Welcome to the NEW
William Sugg History Website!


Sugg Gas Lights at Buckingham PalaceMaintenance on the original 1901 William Sugg gas lamps on Buckingham Palace

Hello, my name is Chris Sugg and I am attempting to secure the history of a family company called William Sugg & Co through the posting of as much data as possible that I, my Father and previous family members before, have collected over several lifetimes of interest in the business!

Founded in 1837 by William Sugg, it was doubtless his father, Thomas, who inspired William to start a company – as grandson William Thomas stated in a lecture, subsequently printed, to the Liverpool Institute on April 23rd 1887:

“The great Gas Industry, (which) made its public appearance in my grandfather’s time, on the 21st January, 1807, when Pall Mall was lighted with gas, and he made the first gas pipes, and fitted Carlton House, has grown etc …………..”

Interestingly, for a significant historical date, there are several alternative claims! Murdoch had lit Boulton & Watts Works near Birmingham in 1802 to the astonishment of the populace who turned out in huge numbers.

According to the “Monthly Magazine” of July 1807, Winsor first lit a number of lamps on the wall of Carlton House Gardens to celebrate the birthday of George III on 4th June 1807.  We do know that Winsor first started his series of lectures in 1804 and who are we at this distance to say that William Sugg had made a mistake over the date, although of course it was well before his own birth.  However, the fact that it was his own grandfather who was involved does add to the credibility of the claim.

The August 1807 issue of the Athenaeum Vol 2 , reports that The Golden Lane Brewery had erected several gas lamps in Golden Lane and the adjoining Beech Street.  Significantly however, King’s Treatise states that the first public street lighting with gas, took place in Pall Mall, on the 28th of January 1807, which is only one week different from William Sugg’s claim!

Finally, on this issue, in William Matthews 1827 book, “An Historical Sketch of the Origin, Progress & Present State of Gas-Lighting” he states: “Mr Winsor removed his exhibitions to Pall Mall, where, early in 1807, he lighted up a part of one side of the street, which was the first instance of this kind of light being applied to such a purpose in London.”

In June 2007 Westminster City Council agreed to mark the bicentenary of the “World’s First Demonstration of Street Lighting by Coal Gas from a Retort Located Here” by the provision of a Green Plaque, so worded, mounted on the wall at 100 Pall Mall, London, the nearest position to the original location. The picture shows ‘unveiling in the rain’ by the Deputy Lord Mayor and the President of the Institution of Gas Engineers.

Unveil moment GP 08eightPlaque IMG_2328[7] - Vers 2
Unveiling the Frederick Winsor plaque in Pall Mall – June 2007

William Sugg & Co has a long and illustrious history in the Gas Industry of the United Kingdom.  With offices and sales of gas lighting in many parts of the world, particularly during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century, there are many enthusiasts and collectors of Sugg products who I hope may benefit from knowing a little more about both the products that they may have collected, the enormous range of gas and related equipment that the Company produced, and the background and history of a Company that has its origins at the very beginning of a modern industry.

The “One Hundred Years” Brochure “Service During Six Reigns 1837 to 1937″

As far as I am aware, the only previous attempt at the history of the company was made in 1937 for the centenary of the founding.  The booklet, complete with silk ties as shown above, was produced for the occasion, outlining the major steps in the development of the Company.  With the marvels of modern websites you can now view the whole of it by flipping the pages!  Obviously the development of the Company from 1937 onwards was dictated by many things, not least of which was the decline of gas lighting which had been the mainstay of the Company since its inception.  How the Company finally embraced the 20th century in its new factory in Crawley is all part of the story which I shall attempt to unravel.

Although William Sugg & Co. Ltd was subject to an unwelcome takeover in 1969, a group of ex Wm.Sugg employees with Chris Sugg and Keith Bouracier at the helm started a new company in 1973 which in due course became Sugg Lighting Ltd.  The heating products of William Sugg & Co. Ltd. having been absorbed into another company following the takeover, the once famous name now lies as a moribund company unused on a shelf.

Sugg Lighting Ltd, however, manufacture both gas and electric lighting equipment with a strong flavour of the past and the eye-catching open flame “flambeaux”.  In 2008 Sugg Lighting Ltd was awarded a Royal Warrant as a “Heritage Lighting Manufacturer and Refurbishment Specialist”.  Their website and contact information is included in the Contacts section.

Chris Sugg independently offers from his retired position a super-specialist service in interior gas lighting fixtures, spares including glassware and advice and assistance on all matters Sugg!  See Contacts.

The site is split into a number of sections built around product groups which are then split further into individual products or even further groups.  During the development of the site there may well be sections that carry only an introduction as this is an enormous task!  However, do not let this prevent you from enquiring should you have a specific question on a ‘thin’ section.

The original website was started in 2006, since when there have been vast strides in website design and presentation. This NEW Website has been developed to provide a more modern and easier system of navigation with an entirely new level of interaction and improved visual content.

Finally, I would like to add that the vast majority of documents, illustrations and pictures used on this site are from my own collection.  Literally hundreds of pictures from this collection have been scanned professionally at very high resolution for the Gas Industry Archive through the auspices of John Horne for the future enjoyment, historical interest and for researchers in the future.  Some items that I have included have been photographed when a collector has brought them along or even sent a picture and I apologise if I have not recorded the source.  The source of independent articles that may have been quoted are given where known and my grateful thanks go to many people and any unspecified sources that help to make up this unusual history of a Company that helped to form the world we live in.

The ‘History‘ section provides a sequential story of the people and the business whilst the huge range of products are split separately into ‘Lighting‘, ‘Cooking‘and ‘Heating‘ and a ‘Technical‘ section that covers gas control, carrying, measurement and testing equipment – and anything else that doesn’t fit in the obvious sections!

Many Sugg pieces of literature are collected in their own right so these have been given a section under the title ‘Publications‘, to enable collectors to recognise them.  It appears that the truly hungry researcher/collector has been frustrated by not being able to ‘open up’ the various catalogues, so for the Jan 2010 upload I have added all 103 pages from the 1931 List 11.  This section has now itself been split into three, ‘Literature‘, ‘Books & Papers‘ and ‘Advertising‘to simplify the organisation of this large collection of information. I have included a separate ‘Collectors‘ section to show relevant collections which will not necessarily all be Sugg but will always include some ‘home’ products!  This may also include pictures sent to me if they do not fit into any other section!  The ‘Contacts‘ section provides means of increasing your knowledge of the subject from museums to archives to gas lit pubs!   Time will show if more sections are required!

This last comment has now come true!  In order to assist the reader in finding something relevant or of interest to their particular search I have started a section called ‘Thumbnails‘ which, as the name implies, carries thumbnails of all the pictures on the site collected into the groups in which they are used.  Thus, if you have a query about ‘lighting’ for instance, you can review all the pictures within this huge group without having to wind up and down many pages of full size text and pictures.

Back in 1979 my father, P. Crawford Sugg B.Sc.(Eng.),A.C.G.I.,C.Eng.,F.I.Gas E.,F.C.I.B.S., Honorary Secretary, The Institution of Gas Engineers, presented a paper to the 116th Annual General Meeting under the title of “Using gas, yesterday and tomorrow”.  Whilst this website is dedicated to providing Sugg specific information, the paper provided an overview of gas ‘utilisation’ indicating and illustrating the steady improvement in manufacture and design achieved by the British gas appliance and equipment makers during the last fifty years (from 1979) in all significant aspects of gas utilisation.  Thus his paper provides an important chronological history of both appliances and manufacturers, peppered liberally of course, with the achievements of William Sugg & Co in this context.  For anyone interested in the history of the Gas Industry this is an invaluable reference and, with the agreement of the Institution I have been given the opportunity to quote liberally from it as a means of disseminating the information more widely and of course filling in details for many aspects of the history of William Sugg & Co which are within this website. This paper is included as a separate section under the heading ‘Gas Utilisation‘.

A new section entitled ‘Brassware‘ has been added for 2013. The Company made tens of thousands of brass components and this section describes this important aspect of the business.

For the same year, 2013, another new section ‘Location Pictures‘ has been added to provide a space for pictures that either don’t fit anywhere obvious or are additional to ones already in a particular section. If they are additional they are given a hyperlink back to the relevant section. All the pictures have also been added to the ‘Thumbnails‘ section in the order used as before. There are currently over 700 pictures on the whole site!

In addition to splitting the Publications section in three in 2014 a new section has been added on the ‘Other Manufacturers‘ who produced gas street lighting during the period of time that William Sugg was in production. This section will necessarily be a joint effort asking for as much information as possible from enthusiasts, collectors and anyone who has detailed knowledge of this popular area of interest.

Information on Previous Uploads – Starting in 2013

Notes at the top of this Home page for 2013 read:

The History section has been enlarged again with the details of the ‘sale’ of the business by William Sugg to form the Limited Company in 1881 and the amazing Crystal Palace Exhibition display in 1883.

There is also the story of a fire started by an aggrieved employee in 1896 & his eventual capture after a ‘desperate struggle’ in 1905! Follow the section chronologically.

Two new sections have been added, ‘Brassware‘ and ‘Location Pictures‘ and the Windsor lamp section has been considerably enlarged and the Christiania & Argand section has been rearranged with lots of pictures added. A new ‘Collector‘ has been added.


A few sayings about light which William Sugg would doubtless have appreciated:

“Light is the most beautiful of materials, it connects us to the natural world, as this world becomes more artificial its purity becomes even more powerful” David Chipperfield.

“The existence of light allows us to walk along the tightrope between translucency and transparency” Nicholas Grimshaw

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish a candle” Anon.

“Light gives objects existence as objects and connects space and form” Tadao Ando.

“Shadows are holes in light. An enlightened environment is what we all seek, politically, economically and physically” Ian Ritchie

Enjoy Your Visit and do let me have any practical feedback via the Leave a Comment Space. Chris Sugg.

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9 comments on “Welcome to the NEW
William Sugg History Website!
  1. Melvyn says:

    Sugg name mentioned this pm (8/8/14) at 40th wedding luncheon when I found myself talking with a gent retired from English Heritage
    He instantly knew “Sugg” had used us Fort Brokenhurts (?) lamp in gateway arch Portsmouth I think it was and Dover Castle? and promoted us to colleagues – has sugg catalogue at his home. He mentioned a precious set of documents which contains all the Forces historical buildings plans and photos.
    Now photocopied and held at Dover Castle military store

    • Chris Sugg says:

      Hi Mel, thanks for the note. I still have a number of good EH contacts through CIBSE. We even went on a visit to the Dover Castle site which is fascinating and well worth a visit if down that way! Chris

  2. selwyn carter says:

    I was thrilled to see this Benchmark Company so notably listed. When I arrived in London in 1962 (I think), I was very privileged to obtain employment with this very illustrious Company. The people I worked with, came from all over the British Isles, Scotland and Ireland. I shall always remember our dinner breaks and the conversations we had, many of which, I can still recall today. I moved on to Canada, and now the USA. But many fond memories of my tenure with William Sugg shall be mine to treasure for ever! Thank you.

    • Chris Sugg says:

      Hi Selwyn, thanks for your comment especially as an ex employee over in the States! I never worked in the Westminster factory myself but my Uncle Raymond wrote an excellent description of the two factories which appears in a couple of places. If you SEARCH ‘Raymond’ it should give you the sections. Chris

  3. David Moss says:

    My daughter is trying to buy a house in Cambridge.

    Not as irrelevant as it sounds.

    Built in the 1960s, it has a Sugg heating system throughout.
    I took a few pictures while I was there the other day, http://dematerialisedid.com/sugg.html
    and then tripped over your website last night.

    If the sale proceeds further, I shall no doubt be there again and could take more pictures.

    • Chris Sugg says:

      David, You need to check with the owner what has happened to the Halcyon! Your photo inside the cupboard shows the pull-off front cover of an early Halcyon F60 lying on the duct base where the heating unit would normally be. That is to say the Halcyon is missing. Maybe it has been removed to service or maybe it has failed and been removed so that you cannot check it. All is not lost, however! If you can get no answers from the current owner you should look for a preferably local heating engineer who has dealt with warm air appliances. I am sufficiently out of date not to know what is currently available but I do know that one of the major competitors of Suggs called Johnson & Starley still specialise in warm air and doubtless will be able to suggest a replacement appliance. http://williamsugghistory.co.uk/?page_id=30#warmair illustration 43 shows you what it should look like. The cover you have clips across the open front you can see in the picture.

  4. John Hughes says:

    Dear Mr Sugg,

    While doing some research into Liverpool railways, I came across the following from the ‘Liverpool Mercury’ 4 Sept 1890 – article on the Wirral & Birkenhead Agricultural Show.

    “Messrs.William Sugg and Co. exhibited a patent apparatus for ventilating stables, ships, &c. The ventilator, which allows no down-draught, has been tried upon the Wallasey boat Violet, and is about to receive a trial from the Mersey Railway Company.”

    I just wondered if you have any idea what is being talked about here. The Mersey Railway had much need of ventilation, as it had pioneered the idea of running steam trains through deep-level underground stations. These stations also had gas lighting. I suspect that the range of possibilities is too great for any meaningful conjecture, but there’s no harm in asking.

    • Chris Sugg says:

      I do know exactly what they are talking about and I realise that ventilating – apart from the famous ventilating sun burner – has so far not made it onto the website except for a brief mention and illustration in the History section for 1903 with the catalogue picture and double page on the “Patent Ventilator for Torpedo Boat Destroyers, Torpedo Boats etc.” Go to Section 3 of History and wind down until the several pictures on Buckingham Palace. It is immediately after this! Now that you have raised it I am trying to see where I might fit it in! Whereas the sunburner provides the energy to ventilate by burning gas so that I included sunburners under the general title of Lighting, William Sugg seems to have made a name for himself in ventilation that does not necessarily use gas at all! His knowledge of air movements and ventilation for gas lamps obviously inspired him to solve ventilation problems in a number of vehicles in which the only energy is that produced by the movement of the device through the air. Hence a catalogue page to be added which illustrates “continuous up-draught” ventilators – extracts foul air from ships cabins, sleeping berths, coal bunkers, holds etc and claims down draughts impossible and continuous up current. It also shows a railway carriage and for ‘tram cars’ showing one that is horse drawn!
      I will review possible places I can add several pages from the ventilation catalogue so that you can see more clearly how this worked.
      I have now uploaded several pages illustrating the Continuous Updraught Ventilators.

  5. Robin Hicks says:

    Very good indeed Chris – a joy to read through.

    Good luck with this – what a great idea and so good you are recording the history of the company. By the by – the Hicks family had their building yard opposite the Houses of Parliament but were kicked out so they could build St Thomas’s.

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The NEW Sugg History website.

After 8 years of steady additions to the Sugg History Website, using a platform that is no longer supported and a style that has become somewhat pedestrian to use, I hope you find this entirely re-cast version much easier and quicker to find your way around and to interact using the 'leave a comment' spaces.

Apart from the simpler fly-out indexing, several features have been added, such as the ability to enlarge pictures by clicking on them. (You can try this out on the plaque unveiling picture on the right a little farther down.) This facility will not be fully functional until larger images have been uploaded but will apply to most new additions and in due course many of the older pictures too. It should also be easier and quicker to provide additions as there is still a huge amount to be added!

Another NEW system addition is the 'Flip Page', the first of which you will find on the home page to allow you to see the whole of the Centenary Booklet. Others will come!

A significant addition is the 'Search' box which can help you to find specific items.

The website is designed to be used on all modern devices so can be referred to wherever you are!

The rest of the information below comes directly from the previous website and will remain whilst still relevant.
------------------------------------

As this website is subject to continuous development, please note the revision date on this page for when you revisit. First uploaded 13th May 2006.

LAST UPLOAD - PREVIOUS VERSION - March/April 2014.

A new section has been added with this upload to (begin) to provide information on the many Other Manufacturers of gas street lamps that operated during the years of William Sugg.

If you are new to this site, start with the HOME Page on the right for an overall description of the Sugg story and how this site works. For a quick overall view the 'Thumbnails' section provides a picture index currently carrying over 700 pictures listed against the relevant sections.

The Publications section has been split into 3, namely, Literature, Books & Papers and Advertising to simplify the organisation of the vast number of items previously collected together under the general title of 'publications'.

(Uploads prior to this - 12th January 2012, Feb 2013 and June 2013)

I am pleased to say that this site has been accepted by The British Library and has been archived for future security. Updates are added regularly.

Another Message

The background to the site is a modern picture of Westminster, the 'home' of William Sugg for so many years. It was taken from the roof of The House of Lords during a visit by the Heritage Group of CIBSE in 2004 and centres on Westminster Abbey.

The header carries a woodcut of 'Vincent Works', the Sugg factory, which might well have been visible from this vantage point. William used this on one of his letter heads.

The first and oldest logo also shows the intimate connection with Westminster as it carries the Westminster portcullis with the latin inscription 'en avant' - 'in advance'.

The second logo replaced the earlier one around 1920 and was used right the way through the century until the 'modern' era when the 'flame' logo was applied to the new era of gas heating equipment with the new factory in Crawley.