Lighting in the home, by the early Victorian period, was still a somewhat drab and shadowy affair of flickering candles and burning oil lamps. Interior fittings were usually chandeliers – fittings suspended from the ceiling- or sconces, wall mounted light holders. Early lighting was functional rather than stylish and decorative, but the life changing industrial revolution was just getting into gear and big changes just around the corner.
Records show oil lamps have been in use since at least the Palaeolithic period, some 2.6 million years ago. Oil lamps were fuelled by a variety of oils including olive oil, fish oil, whale oil and even oil from certain nuts.
Oil lamps and candlelight were the main form of lighting in the ordinary home, and remained more or less unchanged until the industrial revolution when new technologies were being introduced into everyday living with labour saving devices changing the way we live. Things were starting to brighten up!
Throughout the 19th century, gas lights replaced oil lamps and candles, although they were simply naked flames of varying shapes and size, depending on the type of burner; two such early gas lamps were cockspur and fishtail. Although much brighter than candles or oil lamps - they were still very poor by modern day standards. The first gas lighting utilities were seen in London between 1812 and 1820.
The Victorian era was one of innovation and elaboration. Fashionable town houses reflected the changing times: with grand rise-and-fall gasoliers, that could be raised to showcase intricate ceiling decoration, and lowered when more light was required for reading and dining.
1878 saw one of the most important developments in the history of modern lighting, when Sunderland-born Joseph Swan invented the first practical electrical light bulb and interior lighting would never be the same again.
The Tyneside industrialist, William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside in Northumberland developed hydroelectricity in 1878. And, in 1880, he installed one of Joseph Swan’s light bulbs in his home, making Cragside the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.
By the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, electric lighting was gradually introduced around the country; electricity would transform the way we live from this time on.
Victorian Light Fittings
The advent of electricity and the industrial revolution sparked an explosion in home design: Light was available to all within a few short years, and light fittings became an integral part of modern living- became not just a form of illumination, but works of art in their own right.
Electric light bulb design advanced rapidly and soon bulbs were made in all sorts of shapes, in sizes to fit various recesses- light shades and candelabra designs were many, from rustic and classical, to elegant and sparkly- the Victorians did not lack in style and today, antiques from this era are much sought after.
However, the increase in popularity of all things vintage has led to an increase in the manufacture of some excellent reproduction light fittings. Finding antique light fittings in usable condition, at an affordable price is increasingly difficult, so look carefully at where you’ll find good quality fittings that look great, in a range of styles.
Arts & Crafts Lighting
The Arts and Crafts Movement that flourished between 1880 and 1910 gave birth to a style that reflected traditional craftsmanship using simple materials, forms, and methods: a style that harked back to a previous age, a mix of medieval and folk in style and decoration.
The Arts and Crafts Movement was greatly inspired by the ideas and creativity of John Ruskin and William Morris, and quickly spread from Britain to America, Europe and Japan.
Art Nouveau Lighting
Art Nouveau is a style that was popular from 1880 - 1910. It was inspired by nature and natural forms such as flowers, plants and trees: straight lines, corners and geometric form were replaced by curves and free flowing, graceful shapes.
Art nouveau is the first 20th century modern style – a style that did not look back for inspiration and ideas, drawing inspiration instead from the natural world. Silver, Copper and pewter became favourite materials during this time. Light fittings, furniture and art coordinated harmoniously during this elegant era.
Art Deco Lighting
The Art Deco movement of the 20’s and 30’s discarded the flowing organic shapes and colours of Art Nouveau, in favour of bold geometric shapes and straight lines, shiny fabrics and chrome. Art Deco shouted Hollywood and glamour, cocktails and Poirot - the roaring twenties of flapper girls, sleek and slick.
Art Deco lighting graced luxury ocean liners and suited perfectly the new age of the skyscraper, and the fantasy world of Hollywood. Art Deco style light fittings blend well into today’s modern interior and add a touch understated elegance to most styles and tastes. Lamps, available in a range of patterns and finishes will showcase your most favoured features, or will stand alone as the focal, talking point in any space.
21st Century Lighting
Interior design tastes in the twenty first century vary widely as more and more choose to mix the best of today, with the loved and stylish from yesterday – new and shabby chic, classical with vintage commercial - a mix of old, worn charm and hi tech all of which can work well with a little thought and imagination.
Industrial lighting is minimal yet stylish, simple but bold, a mix of clean lines and graceful curves- but never too excess- flat finishes and understated tones give metals an organic feel. Today’s trend of mixing vintage industrial, with just about anything else looks set to continue a while yet.
For original hand-crafted vintage, industrial & retro style lighting. Pendant ceiling & wall lighting & furniture, take a look at our website.