Lincoln Lantern

I love that the lantern still has the last candle in situ though now wilted in the base; evidence of its final outing. This piece exemplifies the beauty of many of the everyday objects feature around Lincoln.

Lincoln Lantern - Lindsay McCormack, Archivist

Recently, I have had the enjoyable occasion to sort some of the objects in the Archive into what has become the unofficial College museum. One of these items is a lantern which is likely to date from the early 19th century. It appears to be constructed of tin plate which has oxidised over time, giving it a warm, coppery-red tone. It is cylindrical with a conical top and probably had a looped carrying handle, now missing. The lantern is punched to make an attractive decorative pattern of hearts, circles and ornamental slits.  The light has a single candle socket in the base behind a cracked bulls-eye glass lens to transmit the glow. It also has a space for a door to change the candle and let out more light.

Perhaps the lantern was removed from the Hall during the restoration by T G Jackson in 1889-91, or when electric lights were introduced in 1903. Its function would allow a candle to be taken from place to place without going out and illuminating the space in situ, perhaps like modern task lighting. This lantern might have accompanied college servants going about their duties, or provided additional lighting in Hall to the tables already lit by candelabra.

The lantern has recently had a bespoke box made for it by the Packaging and Display Service at the Bodleian Library. The lantern is now inserted into a plastazote base in a heavy archival card tray with a slot for its lid. The top of the box is full-depth, enabling the lantern to be shown without removing it from its packaging; this will help preserve the fragile metal. The growing ‘museum’ is now located on static shelving to ensure objects do not slide off the rolling racking.

I love that the lantern still has the last candle in situ even though it is now wilted in the base: evidence of its final outing. This piece exemplifies the beauty of many of the everyday objects which feature around Lincoln adding collectively to its visual culture. The lantern could have been admired or even taken for granted by those students, Fellows, staff and visitors having meals in the period when it was in service, but it illuminated the Hall which has always been a central part of College life. Who basked in its glow, I wonder, and what were their stories?

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