandoles was not necessary. A musicale or a rout for extended family and close friends might find many socket prisms in use, while fewer, if any, would be used at a young lady’s coming out ball. In general, socket prisms were less likely to be used during those opulent and elaborate social events that were intended to make a splash, as the more brightly lit an event was, the more a success it was considered by those in attendance. It is doubtful even a single socket prism would have been found anywhere in Carlton House, for example.

Before we leave the subject of fixed candle holders, take a few moments to imagine how a Regency ball might have looked when they were all fully illuminated. Beeswax candles were in use, and they produced a light equal to three or four tallow candles. In addition, they gave off a pleasant aroma as they burned. The ballroom would have a large glass chandelier with at least a dozen candles blazing in the midst of hundreds of cut-glass drops and swags. There were several girandoles on the wall around the room, each holding two or three burning candles amid dozens of faceted cut-glass pendants. All those prismatic pendants would have had the effect of not only reflecting all the candle light many times over, but also of refracting the light into is various colors on the spectrum, and sending fractured rainbows darting all around the room. And all of that light would be dancing, as the candle flames wavered and flickered as they burned. Even empty, the ballroom would have seemed to be alive, and with dozens of couples whirling around the dance floor to a sprightly waltz, it would have been a vividly animated sight to behold.

All the documentary evidence which survives from the late eighteenth century right though the Regency and into the reign of Victoria, makes it clear that fixed candle holders, such as girandoles and chandeliers were only used for social events, they would never have been used when the family was at home and private. Yet not long ago, I read a Regency romance in which the heroine is taken to the London town home of the hero so he can protect her, since she is in danger. They are the only occupants of the house, except for a few servants. In one scene, she receives a knock on her bedchamber door late in the evening, and when she answers the door, she finds the hero standing before her. The reader is told she can see him clearly by the many candles burning in the sconces in the hallway. That would never have happened during the Regency. If hallways had wall sconces, candles would only be lit in them if there was a social occasion which required access to that hallway by guests, perhaps a country house party. Though even at such a house party, the guests would be more likely to be provided servants with candle sticks to light their way, or given chambersticks in the main hall when they retired for the evening. In another scene in this same novel, the heroine is admiring the chandelier in her bedchamber. Her bedchamber! Not even Prinny would have put a chandelier in his bedchamber. It simply was not done! We all take artificial light so much for granted that it is hard for us to comprehend how precious artificial light was to our Regency ancestors and how conservative they were in its use. Dear Regency authors, do not light up a Regency home like a Christmas tree with only the family in residence. The neighbors would certainly talk, and their remarks would not be favorable! On the other hand, a host or hostess who is tight-fisted with the candles on any social occasion will also be spoken of, and the comments will not be complimentary! Any easy rule of thumb is a few candles in candlesticks for a private family evening, the house ablaze with candles in every nozzle of every chandelier and girandole in the public rooms when guests have been invited for an important evening social event. On such a night, most private rooms will be dark, with the exception of those serving as a card room and a retiring room for the ladies.

For further reading on how our ancestors fought the darkness in their homes:

Bacot, H. Parrott, Nineteenth Century Lighting:   Candle-Powered Devices, 1783 – 1883. West Chester, Pennsylvania:   Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1987.

Bourne, Jonathan, and Brett, Vanessa, Lighting in the Domestic Interior:   Renaissance to Art Nouveau. London:   Sotheby’s, 1991

Dillon, Maureen, Artificial Sunshine:   A Social History of Domestic Lighting. London:   The National Trust, 2002.

Fleming, John, and Honour, Hugh, The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts. London:   Viking/Penguin, 1989.

Moss, Roger W., Lighting for Historic Buildings. Washington, D. C.:   The Preservation Press, 1988.

Turner, Jane, ed., The Dictionary of Art. Oxford:   Oxford University Press, 2003.

Wells, Stanley, Period Lighting. London:   Pelham Books, 1975.


About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
This entry was posted in Household Maintenance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Upholding the Light:   Regency Candle Holders – Part Two

  1. Pingback: Upholding the Light:   Regency Candle Holders – Part One | The Regency Redingote

  2. Pingback: The Now Vanished Ephemeral Art:   Chalking the Regency Ballroom Floor | The Regency Redingote

  3. Pingback: The Glittering Regency Theatre | The Regency Redingote

  4. Audrey says:

    Hi there
    I have a gilt wall sconce with an angel at the bottom – not sure but the angel could be carved out of ivory.Any idea which era/country this could come from?

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      It would be very difficult to date such an object, even after examining it. Without seeing it, it is quite impossible. However, in my experience, angels were not a common motif until the Victoria era, so it is probably from the 19th or 20th century.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s