There is a great deal more to wax chandlery than candles:
Our display and entertainment look at everything from origins of materials to the huge diversity of the traditional uses of beeswax whether in a religious context; as a preservative of fruit or cheeses; for cosmetics and medicines; in legal or trading seals; for polishes – even in the early period as a payment of rents or fines.
Details of our Sealing Wax Activity sessions – whether given as part of a boader demonstration or as stand alone workshop – appear at the foot of this page.
While candle dipping may appear widely familiar, the work of the Medieval Cirger is not quite so simple as it seems – especially if done well!
We are currently researching the re-creation of solid document seals and hollow wax votive figures for pre-reformation pilgrimage shrines, as well as the use of beeswax in early embalming (though without any plans to actively demonstrate the latter…)
A late medieval/early Tudor sealing wax workshop day in North Cray House for the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. Part of the school summer holiday ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’ activity programme for children.
We use replica period equipment and tools made from historically accurate materials seen here right at Bridgewater in early Stuart guise.
Our Georgian Chandlery presentation explains the Perquisite of Butts & Stubbs and lawful perks in general.
It introduces the dandyish Mr Atthow, here making an inspection, on the way to securing his fortune in the same way as predecessor one Mr Fortnum (of & Mason fame) –
– while his long-suffering (but unfailingly cheerful) servant Flo tends to the real hard labour: As well as managing the fire, weighing stubbs, mixing colours, filling sealing wax moulds, preparing cosmetics and polishes she also does general housekeeping…
We explore the social and business meanings of the differently coloured sealing waxes and look at the importance of the recipient’s requirement to pay for delivery of their letters (An issue of fatal regret to one Dick Turpin…)
Beeswax products, being sterile, were also used by morticians in early embalming processes…
More interesting in this period is the use of coloured – usually red – sealing wax like preparations to fill and highlight the arteries of (often far from legally acquired) human medical specimen cadavers.
Visitors are welcome to have a general go with the Clyster (syringe) but are advised that they may need to bring their own body.
We come forward into the Victorian era, and even as far as the early 20th century (well after the introduction of parrafin wax candles) and then give our show as an Arts and Crafts presentation in defiance of soulless industrialisation.
We now also look at the work of Rowland Hill and the coming of the Penny Post along with the development of the new fangled envelope (including the early Mulready prepaid type) At right left our amber glass seal that reads ‘Thank Rowland Hill for this’ (but obviously reversed!)
Here are a few of our Victorian seals that visitors can use: Some have initials but by now most have become purely decorative to have romantic themes or actually reference the delivery of the post itself.
We usually have a stock supply of both our cast pewter replica seals – from medieval to early 20th century – and our hand dipped beeswax candles available for sale.
Sealing Wax Activity
We have particularly developed non toxic but otherwise historicaly accurate pre-industrial sealing wax in various period colours: By 1800 generally red is used for law and trade, black for mourning with green, natural or yellow for personal letters.
Children (and adults) have the opportunity to make their own wax impression choosing from a wide range of suitable replica seal designs – variously cast from medieval, Tudor/Stuart, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian originals as appropriate. Their set impression on linen tape can then be taken home as a keepsake.