London: two centuries of gas lighting
Gas lighting in the capital
(Photos/words © urban75, 27th Jan, 2009)
The first fella to experiment with gas lighting was William Murdoch, who worked for Matthew Boulton and James Watt at their Soho Foundry steam engine works in Birmingham, England.
After messing about with various types of gas in the early 1790s, Murdoch discovered that coal gas was the most effective, and used it to light up his own house in Redruth, Cornwall in 1792 - the first house lit by gas!
In 1798 he used gas to light the main building of the Soho Foundry and four years later, wowed the locals by lighting the outside of the building.
Deeply impressed with the show was a fellow employee, Samuel Clegg, who promptly legged it to set up his own own gas lighting business, the Gas Lighting and Coke Company.
Green Park, London
On the 28th January, 1807, the gas lamps on Pall Mall were lit by the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, making it the first street in the world to be illuminated by the warm glow of gas light.
Less than two years later, on December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was also lit by gas.
Incredibly, several areas of London are still lit by gas two centuries on, including a large part of Covent Garden, the Royal Parks and the exterior of Buckingham Palace.
Gas lamp man, Green Park
There's still a small workforce employed to maintain London's gas lamps with duties including checking the mantles and giving the lamps a weekly wind-up (the timer is controlled by a clockwork mechanism).
I got chatting to this gas lamp man in Green Park and he told me that it's such a popular job that workers rarely leave.
Gas lamps in Green Park, London
Gas lamps in London, Feb 2009
Gas lamp, Chancery Lane.
New Square Lincoln's Inn, London, WC2A.
Gas lamp by Covent Garden tube station.
The main street into Covent Garden, James Street, is still lit entirely by gas.
By the Lamb ad Flag pub, Rose Street and Lazenby Court, Covent Garden.
Garrick Street, Covent Garden.
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