A History of Lighting

A History of Lighting

At Sherwood Lighting we understand the huge impact that lighting has on your home. It sets the tone of the room and creates its ambience. For example crystal lighting such as a chandelier dangling from the ceiling signifies that this is a sophisticated room with a formal atmosphere whereas a brightly-coloured lampshade might signal a child’s or a teenager’s bedroom.

We have a huge selection of traditional lighting available in our store. Vintage decor is very much in at the moment so if you are looking for lights to fit with this style then you are in the right place. There are all sorts of lights available today but where did artificial lighting itself actually start?

Lighting has developed through the ages, as far back as Saxon times when cold houses had no glass windows but just a large hole in the wall that allowed light in. As there was also no carpet, homes were incredibly cold. In the Middle Ages peasants lived in wooden huts glued together with wattle and daub. The development of wooden shutters was created to keep out the cold but it was still freezing, so fireplaces were built in the middle of tiny huts to try to keep families warm. During this period the earliest types of chandelier were used by rich people. They were essentially a wooden circle with spikes attached to them. Candles were forced onto the spikes to keep them still, and the structure dangled from the centre of the ceiling just like today. You can find a modern “medieval” chandelier here. Candles themselves are thought to have been used as early as 300BC, although records of them being used in Great Britain appear to be from around the medieval period.

Houses developed in the 16th century, an age when the very rich could build large homes for themselves. Cardinal Wolsey for example built Hampton Court Palace which is still visited by thousands of people every year who want to explore its extravagant beauty. People with this amount of wealth could afford to install glass windows, a huge luxury. They started to light their homes using beeswax candles which were incredibly expensive at the time. An alternative was to use tallow, a form of animal fat, although the problem with this was the unpleasant aroma that it created.

Paraffin revolutionised candle-making in the 1830s because it made candles cheap and available to the masses. Fast forwarding to the 1840s, gaslight became used in wealthy homes and eventually outside as street lights. In the 1870s the poorest people started using them, while using oil lamps upstairs. This style of lighting is still very popular today; at Sherwood we have a large selection of “semi-flush” traditional ceiling lights that are designed to resemble the type of candles that were used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In 1878 Joseph Swan invented the first ever electric light bulb and this was improved by Edison in 1879, although gas was still used for a long time after these inventions. Even in the 20th Century many of the upper classes were inclined not to use electric lighting which seemed excessively bright and to some people unnecessary.

In the Victorian period lots of different types of lighting became fashionable. The traditional lights found at Sherwood include many very much in the style of Victorian lighting. Victorian ceiling lights tended to be large and heavy-looking which actually works well to give a room some added grandeur today.

Today, there is no particular style of lighting that is used by everyone. It is important that you choose