Your Guide to the Chamberstick

Chambersticks are aptly named, as their purpose was to be a portable guiding light for people to see them safely to their chambers.

Chambersticks are not entirely unlike candlesticks or candelabras. The main difference is that a chamberstick is designed to be mobile. Chambersticks are aptly named, as their purpose was to be a portable guiding light for people to see them safely to their chambers.

Let’s break down the appearance of a chamberstick.

Capital
This is the part of the chamberstick where the candle is held. In the 18th Century, tallow candles were used in chambersticks, as opposed to the beeswax candles that were used in candlesticks and candelabras. The reason for this is that beeswax burns 3 times brighter than tallow, and candlesticks, and candelabras were used for lighting up rooms, so they needed the brightest candles.

Knop
The knop of a chamberstick connects the capital to the wax pan, keeping the candle firm and steady as the chamberstick is transported from place to place.

Sconce
The sconce acts as an initial place for wax to gather as the candle melts. In some examples of chambersticks, the sconce also lifts off from the capital, so the candle can be carried separately from the main chamberstick. The chamberstick would be used to light the way to one’s chamber, and then once within, the sconce was separated from the rest of the chamberstick, and the candle within the sconce would be used to light the candles within the chamber, before being returned to the chamberstick.

Wax Pan

This part of the chamberstick is intended to prevent melted candle wax from dripping on surfaces and clothing. Sometimes, the wax pan is more ornamental in its shape, making the item a real feature piece.

Snuffer
The snuffer [when included] is usually cone shaped. It hooks onto the thumbpiece, ready to be removed and used to snuff out candles.

Thumbpiece
Chambersticks are light in their design to make them easier to carry from room to room. The thumbpiece acts as a stabilizer when carrying the chamberstick, making it less likely that a flaming candle is dropped whilst maneuvering around the house. 

Handle
The handle is shaped to provide an easy, one-handed grip to the user. The chamberstick needed to be easy enough to hold with one hand because it was a portable light source, and the other hand needed to be free for opening and closing doors whilst traveling from room to room.

 

English Sterling Silver Chambersticks (London), 1783, sold for $738 in May 2018.

Chambersticks are usually smaller than candlesticks and candelabras, making it easier to carry them around. They can be made from silver, brass, pewter, or porcelain, and the making of them dates back centuries.

Despite being used as a guide to get to the bedroom in the dark, chambersticks weren’t actually kept in one’s chambers. They were usually stored on a table in the entrance hall of the house, so that various members of the household could make use of them.

This collection of brass chambersticks sold for $29 in August 2018.

In the morning, the chambermaid would collect the chambersticks, and take them to one of two places, dependent on the family’s wealth. Usually, chambersticks were taken to the kitchen, where the wax pan would be cleared out of any melted wax from the previous night, the chamberstick would be cleaned, and a fresh candle would be put in, ready for its next use. If the family was quite wealthy, however, they would have a separate candle room, where the chambersticks would be taken to be seen to, often by a member of house staff whose sole responsibility was to tend to the candles of the house.

It is difficult to imagine that there once was such a genuine need for chambersticks, as candlelight was the main source of light around much of the home. While most of us are not likely to be in need a chamberstick for its original functions, they serve as a very attractive piece of décor that can suit any style or interior.


Andrew Campbell, founder and owner of AC Silver, has been dealing in antique silver and antique jewelry since 1977. In addition to a premier retail premises in Newcastle, north-east England, Andrew has developed an internationally recognized online store, serving both new and return customers nationally and worldwide.

Andrew personally sources a wide range of items, including antique jewelry, antique diamond rings, and antique gemstone rings. Andrew has also developed a fine and comprehensive inventory of antique silverware, AC Silver is a respected and trusted specialist in its field.

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