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If the homes of the widely different social classes had anything at all in common, it was revealed at nightfall, for then almost everybody lit candles. The poorer majority used the traditional, inefficient, and smelly tallow candles, made of animal fat. Better-off people probably used wax candles, but the self-snuffing wax candle with a plaited wick, familiar to us, was not introduced until the 1840s. The only alternatives to candles were oil lamps and gas light. But before the discovery and refinement of mineral oils such as paraffin, about 1850, oil lamps depended on fish or whale oil, and were unlikely to have been popular outside the fishing communities where such smells were familiar.

Gas light had been used for street and factory lighting in Preston since 1816, but it was probably introduced only slowly into private houses - and then only the most advanced and expensive. The incandescent mantle, which gave out a brilliant light, was not invented until 1884; before then, gas gave light only from the naked flame of the 'bat-wing' jet, which not only made small rooms smelly and hot, but were suspected as dangerous.

The advertisements of the period mention candlesticks or chandeliers, and rarely anything else. One, however, includes a "hall lamp' (presumably oil); and in Avenham Road there was a lacquered Gas Chandelier, with three burners, telescopic pipe, ornamental balance-weight, and cut ground-glass shades'. Such detail suggests that this was a novelty in 1844; but it is hard to be sure, because in a large house built in that year at 'Crow Hill, Oxford Street', advertised in October 1850, 'All the apartments are fitted up with gas'. Perhaps this was just the start of domestic gas lighting.

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© "Lighting" is taken from the book "Desirable Dwellings" by Nigel Morgan
© 2001