How dark was it indoors at night before electric lighting?

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,576
Italy, Lago Maggiore
A part gas illumination, actually a candle can give you a suitable level of light. Being an IT manager I deal with safety rules for who works in front of a computer: actually today we live in a world with too much light. Human eye is no more used at its best. Our eyes are well far from being similar to cat's eyes, but a human being should be able to recognize the planets using his naked eyes in a night sky.

The point is that before of electricity we were used to live in the shadow handling a candle to make a bit of light in front of us while walking. So, we didn't mind.

For example Italian administrations are wondering why a guy should be able to read a newspaper at 03.00 AM in a square ... But why? Buy a tablet! I do prefer shadow, just to say. Someone say I'm a vampire, but I don't mind [I become a bat and I fly away!].

But if we want to compare: electric light is stable and diffused, the light of a candle is limited and unstable. The visual effect is drastically different already at home.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,623
Sydney
public lighting was a social and police revolution ,
before gas lights , darkness reigned so did criminals , it was common to visit only when the moon was full
there were town ordinance making it an offense to walk the streets at night without a light
the occasional police or militia was more a procession than a search

1578435943652.png
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,805
Australia
It depended on people's resources, it was possible to light a room quite brightly if they could afford many candles or numbers of lamps; but generally we would find rooms to be quite dark and gloomy by comparison. Candle-light can be very soft and attractive, though, and a room lit by candelabra would look very good in its way. It is funny to see films of historical scenes in which someone lights a single candle or light, and everything is suddenly as bright as though several electric lamps had been turned on (which is in fact what has happened!).
I'm sure there was a period movie made a few years ago that used only candlelight and lamps for its night time scenes, but I can't find any reference to it.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,805
Australia
I assume that here nobody had a power cut and had to use candles to see the effect?
Since moving to the country I have had several power cuts. Something not really experienced since my early childhood in the 60s. One can read quite easily by candle light, and only a couple of candles are needed to illuminate a house sufficiently to find your way about.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,623
Sydney
the candelabra was a device to scatter light in an attractive manner , it could reach glittering splendor

1578447228674.png
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,581
Australia
A part gas illumination, actually a candle can give you a suitable level of light. Being an IT manager I deal with safety rules for who works in front of a computer: actually today we live in a world with too much light. Human eye is no more used at its best. Our eyes are well far from being similar to cat's eyes, but a human being should be able to recognize the planets using his naked eyes in a night sky.
I agree , also, out in the country we have no outdoor lighting . People from the city cant believe one can see at night, when there is no Moon, by starlight . Some visitors from the city came with me for a night visit to friends place , we walked across the fields , I could see enough to find my way but one had to hang on to my shirt behind me and another behind him . "How can you do that ? " they asked . (Of course, this is when the air is very clear and many stars are visible here . Not so at the moment - bushfire smoke ! )

The point is that before of electricity we were used to live in the shadow handling a candle to make a bit of light in front of us while walking. So, we didn't mind.
That isnt the best way to do it as you are still looking into the flame as well . Have you seen those candlesticks that have a metal disc sticking up vertically from the edge ? Thats to make a shield between your eyes and the candle .

Here is a better way, we used to use them all the time ;

Get a large tin ( like a canned fruit tin ) cut one end off and puncture the side with 2 chisel strokes in a cross - inwards, into the tin , push something through the cross, to make a hole ( with the corners peeling back into the tin ) the same size as a candle . Get a piece of fencing wire and lay the tin on its side and curve the ends of the wire and press them onto and around the open end of the tin and the lip of the unopened end so it makes a carry handle so the tin can be carried horizontally with the cross hole at the bottom. Now push the candle up into the hole .

Candle torch - the inside reflective metal reflects and concentrates the candle light out , you can carry by the wire handle and direct the beam of light , it won't interfere with your eyesight as the back lighting towards you is reflected out the tin open end , as the candle burns down, you just push more of its length up into the tin. The curved in sharp bits from the cross cut hole bites into the candle and stops it falling out - you can push it in but the sharp edges won't let it fall out . You can use it walking as a torch or hang it as a light - the tin also catches any dripping wax as the candle is inside the tin .
 
Apr 2014
290
Liverpool, England
I'm sure there was a period movie made a few years ago that used only candlelight and lamps for its night time scenes, but I can't find any reference to it.
'Wolf Hall' - BBC TV 2015. People complained that everything was too dark, but it seemed all right to me. There was one scene where Cromwell's wife (mistress?) went round the room snuffing all the candles and leaving him with just the one to read by. It was very effective.
 
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Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,805
Australia
I agree , also, out in the country we have no outdoor lighting . People from the city cant believe one can see at night, when there is no Moon, by starlight . Some visitors from the city came with me for a night visit to friends place , we walked across the fields , I could see enough to find my way but one had to hang on to my shirt behind me and another behind him . "How can you do that ? " they asked . (Of course, this is when the air is very clear and many stars are visible here . Not so at the moment - bushfire smoke ! )



That isnt the best way to do it as you are still looking into the flame as well . Have you seen those candlesticks that have a metal disc sticking up vertically from the edge ? Thats to make a shield between your eyes and the candle .

Here is a better way, we used to use them all the time ;

Get a large tin ( like a canned fruit tin ) cut one end off and puncture the side with 2 chisel strokes in a cross - inwards, into the tin , push something through the cross, to make a hole ( with the corners peeling back into the tin ) the same size as a candle . Get a piece of fencing wire and lay the tin on its side and curve the ends of the wire and press them onto and around the open end of the tin and the lip of the unopened end so it makes a carry handle so the tin can be carried horizontally with the cross hole at the bottom. Now push the candle up into the hole .

Candle torch - the inside reflective metal reflects and concentrates the candle light out , you can carry by the wire handle and direct the beam of light , it won't interfere with your eyesight as the back lighting towards you is reflected out the tin open end , as the candle burns down, you just push more of its length up into the tin. The curved in sharp bits from the cross cut hole bites into the candle and stops it falling out - you can push it in but the sharp edges won't let it fall out . You can use it walking as a torch or hang it as a light - the tin also catches any dripping wax as the candle is inside the tin .
Have you read 'Black Kettle and Full Moon' by Geoffrey Blainey? He describes life in Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, noting that in rural areas travel after dark was often timed to utilise moonlight. Town meetings, dances, fetes etc. were planned around the moon and often dances carried on all night so the travellers could go home in daylight.
 
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MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,350
Kansas
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.
Get a copy of the film Barry Lyndon. Made in the 1970s it only used natural light, both day and night during photography. Here is a still