Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2018, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 14

Candlesticks—next on the list of things butlers need to clean—and which are only usually used at more formal dinners. First word of caution when cleaning silver and silver- & gold-plated candlesticks, is not to scratch them by using knives to remove any wax drippings from their surfaces, nor to hold the candlesticks to a heat source to melt the wax, as doing so may well melt the insides, too. Solution? Pour boiling water on the wax and immediately wipe dry with a cloth.

For lacquered (bedroom) candlesticks, use water that is not quite boiling to avoid cracking the varnish. If any grease remains, sprinkle with flour and wipe off. However, the author advises against using wax candles on Japanned candlesticks, as the wax will take off the varnish. Some have glass platforms to catch candle drips, and these would be cleaned in the same fashion.

In those days, they solved the problem of candles being too large or too small for the candleholders the same way we do today: paring them down or wrapping the base in paper—although these days, we have other solutions, such as malleable wax, or pins upon which to skewer the candles. They also had other solutions, such as paring a cork to fit the too-large-hole, and cutting a hole in it for the base of the candle. A pretty good solution, providing one has the time and the skill to carve a perfect hole into a cork without disintegrating it!

Another pointer: if candles become dirty over time or yellow, then wipe them with a cloth soaked in spirits of wine—meaning rubbing alcohol.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications.

You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (

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