Londinium Lite


AD154 Let there be light

Roman metal hanging lamp found at Poultry
Gone are the old ceramic lamps - try something new

Any room needs some form of lighting, whether it is functional or decorative. Keep your light levels both effective and atmospheric by using a variety of light sources. More than just something to see by, they’re quite something to look at too.

The feature ceramic lamps of old are no longer in vogue. Either use clusters of small plain lamps for full effect or make a style statement with a statuesque lampstand or candelabrum.


Roman lampstand, recreated from surviving evidence
Move the light to where it is needed

Reading lamps for targeted clarity

Nobody likes to strain their eyes when working or doing the accounts. The best way to combat this is to have a nailed ledge for the lamp at a convenient height beside your work table - this frees up working space.

Focus attention

Lamps can either light your work or add atmosphere. Highlight the latest in figural wall paintings in the room by setting clusters of lights to illuminate the figures. The right lighting can bring them alive and really impress your guests.

Metal lampstands can hold one or more ceramic lamps or they have projecting arms with hooks from which metal lamps can be hung on chains.

Attractive bronze hanging lamps can also be hung from spikes knocked into wall uprights. They come with a safety feature - metal spacers at the rear designed to hold lamps away from the wall, preventing the flame catching any surrounding wood alight.

Candle in holder, recreated in the Roman Gallery
Candle holders on the wall keep surfaces clear.

Lamps and candles to add focus and softness

Lamps are changing in size and price. No longer the domain of the rich, small lamps are available at very reasonable prices to suit the purse of most Roman Londoners.

Candles are still widely used but more as a cost-cutting exercise. Candle-holders or shelf spikes make it possible to move the candles around. However, lamps, although using more expensive oil, are preferable as they can be moved round the home more safely.

Multiple hanging lamp. Reconstruction by Chris Green
Try the new style chandelier

Ambient lighting

Where more overhead light is needed for larger rooms, an innovative style is the ceramic chandelier, an import from central Gaul - a series of small ceramic lamps linked together, moulded onto a circular hollow ring which keeps the lamps supplied with olive oil.

This light can be suspended from the ceiling for general lighting.


  • Surviving vertical house timbers showed nail holes for ledges at differing heights with sooting on the timbers, showing the proximity of the lamps and candles (see Internal walls in Home life)).
  • There is little evidence for lampstands as they are quite delicate – only the feet or sections of the column stand survive from London. Similarly, few metal hanging lamps survive but numerous spikes and chains indicate their existence (see Lighting in the Household catalogue).
  • Ceramic lamps changed over time, from large decorated ‘picture’ lamps to very small lamps made under factory conditions. The poor would have still used candles, mainly of beeswax but some may have been of tallow.
  • A small fragment of a multiple lamp, or chandelier, consisting of a lamp moulded onto a circular tube which would have had a number of lamps around the circumference.

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