29th August 1656. Worth a Candle!

Before gas lighting became widely available in the late 19th century, candle-power was the norm and being expensive, many of the poorer classes adjusted their sleeping hours to minimize its use.(1) 

Early reference to candles is seen c1180, with Kandelwickstrate (Candle Market Street, London, which was east of the present Cannon Street.

In 1247 in an age when religious ceremony demanded vast supplies, Henry III gave Westminster Abbey a 1000lbs (pounds weight) of wax, to light the giant taper at Candlemas, at a time when the Royal Household had a Sergeant- Chandler, a division of the Wardrobe.

External lighting was often donated by local benefactors, as when John Wardall by his will dated Today in 1656, gave ‘The Grocers’ Company a tenement called the White Bear in Walbrook [London], that they should yearly…provide a good iron and glass lantern with a candle for the direction of passengers’.(2)


Advert for Price’s candles, one of the biggest candle-makers in the country.

The superior London Wax Chandler Worshipful Company was established before 1330, and like many of the London Companies were expected to contribute to the funds of Edward III, to fight the endless French Wars.

They received a Royal Charter from Richard III in 1484, which was one of only two issued in his short, two-year reign.

These merchants in bees-wax supplied the nobility and the wealthy churches and were separate from the Tallow Chandlers’ Company, which supplied the lower-grade candles.

John Stowe, son of a tallow chandler, referring to the 16thc accounts of the Earl of Lancaster, speaks about a charge of nearly £40 for 2,390 pounds of tallow candles for the household, and of 1,870lbs for the [more expensive] Paris Candles ‘for the use of my lord and his family’.

K&M Brockholes Candles UK hand made 1972.

K&M Brockholes, Hand-Made Candles UK  (1972).









The use of candles was described by Dickens in the Mystery of Edward Drood, 1870:

‘Neither wind nor sun favoured Staple Inn [an Inn of Court], one December afternoon towards 6 o’clock when it was filled with fog, and candles shed murky and blurred rays through the windows of the then-occupied sets of chambers in a corner house….As Mr Grewgious sat and wrote by his fire, so did the clerk of Mr Grewgious sit and write by his fire’.

(1) Candle, from the Latin Candela, a light or torch.

(2) It went on: ‘To go with more security to and from the water-side all night long, to be fixed at the north-east corner of the parish of St. Botolph from the feast day of St Bartholemew to Lady Day, ( August 24th to March 15th).

Ref: wikipedia.org.uk/candle_making/Images.

Ref: wikipedia/history of wax and tallow chandlers.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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