Published: Monday, 13 May 2013

The Ancient Egyptians used rush lights, or torches, made from the pithy core of reeds soaked in molten tallow, the rush lights had no wick like a candle. The Romans added a wick to oil lamps and candles as it gave a better more controlled light and lasted longer.

Early candles were made of tallow, gathered from cattle or sheep suet. It was not until the Middle Ages when beeswax from honeycombs was introduced. These were much better than tallow candles as they were comparatively clean and did not produce a smoky flame or emit an acrid odour when burned. However, they were expensive, and only the wealthy could afford them.