Towards the end of the 19th century, from 1880 through the 1890s, Samuel Clarke’s Candle Lamps were at the height of their popularity. Clarke’s Pyramid and Fairy Light Company of London England was a premier candle-making company specializing in the squatty candle.
The colorful proprietor, Samuel Clarke, was a marketing genius and created a number of the Squatty Candles with descriptive names such as Pyramid and Burglar’s Horror.
As a vehicle to market his candles, Clarke designed and patented a candleholder described as “a glass cup covered with a dome.” These lamps were not only utilitarian but they were also decorative. Seemingly endless variations of the company’s products were produced, ranging from children’s night-lights to vaporizers.
Clarke and his company never directly manufactured any of the glass for his patents. Instead, he contracted with the finest glass-makers of the day to produce his wares many of which bear his name. A few of the glass and porcelain companies known to produce Fairy Lamps include Pair-point, Baccarat, Royal Worcester, Stevens & Williams, Taylor Tunnicliffe & Company, Thomas Webb & Sons and Vallerysthal.
Many fine examples of glass can be observed in Fairy Lamps such as Satin, Peachblow, Amberina, Diamond Quilted, Overshot, hobnail, opalescent, Applied Glass, Burmese and Nailsea. Some have applied glass artwork, hand painting, inset jewels and hand-set glass beading known as Coralene.
Queen Victoria was a great admirer of Burmese glass. Originally discovered and described in U.S. Patent #332294 of 1884, granted to Frederick Shirley of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Thomas Webb & Sons of England later purchased this license and produced Burmese Fairy Lamps—a favorite of Queen Victoria—and were aptly named Queen’s Burmese. In 1887, Fairy Lamps in the form of fountains, chandeliers and lanterns decorated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebration. Special figurative lamps were also sold to commemorate the event.
If you are lucky enough to happen upon one of these treasures, it is best advised not to light it. Many lamps have been destroyed because modern candles burn at a much higher temperature than the slow-burning Victorian squatty candles. It is a safer bet to use a battery- operated tea light.
By Aprile Lanza Boettcher
Photography by Mark Tanner
Styled by Aprile Lanza Boettcher and Rebecca Ittner