Getting off your wick

Candles! These days they are seen as a romantic light or a horrible fire hazard. In 21st century Britain they are used for effect or for emergency. Most of us, for everyday usage, prefer our electric lights which are bright and come on at the touch of a switch. And we have candles with self-burning wicks.

In earlier times, when candles were essential illumination, wicks did not burn properly. They got longer and longer and they smoked. Cutting off excess wick was just one of those things that had to be done. Households had wick trimmers to get off that spare length of wick.

We have a pair in Market Lavington Museum.

19th century wick trimmers at Market Lavington Museum

19th century wick trimmers at Market Lavington Museum

These are not so different from ordinary scissors except that one blade is enlarged and had a ledge to hold the trimmed off piece of wick. The wick was hot and smouldering. You didn’t want it falling into your rag hearth rug and setting fire to it.

These snuffers have no maker’s name but are believed to date from the early 19th century. They offered an elegantly simple solution to a problem from that era.

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