Candles | Lanterns | Oil Lamps | Rush Dips | Splinters | Torches | Watchlights | Windows


Candle on Spike - Photo by J. Samuel Burner

Photo by J. Samuel Burner


  • Were made from beeswax or tallow (animal fat)
    • Beeswax candles were more expensive to make than tallow candles
  • Almost always home-made, rather than store-bought
  • Were often placed in candlestick holders, but were sometimes supported by wall brackets or iron candelabras, or were impaled on a vertical spike
  • Lasted longer than rush dips and were more expensive to make



  • Originally “lanthorns”
  • Were made by sticking a candle into a metal frame whose sides were made of thin, transparent horn


Oil Lamp - Photo by Sreekumar K. S.

Photo by Sreekumar K. S.

Oil Lamps

  • Were made by placing oil in a bowl, submerging most of a wick, and lighting the wick on fire
  • The bowl was often placed on a stand, or suspended in a ring
  • Illuminated better than candles or rush dips did

Rush Light

Rush Dips

  • a.k.a. Rushes, Rushlights
  • Were tapers (slender candles) made from the piths (the soft, fibrous inner part) of rush stalks dipped in melted fat and then dried
  • The grease would drip onto the ground as the rush burned
  • Did not have wicks
  • Were cheaper to make than candles, and tended to be used by the peasantry
  • A “nip” (tongs-like holder) was used to hold the rush dip at a 45-degree angle, clamping on appx. 1.5″ from the top of the rush
    • Rushes held vertically would produce a dimmer flame
    • Rushes held horizontally would burn too quickly
    • The nip was usually mounted on an iron tripod or a wooden block
    • Nips were never mass-produced, but were made individually by local craftsmen and blacksmiths
  • Sometimes were supported by wall brackets or iron candelabras
  • Provided weak yet clear light
  • A rush light 15 inches long would burn for half an hour
  • Children were often tasked with changed the rushes
  • How to Make
    • Gather mature rush stalks in the summer or fall
    • Soak the stalks in water for a day to loosen their green epidermis (skin/rind)
    • Peel back the green rind of each stalk to reveal the inner pith
      • Leave a single lengthwise strip of rind on the stalk to provide support for the pith
    • Dry the stalk (may take several weeks for the center to completely dry)
    • Soak the stalk in hot bacon grease or mutton fat (preferred because it provided a harder, cleaner texture than other fats
      • Add a bit of beeswax to the grease to make the rush burn longer
    • Dry the stalks for a least a day



  • A thin piece of resinous wood coated with tallow (animal fat)
  • Was held in a manner similar to the rushlight
  • Common in Eastern Europe, Scotland, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean
  • England did not have many resinous trees, so they used rushlights instead


Torch - Photo by Andrew Dunn

Photo by Andrew Dunn


  • Were typically made from green/wet sticks of wood or branches (green to keep the fire from burning to one’s hand)
  • A bundle of rags that had been soaked in pitch, tree sap, tallow (animal fat), or oil would be bound to one end and lit
    • Were soaked to keep it from burning too fast or easily blowing out
  • If there were no rags readily available (e.g. in the forest), bark, moss, grass, leaves, and/or pieces of wood could be used (it would still have to be soaked in pitch, sap, oil, or tallow, though)
  • Were used to light the interiors of large areas, such as the Great Hall
  • Were sometimes hung through iron rings on the walls, or in brackets



  • A rushlight in which two strips of rind were left on the rush before coating it with tallow
  • Produced a dimmer light that burned much longer


Window - Photo by Richard Croft

Photo by Richard Croft

Window - Photo by Ezioman

Photo by Ezioman


  • Were often the main source of light in the daytime
  • Manors and castles would cover their windows with horn (animal horn that has been boiled and flattened so it’s almost translucent), wooden shutters, or occasionally glass (which was very expensive)
  • Peasants would use wooden shutters to “close” their windows at night
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