Rushlights, rushnips and hog scrapers – evocative of an era when a bullrush dipped in tallow and oil might provide five hours of light for a farthing – can have great sculptural presence and wonderful surfaces.
Two private collections were included in Bonhams’ sale. Some of the finest were from the family of the late Ernest Hopwell, a Leicestershire engineer whose profession gave him an abiding interest in the evolving use of metal and wood across British domestic life. Much of his collection was sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2013, two years before he died.
A much larger selection of more typical English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish rushlights came from the collection of Robert Ashley who had a shop in Hungerford, Berkshire, for many years. He privately published The Rushlight and Related Holders: A Regional View in 2001.
More than 150 examples were offered across 42 lots, with most selling for £200-400. An early 19th century wrought iron and brass standing candle holder, probably Sussex, c.1830, was the top-seller at £1100.