Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Question from Nancy - London at Night

I am researching London at night. Who would have traveled around at night on horseback--no electricity, obviously, and few torches. So would anyone be able to even see? I read that some people would hire a "linkboy" to light the way.


  1. Linkboys were torch-bearers who guided pedestrians (and probably sedan chairs) through the streets. I would think that a horseman would most likely have carried a lantern.

  2. I can tell you this - I grew up riding horses, and one night last summer, I took my horse out at night in a dimly lit field. It was a very familiar, flat, open area and I've had this horse for ten years, so I really trust him.

    It was just about the scariest thing ever. And not even because of wild animals or holes or trees being out there. Just being up high on an animal like that and not being able to see a darn thing... so ever since then, I have wondered the same thing. I know horses can see well in the dark, but how does one travel through an unfamiliar area on perhaps a less reliable horse without stepping in holes or having the horse get spooked by wild animals?

    Very good question.

  3. I feel silly asking this question, but is it possible that our eyesight has de-evolved since the Tudor era? If you think about it, modern people are almost never without some kind of light. Also, if you look at books published even in the nineteenth century, the printing was tiny (yes, I know paper was precious) and was read primarily by candlelight. Yet, people managed.

  4. Actually de-evolved was poor choice of words. Obviously, that wouldn't have happened in just 500 years:} I guess what I meant was that people spent much of their lives in semi-darkness, and might their eyes have required less light in order to see?

  5. In the 21st century, starlight and moonlight are nothing more than romantic words. I found that they really do exist during a trip to the American northwoods.

    My friends and I stayed in a cabin on a lake in the middle of nowhere. There was not a town around for miles. We took a walk around midnight without the aid of any sort of man-made light. We had no trouble at all walking down a wooded path guided only by moonlight.

  6. I know this sounds weird, but I don't like going out at night. I can see very well in the dark but I don't like it and even with a lantern I'm still uneasy. If I have someone with me, I feel better about it. Perhaps some people back then had the same feeling!

  7. Most people probably went to bed at or near dark. Candles were very expensive at that time--castle and manor accounts listed them separately! I don't believe lanterns were common: I don't recall them in 16th century paintings, antiques or descriptions. On the other hand, every house needed a fireplace for warmth and it was probably large enough to cook in and to provide light to the immediate area.

    As Anonymous pointed out, moonlight can be quite bright near the full moon. On the other hand, a waning moon won't help much, and starlight only allows you to see the stars, not anything on earth.


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