Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve got a bit of a thing about gas lighting. I just love the look of the lamps, the warm glow they give off and the links with history.
I’ve photographed and written about the gas lamps of London and Berlin, two cities which still retain a surprising amount of gas-lit streets, and it always lifts the spirits to walk down a pathway lit by gas.
Above is the lovely lamp that I came across at dusk in Hyde Park last week. I’d imagine it comes from the Victorian era.
London has been lit by gas for over two hundred years, and although electricity now completely dominates, several areas of London are still lit by gas, including a large part of Covent Garden, the Royal Parks, the exterior of Buckingham Palace and the parts of the Tower of London.
Gas lamps can be found from Richmond Bridge in the West to Bromley-by-Bow in the East.
In total, some 1,500 gas lamps remain in use in London and they are serviced by the last five remaining lamplighters in London, who are employed by British Gas.
Here’s 11 facts about gas lamps:
- There are still 1500 gas lamps in London. They don’t need lighting every night, but the timer that lights them automatically needs adjusting every fortnight to keep pace with shorter or longer days.
- Before timers, lamps were lit with an 8ft long brass pole with a pilot light – last used around Temple 1976.
- Gas lighting first appeared in Pall Mall in 1812, thanks to Frederick Winsor – originally with wooden gas pipes. This unfortunately resulted in a lot of explosions and a few deaths.
- The oldest lamps near Carlton House Terrace have George IV’s initials on them.
- Westminster Abbey cloisters are lit by gas. The oldest lamp is in Dean’s Yard, near the group entrance, fixed to the wall. This has been there for 200 years as a gas lamp, and before that as an oil lamp.
- The Mall has electric lights on the park side and gas on the St. James’s Palace side – the original road.
- Near the Queen Mother statue which was dedicated in 2009, there are modern gas lamps as the Royal family refused to have electric ones – “the Royal family is very pro gas”.
- British Gas gets several months’ warning of State Visits, as lamps around Buckingham Palace are altered to be on 24 hours a day during the visit.
- There is a new row of lamps near Trafalgar Square. The base of the column is an old cannon, which has a hole down the middle, originally for firing, now for the gas pipe.
- The new arcade development in Covent Garden has gas lamps at special request of the architect.
- Carting Lane beside Savoy hotel has a sewer gas lamp which burns 24 hours a day. It draws up sewer gas with the heat of the gas flame. Sewer gas is then burned as it reaches the flame. It was erected to keep sewer smells away from the hotel bedrooms! [source]
Read more in this feature: London: two centuries of gas lighting.