How dark was it indoors at night before electric lighting?

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,403
Welsh Marches
Good question. While I have burned candles during power outages, I've never seen a 19th century oil lamp in operation.
I have used paraffin (kerosene) lamps when staying in places without electricity, and they produce a pretty good light, although it does not project as far as electric light. They were only introduced, I think, in the second half of the 19th century, and made quite a difference as sparky has already noted. Earlier lamps were by no means as good.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,970
Dispargum
I've seen modern lanterns used by campers but I suspect they are much brighter than what was available in the 19th century.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,403
Welsh Marches
If fuelled by gas entering a mantle under pressure, they can be very bright; paraffin pressure lamps (often known as Tilley lamps in England) can also be very bright, but I doubt that an ordinary paraffin lamp is much brighter than a good 18th-19th century oil-lamp
 
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specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,581
Australia
How dark was it indoors at night when they only had candles and oil lamps, even in the houses of rich people, like how dark was it in the palace of a Han Dynasty emperor or a medieval castle in the year 1250, compared to well lighted houses nowadays, I mean if you look at modern TV shows about ancient times, I am sure I was nowhere near as bright indoors as currently portrayed at night.
Just turn your lights ou and light some candles , then you will know :) . I lived without electricity for years , now I have a modest solar set up and generate my own . The eyes get used to it . Moder indoor lighting at night is extremely excessive and unnecessary . Its a waste of energy and a strain on the eyes. The only time it became a problem is if I wanted to draw or paint , and usually the main problem with that is in summer as a few candles around your work attracts insects .

There is an issue with 'back lighting ' ; a weaker light does not allow directional back lighting , so if you want to read a book by candle light , for example, the candle sits in front of you to illuminate the page and you are looking both at the book and into the light . Its much better to have the page illuminated from behind you .

Regarding modern TV shows depicting a bright room in ancient times ....... errrm ......

:D

do you know what a Gaffer is ?



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Apr 2014
290
Liverpool, England
From the 1950s to the 1970s power cuts were quite common in the UK. Unless you were quite well off there would only be a few candles in use and you would have to take one with you if you went to the bathroom. Definitely little islands of light scattered about. A good coal fire made a useful contribution. I still have a stock of candles in case, but unfortunately they never seem to be needed now. It helps if you have candlesticks as well, though bottles and saucers can be almost as good, if not as elegant..
 
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specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,581
Australia
But I wonder whether a good lamp in the 19th Century was much worse than a single electic lamp, provide that one kept closer to it?
We used a pressure spirit ( pump up ) lantern with a 'mantle' for prawning . Too bright to look at directly . But I am not sure of their introduction date ?

'Coleman lamp'

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