Jill Williamson | Where Adventure Comes to Life

Jill Williamson | Where Adventure Comes to Life

Medieval Facts: Lighting, part one

Jill Williamson on January 19, 2010

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever been to a rural area at night, out in the woods, far away from any buildings, it’s dark. Especially if it’s a moonless, cloudy night.

So how did people see before electricity was invented?

I grew up in Alaska in a home without electricity. In the summer, it stayed light almost all night, but in the winter it was the opposite. We had oil lamps, lit with kerosene, that we used until my dad started running the generator every night. Dad never turned on the generator in the mornings while we got ready for school. So, each morning, mom woke me up with a flashlight and I got ready by the oil lamp. We also used some fat candles, but oil lamps were brighter. I also got ready in the kitchen and we didn’t have a bathroom anywhere near as modern as this, but…I’ll talk about outhouses another time. 🙂

When all you have to see with is a small area of light, you pretty much stay in one spot or carry it with you. An oil lamp gives off quite a bit of light, but if you wanted to read, eat, or see anything in detail, you have to sit up close to it.

A castle would be a dark place, even in daylight, since they had very few windows. Rooms were lit by candles, rushlights, standing lamps, hanging lamps, torches, or chandeliers. I’ve found some interesting facts in my research for my books. Over the next few days, I’ll talk about them.


See all the posts on Medieval Lighting here:

Lighting, part two.

Lighting, part three.

0 responses to “Medieval Facts: Lighting, part one”

  1. Mama Lusco says:

    You are practically a pioneer woman! Good background for imagining primitive ways. Have a great week 🙂

  2. Nichole says:

    Neat! My grandma grew up in a house with only oil lamps and when the electricity goes out she pulls out her lamps and we light them. I tell you, there is nothing quite as fantastic as reading by firelight.

    And as far as outhouses go, she still has one in her yard. When I was little, me and my brothers and sisters still used to use it, even though grandma had a bathroom in the house. As we grew older it pretty much turned into a bike shed for our little tricycles. She also has one out on the other side of her pond, which I think is a little strange, but it does come in handy when one is going fishing and suddenly needs to go. lol! 😉

    • novelteen says:

      That’s so fun, Nichole! Where does your grandma live? I used to read to lamplight often. It’s nice.
      I should buy a kerosene lamp to have. But I’m not going to dig and outhouse! lol

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