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pedro  •  Link

Candlemas Day (Brewers Phrase and Fable)

The feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, when Christ was presented by her in the Temple. February 2nd, when, in the Roman Catholic Church, there is a candle procession, to consecrate all the candles which will be needed in the church during the year. The candles symbolise Jesus Christ, called “the light of the world,” and “a light to lighten the Gentiles.” It was the old Roman custom of burning candles to the goddess Februa, mother of Mars, to scare away evil spirits.

“On Candlemas Day
Candles and candlesticks throw all away.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

February 2nd seems early to end the compulsory lighting of the streets:

After Allhallows Day, “all householders of the better class” were required to hang a lamp outside their doors by London statute. As night descended, the lamp-lighter or watchman for their neighborhood came by to light them and kept them lighted all night.

The following is taken from Robert Chamber’s history of the custom in his Popular Antiquities:

Civilization, in its slowest progress, may be illustrated by a glance at the past modes of guarding and lighting the tortuous and dangerous streets of old cities.

From 1253, when Henry III established night-watchmen, until 1830, when Sir Robert Peel's police act established a new kind of guardian, the watchman was little better than a person who "Disturbed your rest to tell you what's o'clock."

The night watchman gradually became less useful from the days of Queen Elizabeth; the troop were as much relished for their satirical truth in the reign of Queen Anne as in that of her virgin predecessor.

The Westminster Act was passed in 1762, was forced on the legislature by the impunity with which robberies and murder were committed after dark. Before that, a few oil lamps served to make darkness visible in the streets, and confuse the wayfarer by partial glimmerings across his ill-paved path.

Before the civil wars of the 1640’s, the streets were only lit by the lights from windows, from lanterns grudgingly hung out by householders, or by the watchmen during their rounds.

The watchman carried a fire-pot, called a cresset, on the top of a long pole, and as he marched on, giving light as he bawled the hour, and at the same time, notifying his approach to all thieves, who now had warning to escape.

A cresset is preserved in the Tower of London armory. It is an open-barred pot, hanging by swivels fastened to the forked staff; in the center of the pot is a spike, around which was coiled a rope soaked in pitch and rosin, which sputtered and burned with a lurid light and stinking smoke, as the watchman went his rounds.

The London watchman in the time of King James differed little from that of Queen Elizabeth. He carried a halbert and a horn-lantern, was well secured in a frieze gabardine, leathern-girdled; and wore a serviceable hat to guard against weather.

Existing pictures of watchmen show venerable faces and beards, indicating how old was the habit of parish officers to select the poor and feeble for the office of watchman in order to keep them out of the poorhouse. Such 'ancient and most quiet watchmen' naturally preferred being out of harm's way, and warned thieves to depart in peace by ringing the bell, 'then presently call the rest of the watch together, and thank God you are rid of a knave.'

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 2

The night watchman’s cry as he walked around his parish was: 'Lanthorne and a whole candell light, hange out your lights heare!'
This was in accordance with the local rule of London, as established by the mayor in 1416, that all householders of the better class, rated above a low rate in the books of their respective parishes, should hang a lantern, lighted with a fresh and whole candle, nightly outside their houses for the accommodation of foot passengers, from Allhallows evening to Candlemas day. [OCTOBER 31 – FEBRUARY 2]

There is a picture of a Jacobean bellman in the collection of prints in the British Museum, giving a more poetic form to the cry:
"A light here, maids, haue out your light,
And see your horns be clear and bright,
That so your candle clear may shine,
Continuing from six till nine;
That honest men that walk along
May see to pass safe without wrong."

Total darkness fell early on the streets when the rush-candle burned in its socket; and was dispelled only by the occasional appearance of the watchman with his horn lantern; or that more important and noisier official, the bellman.

Each ward appointed a bellman who acted as an inspector of the watchmen, going around, says Stow, 'all night with a bell, and at every lane's end, and at the ward's end, gave warning of fire and candle, and to help the poor, and pray for the dead.'

Extracted from https://gilbertwesleypurdy.blogspot.com/2021/10/t…
He has pictures of the nightwatchmen.

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1663

  • Feb

1664

  • Feb