Lighting

There is more to the story about lighting than you think, before browsing our vintage lighting collection take a read below. Vintage and antique lighting finishes a space like no other and is such an important way of showcasing home décor.

The ancient Mediterranean world was dotted with lighthouses to help guide ships. The Romans brought the concept to Britain. One of the world’s only three surviving Roman lighthouses can be found at Dover Castle in Kent. It was built soon after the Roman invasion of Britain, in the middle of the first century AD.

On a domestic scale, the household fire was probably the main source of light for most people up until the 19th century. Interestingly, in medieval towns fires had to be put out after a particular time at night to stop the risk of fires spreading. The word for this time was curfew, which comes from the Old French couvre-feu, meaning ‘cover fire’. People would use bell-shaped ceramic ‘curfew covers’, which were ventilated so that fires would keep smouldering overnight. They could be blown back into life the next morning with bellows.

The Romans are thought to have invented the dipped candle. In the medieval period, beeswax candles could only really be found in churches and richer households. Poorer people would make do with firelight, rushlights or tallow.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that lamps provided a real leap forward, at least for the upper classes. A new type of oil lamp that provided as much light as ten candles was invented by French chemist Ami Argand in 1780.

The first electric lights were developed in the late 1870s by different people across the world. In Britain, Joseph Swan led the charge. He installed his lights at Cragside House in Northumberland in 1878. A year later Mosley Street in Newcastle was the first in the world to have electric streetlights.

It was only after the First World War that electricity found its way into most of our homes. Lightbulbs improved and the National Grid was established. For the first time in human history, we had clean, safe lighting at the flick of a switch.