Here I sit, enveloped by the glow of flickering light, rain pouring madly outside while gales blow so ferociously I fear for the garden furniture, which will likely be discarded across the lawn in the morning. The latest storm to hit our green and pleasant land has been intense, so much so the power in our old barn has cut out several times, leaving us in a silent state of shadow lit darkness for the odd few seconds here and there. Thankfully earlier in the evening when I arrived home my first task was to light the oddly shaped candles scattered around the house, as if I had some sixth sense of their practical requirement for later.
From the moment of pulling out a match and lighting the wick, with the instant waft of cordite fading into the honeyed scent of beeswax, candlelight creates a feeling of warmth, a sense of nostalgia and hunkering down to shelter from the world outside.
When nights are long and dark, there is something comforting about the light of candle, whether it's some inner desire to extend the light of the day, to capture it and hold onto it in my home, or whether it’s just as simple as the warmth of light given by the flicker of a flame can never be matched by electric lighting, either way, there is a magic to candlelight.
A short history of candles
Candles historically were not made from unctuous beeswax, but instead leftover animal fat that had been rendered to create a cream-like substance. The soft fat would melt in the same way as today's wax, however it would burn with a rather acrid smoke, leaving the scent of meat sizzled on a griddle. Whilst a wonderful use of a byproduct I can understand not wanting to fill your home with a constant meaty air.
By the middle ages tallow was replaced by pure beeswax. The beeswax burnt far longer and left a more pleasant residue in ones home. Beeswax candles were initially very expensive and were often only found in churches or amongst the homes of the wealthy gentry.
Today wax for candles can come from a variety of sources; paraffin, soy and palm - are the most common, with only a few makers using pure beeswax or animal fats.
At home I try to avoid the use of as many artificial substances as practical. Candles are an area where I do not compromise. To me, the lighting of a candle retains a ritual like feeling, a way of leading a simpler life, and so it feels right to use something pure and derived from nature.
While often more expensive than their soy and paraffin alternatives, I have found natural candles tend to have a longer burn, a sweeter scent, and while they cost my pocket a couple of pence more, they are not costing the earth.
Inspired by my love of a flickering flame, we have launched a small range of thoughtful candles that I hope will give you equal joy.
Made in Alston in Cumbria, by the inimitable Ted Thompson and his team, these beautiful candles have a natural tapered shape, the result of the process by which they are made, properly crafted by hand. The range starts from just £6 for two stunning tapers perfect for dinner parties. You can shop the range here.
I instantly fell in love with this range, straight away evoking wild walks on Cornish moors, or brushing against autumnal hedgerows on a lazy afternoon wonder. Sweetly scented wax is poured by hand into beautiful terracotta pots, that beg to be filled with herbs once the wax has given way. Starting from £5.99 for the smallest size, this candle makes a lovely gift too. Find the range here.