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Bill-head of Francis Glossop, Tallow and Wax Chandler, King Street, Soho

On his bill-head Francis Glossop calls himself a 'Tallow spermaceti and wax chandler', although the plate still only bears the arms of the Tallow Chandlers (motto in the banderole reads: Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world'). Candles made from tallow were cheaper than their wax counterparts, but were far less preferable because they were made from animal fat, which burned more quickly and produced an unpleasant smell. Manufacturing them was a particularly noisome business, and newspapers often featured notices suggesting that tallow chandlers should be moved away from affluent areas. Francis Glossop's shop was quite central, near St Ann's in Soho.

Glossop sold no ordinary tallow candles. An advert in the Public advertiser on 24 November 1772 describes the candles as 'a sort made not perceptible from the best wax in burning, and as durable', and gives the prices as 24s per dozen (they were later reduced to 21s). The candles were made out of spermaceti, the wax-like substance produced in the heads of sperm whales by the spermaceti organ (the origin is not explained in the ads). Another advertisement states confidently that this sort of candle was actually preferable to those made out of wax 'in use as in beauty' because they will fare better in hot rooms or near a fire and won't become as dirty 'since dust will not stick to them'. Another advert let customers know that they could purchase 'thick and short sort made for dining tables, calculated for good light'. Thus, they would be suitable to use in grand rooms in lavish silver candlestick holders such as these illustrated here, unlike the tallow variety.

Glossop certainly seems to have found a lucrative business. In a London newspaper printed on 21 October 1783 he claimed that his oil refinery was the only manufactory in London to undertake the whole process of producing candles from spermaceti in its pure state. Whether or not this was true, it made Glossop a wealthy man. In 1773 he announced publicly that he was retiring, having achieved the dream of all tradesmen, to 'succeed a Gentleman'. However, this seems to have been slightly premature, as he continued at his 'warehouse and manufactory', 51 Old Compton Street, Soho, until at least 1792. In 1809 he donated some of his wealth to the Drury Lane theatre.

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