‘Strike-a-light’ tinder lighter, c1800

This ‘strike-a-light’ looks like a gun, but is actually designed to help light fires. It was made in about 1800 and donated to Brighton Museum by Dr Charles Hedley Clarence Visick (1858-1939).

What can we see?

Ignition mechanism

Detail of tinder lighter showing flint mechanism

The lighter was designed to ignite tinder, small combustible material that can be used to start a larger fire.

The tinder is lit with the use of a piece of flint held in the jaws of the hammer (right of the image above). When the trigger is pulled, the hammer scrapes the flint against a metal plate known as a frizzen (left of the image). This causes a spark which ignites the tinder in the bowl below.

The ignition mechanism is much the same as that used to fire bullets in early firearms known as flintlock pistols.


Detail of strike-a-light showing barrel

The brass barrel would have been used to hold matches or spare tinder. It has a hinged cap on the end to keep its contents dry and protected from sparks.

Accession number

Detail of strike-a-light showing painted accession number in red on

The number painted in red on the grip of the strike-a-light is known as an accession  number. Museum curators apply these numbers to objects they acquire so they can be matched up with recorded information about it.

This number was applied by Herbert Samuel Toms (1874-1940), the museum’s curator from 1897 to 1939. Nowadays, museum curators only use methods of marking objects that can be removed.

Author Dan Robertson, Curator of Local History & Archaeology

More information

  • You can learn more about curator Herbert Toms on the Royal Pavilion & Museums main blog.


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