Lighting History

Brief history of lighting over the centuries.


Please do not hold us to the exact dates even our historians are in some cases not sure. We start this overview at around the 1500’s as much before this period would not really be of much interest in the dolls house world. We will conclude when electric light was largely the main form of lighting used. This gives us the Tudor, Stuart, Georgian & Victorian periods on which a great many of our dolls houses are styled on. Modern day lighting we all know about.

Tudor period 1485-1603

During this period from a dolls house point of view the lighting was candles, torches or nothing. Lighting then was by flaming torches using animal fat as fuel. Open bowl or floating wick/fish-oil lamps or rush lights were used by the poorer households Beeswax or tallow candles were used by the nobility, wealthy merchants and the clergy.

Stuart period 1603-1714

During this period from a dolls house point of view the lighting was mainly candles and oil lamps. Rush lights and crude oil lights were still used by the poorer classes, otherwise lighting remained as for the Tudor period. There was an increasing use of candles in Merchant homes.

Georgian period 1714-1830

During this period from a dolls house point of view the lighting was mainly candles oil lamps and the first gas lights. More sophisticated types of oil lamps were used, along with an increase in the use of candles. 1784 saw the first use of coal gas as lighting fuel.

Victorian period 1833-1890

During this time from a dolls house point of view the lighting was mainly Candles, gas & oil. This period saw the start of electric lighting. Early in the 19th century, most cities in the United States and Europe had streets that were gaslight. 1853 First kerosene lamp introduced in Germany (tilley lights are still used today) 1879 Edison improved design by Thomas Woodward to produce first successful incandescent electric light bulb With the introduction of the light bulb in 1879, candle making started to decline until the turn of the century when a renewed popularity for candles emerged.

By the turn of the Century some of the wealthier town houses had electric lights but the poorer and more rural areas were still having to use candles and oil for lighting as the gas or new electric did not reach them.

By 1920 gas had become a major feature in the British town house, used for lighting, cooking, water heating & general warmth but generally candles and oil where still being used in bedrooms. However, electric light was steadily replacing gas lighting.

Modern times

Late 20th Century. Electric light is almost supreme. Candles are still used mainly for unscheduled blackouts! Lighting, however, continues to develop. Neon, halogen, and fluorescent lights were all invented within a short span, between 1911 and 1927.

The one common denominator here seems to be the Candle which despite all the changes, and 500 years, is still used even today. (happy birthday)!