Market Lavington Museum

Lighting before electricity

At Market Lavington Museum, we have a display of lamps used before electricity came to Market Lavington and Easterton.

Sybil Perry who gave a large handwritten file of Sybil Perry’s Memories to the museum, wrote about lighting in the village before 1926. The following is a transcript of her writing on the subject.

There was no electricity in Market Lavington until 1926 when I was six years old, so I can well remember our rooms being lit by an oil lamp, which stood at night in the middle of the table. Larger houses and public buildings, also churches, had them hanging from the ceiling or roof (in church) on long chains. The lamp was filled with oil, into which dipped the wick, which was made of a kind of cord, and was like a piece of braid. It soaked up the oil and the top went through a metal slot attached to a kind of ratchet with a little wheel, so that when the top was lighted and began to burn down, more wick could be wound up. The flame was enclosed in a glass “chimney”. If the wick was turned up too high, the flame would smoke and fill the room with fumes.

Only the area immediate to the lamp had any appreciable light and the corners of the room were quite dark. Sometimes eerie shadows would be cast and as small children we felt quite frightened! When we went into another room, downstairs or upstairs, we had to take a candle or torch. With the amount of light so limited we had to sit as near the lamp as possible to read, write, knit, sew or play box games.

See also A paraffin lamp, Candle holders and Candlelight.