Spills and Fire Starters


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Highlighting Historical Romance with Sherry Ewing and struggles with authentic Regency fire starters.

While editing my next Regency era release, One Moment In Time, my editor caught me using the modern day word—match. Nowhere in my twenty-first century mind did it occur to me that I had written about how we may start a fire today. But when my editor used the words set a spill to the embers of the fire, I was completely lost and had no idea exactly what a spill was.

Insert bang head on desk here

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Lighting candles using a spill, Photo by Darko Dozet © www.dozet.info

Crazy as it may sound, I guess I’m so used to writing in medieval times that I’m constantly thinking of a readily available burning fire in the hearth and torches in sconces on castle walls.While sulfur matches were in use in China a thousand years ago, they were unknown in Europe. The first successful friction match, as we know it today, was invented in 1826 by John Walker, an English chemist and druggist from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. My characters couldn’t have used one.

Then it began… a mind numbing rabbit hole on the internet of trying to research “spill”—its use and definition—that only led me to further topics of discussion like the history of fire, cooking, and candles.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Little_Cook_La_Petite_cuisinière_-_Pierre-Édouard_Frère-230x300 Author's Blog Highlighting Historical Spills were tightly rolled paper tapers or very thin wood sticks for transferring fire, for example to light an oil lamp or pipe from a lit fire. Candles were used for lighting in the 19th century, but spills were used to start fires. Wooden spills, to light wood stoves or fires, can still be bought on Amazon, at least in the UK. although the paper ones appear to be a thing of the past.

Funny enough (or maybe not when you’re trying to research something) I couldn’t seem to find any public domain images of paper spills that I could use on a website.

But I did manage to locate some beautiful vases that were placed on the mantle of the fireplace where spills/tapers were kept—something simple as the green vase pictured, to this pair of vases depicting children, to even figurines with a place in the center to hold the spills.

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So the next time you pick up a match or even a lighter to set a flame to a candle, just think about what our ancestors had to do without our modern technology.

44728427_258138248230885_3494616100488871936_n-197x300 Author's Blog Highlighting Historical About the Book, One Moment in Time

One moment in time may be enough, if it lasts forever…

When the man Lady Roselyn Anne Winslow has loved since she was a young girl begins to court
her, Roselyn thinks all her dreams have come true… until the dream turns into a nightmare.

Lady Roselyn is everything Edmond Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, could ask for in a wife
and he is delighted to find she returns his love… until he loses her, not once but twice.

From England’s ballrooms, to Berwyck Castle and a tropical island that is anything but paradise,
Edmond and Roselyn face ruthless enemies who will do anything to tear them apart. Can they recover their one moment in time?

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DSF0006-200x300 Author's Blog Highlighting Historical About the Author

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde, & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry at the links below.

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5 thoughts on “Spills and Fire Starters

  1. I used to have an old book that shows different ways you can prepare spills so they are decorative as well as useful. Some people used to have way too much time on their hands.

  2. I hit the same problem with my WIP this week. I discovered that tinderboxes were kept on mantelpieces to light the fire. Sometimes the little things are the trickiest

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