The History of Chandlery: From Mediaeval Homes to the World Wide Web

sunset with a boat in the background

If you have landed on our website and you are reading this post, you probably already know that a ‘chandler’ is a marine supplies specialist. If you did not, there is your first lesson for today!

Our store is a ‘chandlery’, and at Offshore Supply we are the ‘chandlers’ who run it. But do you know where the name comes from, or how the role developed? Let’s take a look at the history – and future – of chandlery.


Origins of Chandlery: The Candlemakers

In mediaeval times, long before electric light was developed, homes demanded a large number of candles to provide light. It was common practice for these candles to be produced within the home. A member of the household staff, the original ‘chandler’, would be responsible for melting down wax and producing the candles needed, as well as managing supplies of wax, string and oil.

A Changing Role: The General Supplier

By the 17th century, the chandler’s role had begun to change. Those who made and sold candles also procured and sold a range of general goods associated with their trade, including soap, paraffin and oil. Some might also offer groceries and other everyday goods, becoming more of a general store than a single-skill trader.

Nautical Supplies: The Natural Next Step

As the 18th century dawned, and we entered a golden age of maritime industry and exploration, the chandler’s services were often called upon for marine suppliers. Mariners needed many of the goods these tradespeople offered, including paraffin and oil, soap and candles, rope, tar and pitch. During the next hundred years or so, many chandlers started to specialise in ships’ chandlery services, with some taking to the seas with ships to manage the stores.

Others located themselves at ports so visiting ships could restock. Eventually, the term ‘chandlery’ came to mean a ship’s store or a ship supplier, replacing its earlier use for any general wholesaler.

The Modern Ship Chandlery: Supplies at the Click of a Button

Here in the 21st century, we chandlers still do good business taking care of marine supplies for the enduring and thriving nautical industry. From pleasure boats and cruisers to open sea trawlers, we stock all the supplies you need to take care of your boat and keep her sailing safely.

You no longer need to travel to the chandlery for goods, however – thanks to the internet, you can order online and we deliver directly to you! Check out our online chandlery today, call for more information on 0845 521 1939 or find out about our marine cleaning products.