Poole Tallow Chandlers

The industry of candle making has a long and often not so glorious past. Although its origins are a dim event with little information surrounding it, we can shed some light on the industry within the town of Poole. During a period spanning 200 years, there are 18 individuals listed as Tallow Chandlers within Poole’s historical records. But what exactly was a tallow chandler?

Chandler at work

Chandler at work

The role of the tallow chandler was to render animal fat into tallow and use this to make products required by the populace. The fat was normally acquired from the slaughter house, with mutton suet being the most sought after. Within the city of London, tallow chandlers exclusively made candles from this fat, but elsewhere the candle making was combined with soap boiling into a single industry. The making of candles was governed by very strict laws, but outside the boundaries of London these laws were very rarely enforced or even policed. In 1358 a royal decree was passed, restricting the production and sale of beeswax candles to only members of the Wax Chandlers’ Company. In 1462, Edward IV passed an additional decree stating that the Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers were to govern the pricing, production and sale of tallow candles all over England. Due to the relatively large availability of raw materials, tallow chandler businesses sprang up in almost every town in England, yet candles were still produced in the home in the most rural parts of the country.

The earliest known record of a tallow chandler in Poole was John Olliefe / Ollive in 1637, who passed the trade on to his son George Ollive. After George’s death the family business was taken over by his son George and then in turn by his nephew John Olive, before being entrusted to his cousin, George’s son, George Olive in 1760. In 1751 John Olive’s premises were located near Bowling Green Alley, where two other chandlers resided; Samuel Bowden and J Fricker. Records dating from this time to 1798 indicate that 8 individuals were operating 6 separate businesses: John Olive, Samuel Bowden, Baron Abrahams, James Pearce, Robert Stocker and [?] Brookes (of Stocker and Brookes) and finally, J and W Fricker.

Sale advert 1788

Sale advert 1788

But why this sudden explosion in the number of tallow chandlers operating in Poole? Perhaps the explanation comes from the passing of another law relating to the production of candles. In 1709 parliament passed a new law that prohibited the making of candles within the home without an expensive license, a crime that could see a considerable fine if caught. This was passed to ensure the newly levied candle tax was fully enforced. All of these chandlers appear to have operated on the High Street or its adjacent lanes, from where ‘Premier Bites’ is currently situated down to the Old Orchard / Corn market area. The scale of industry seen in the regency period continued into the reign of Queen Victoria, with five tallow chandlers working in same area of the town, with proprietors tacking up premises previously used for the trade.

1770s Map showing 35 - New Orchard & 34 - Fricker's Alley now Bowling Green Alley

High Street in 1770s with New Orchard (35) & Fricker’s Alley now Bowling Green Alley (34)

Although the tallow chandlers of the 19th century branch into other professions as well such as grocer or baker, Poole’s tallow chandlers appear to have witnessed a particularly profitable industry lasting at least 200 years and remaining in the same part of the town during this whole time.

If you have any more information regarding tallow or wax, chandlers in Poole, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Gary Edwards

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About Poole High Street Project

Contact: Jenny Oliver - j.oliver48@btinternet.com
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