William Sugg & Co

Welcome to the William Sugg History Website!

Sugg Gas Lights at Buckingham Palace
Maintenance 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.  I have now added a full transcript of the account in News Blog as sent to the Monthly Magazine which explains that experiments had been going on for some time particularly to check the soundness of of the pipework that certainly adds 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.

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 that I shall attempt to unravel.

Although William Sugg & Co. Ltd was subject to an unwelcome takeover by Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd., in 1969, a group of ex Wm.Sugg employees with Chris Sugg and Keith Bouracier at the helm started a new company in 1973 with the off the shelf name of Massrealm Ltd. 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 company name was eventually dissolved at the end of 1989.

Sugg Lighting Ltd, however, re-developed and manufactured both gas and electric lighting equipment with a strong flavour of the past and the eye-catching open flame “flambeaux”. Whilst never claiming to be the original William Sugg & Co., Ltd., the family connection was obvious and by providing a specialist service with high quality products the business prospered.

In due course at retirement of the initiating directors, the business was sold to F.W.Thorpe plc, a street lighting manufacturer with whom the company had been trading. Thorpe owned a number of smaller companies that they allowed to run as independent operations in a smaller factory in Horsham.

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. BUT note the comment below regarding a new company.

After a number of years F.W. Thorpe decided to concentrate on their core business and sold Sugg Lighting as a going concern to an individual who failed totally to support and run the specialist business resulting in the company being put into administration at the end of 2018. Following some mischievous shenanigans Sugg Lighting was finally liquidated. However, the story becomes more complicated but much improved with another ‘rebirth’ in 2019! A new company bearing the name William Sugg & Co., Ltd., has been formed to once again carry the name forward into the future. This comes with the blessing of Chris Sugg who is assisting in the process.

For a number of years Chris Sugg independently offered 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. PLEASE NOTE that the reduction in available parts – and anno domini (for him) – has now (2017) reached a point where it is unlikely that Chris Sugg can still manufacture any more interior fixtures. A few items remain and he is  happy to reply to enquiries. Glassware can, sometimes, be made to order – at least at present!

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.

In 2018 a new section entitled simply ‘People’ has been added to provide a space for photos and recollections of and about employees and Sugg family to give an extra dimension to the history of the company.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, I was able to add a section on the Sugg name and the movements or ‘migrations’ of the name by kind agreement of my namesake Christopher M Sugg. Following retirement as a teacher he spent a great deal of time researching the family and the unusual name, producing a really informative booklet which should interest anyone researching any family and name as it carries many useful references. You will find this at ‘Sugg Name Story

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

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that

Martin Luther King

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

Chris Sugg.

News Blog Archives

Site Background & Header

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 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.

31 responses

  1. Brilliant, worked at both Manor royal sites working on the Superheat boiler, designing testing and struggling with the agas council for approval, .they were good times and I remember well the Thorn take over which utilised brand and design experience for market domination. Loved it , have more stories to tell, .., ie working in HERO ( heat exchanger rotating) with Crawford and installing the first noisy thing at his place at ??? King field?. Such is life

    1. Hello Keith, how good to hear from you! It is all of 50 years of course but anyone who worked in Suggs seemed to have enjoyed it! You must have known my compatriot, Keith Bouracier with whom we started again and eventually became Sugg Lighting. I have quite a lot of Supaheat detail to add to the website and I even have a HERO drawing. My dad lived in Outwood right up to his death at 90 in 2002 and was always tinkering with something – a brilliant engineer. I remember him asking me to find a drawing of HERO as he had been thinking of how to overcome some problem – and this was in his wheelchair! I would really appreciate ANY stories that help to bring the website to life. It is only a history but I think it is important to record these things before they all get lost! Kind regards, Chris.

  2. Hi Chris
    Have had a good rumage around on the internet and drawn a blank in the UK regards No3 hard mantles, Wilmonds are no longer stocking them and have no stock left, the only people I can find are Basecamp in LittleHampton, who are awaiting more stock approximately 2 months, I eventually managed to order one from Amazon USA a bit more expensive with carraige but it will hopefully enable me to set the lamp up to run on propane
    Regards Chris Bee

  3. Hi I have photos that I inherited from my Nans cousin and I posted them on some history sites and a local area that I think they were from. A lot of family members I knew but there were a lot I didn’t know.
    One of the photos were of 6 men with a huge gas light and I don’t know any other of the men on the photo but would like to put names to these faces. This photo was with about 10 other family photos, so I think at least one of the men were a family member. One lady commented and said that one of the photos looks like William Sugg. I think this photo is from the 1800’s.
    I have to confess but I didn’t know who he was. I googled and saw your site. Would you like me to send you this photo to confirm and perhaps you might know something about it?

    1. I answered by email and Lynda sent me a delightful photo which included a street lamp that had probably just been removed with a small team of workmen. I don’t recognise it as a Sugg lamp but it is carrying a Sugg 2 lt open flame burner that would date it to around 1875.

  4. Dear Chris, many years ago I acquired one of the Sugg swan neck gas lamp posts from Hanwell and Elthorne railway station platform, on the Western Region as it then was. The intention was (as ever!) to refurbish it, but career, family, house move and a 27 year posting to Kenya put paid to that. However we are back, and I wish to proceed with this project. Your Roger Peoples has been extremely helpful and informative, even to the extent of finding a photo of H and E station complete with several of these lamp posts. I can manage the refurbishment of the post and swan neck, though the latter will require my local metal worker’s attention to drill out and re-tap the set bolts (?) at the base of the neck. The challenging part will be the luminaire which appears to be the Rochester type. Roger has forwarded my pictures to one of his craftsmen and I look forward to hearing from him. Do you think this is a viable project, based either on gas or electricity? I would prefer the former, which I could supply from a ‘Calor Gas’ type bottle positioned in the adjacent greenhouse. Alternatively, I can run an electric cable from the garden shed.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Best wishes, Barrie Thomas.

    1. Hi Barrie, can you send me a reasonable close-up of the lamp so that I can understand what sort of state it is in before making any suggestions! Does it have the glass bowl? It is unlikely but some are available so I also need to know what size lamp it is as there are so many. If it still has the superheater where the mantles fit, how many are there, 2 or 3 is likely to be the answer but could be 4! If you can measure the diameter of the hole through which the glass drops when the reflector is open that will also provide the answer.
      Final point at this stage, will you want to go outside and pull the chain to turn the lamp on? If so, you will need to have a pilot burning all the time which is a consideration when using LPG (Calor)

  5. Chris, thanks for your prompt reply, and please excuse my tardy one! The lampadaire is in a sorry state with much corrosion around the top and reflector. It has three burners. The diameter for the globe is 8″. As you can see, the chain is missing (although the valve works very smoothly). On the other hand, the main valve at the top of the swan neck is seized, and although I have it soaking in diesel, I wonder if that will overcome decades of disuse. I guess one answer to the consumption of gas by the pilot light is to have a tap on the gas bottle regulator, so that the chain valve is operational only in the ‘burning season’, whenever that might be.
    To which address can I e mail the pictures? Best wishes, Barrie thomas.

  6. Hi Chris, amazing site, thanks so much. We’ve always loved gas lamps, my other half Sammi lived in Düsseldorf 30 years ago, and there were still plenty there when I was there in 2006.

    1. Thanks, Ria, glad you found it interesting. There are still thousands of gas lamps in Germany although they are under threat of being replaced very largely because of the running costs which have always been higher than those of electric lighting.

  7. Dear Chris,
    I took the swan neck to the blacksmiths on Wednesday, and he expressed concern that the four set bolts could be so hard that there would be a danger of cracking the cast iron collar when drilling them out. He reckoned the job could take a couple of hours of a couple of days! He said the bolts could even be made of cast iron. I.e. cast in a mould. I have never heard of cast bolts before. Is that possible? Is there a pool experience of how this job is best done? I believe it is not a DIY project, or am I anticipating problems that do not exist? Is there any record of the size of the set bolt and type of thread? Would they have been Whitworth?
    Thanks for your continued assistance.
    Best wishes, Barrie Thomas. 

    1. Barrie, If I was faced with this I would use some heat and some penetrating oil separately. They will not be cast bolts, they are not that old.They are likely to be whitworth threads. You may even be able to get a replacement casting as many of these items are still used. If your blacksmith is too cautious find an agricultural engineer. They are very used to wrestling with everything under the sun! Chris

  8. Thanks Chris. I think I have persuaded my blacksmiths that it will be OK to drill out and re-tap. My brother knows this blacksmith company very well and says they have a good selection of Whitworth bolts in their ‘bit box’, so fingers crossed. Do you agree that it is not worth trying to shift the one single set bolt that secures the swan neck into the collar? Ultimately, from where will I be able to get an 8″ Littleton glass globe?
    Best wishes, Barrie Thomas.

  9. Hello again Chris. I am expecting my column and swan-neck to be returned imminently from the shot-blasters. They recommend immediate primer painting as the bare cast iron will be prone to rust. Not that it is in danger of crumbling away! Is there a recommended paint (system) for primer, undercoat and top coat? I have not yet addressed the removal of the 4 set bolts on the swan-neck. That will be my next job. Have you had any thoughts on the glass bowl. Best wishes, Barrie Thomas.

  10. Hello again Chris
    Hope you are well?
    It’s been a while since I contacted you about the Rowan porch lamps I’d managed to accumulate and the need for one or two injectors. Still have them (oddly enough, I came across a brand new and unused Rowan lamp still in its original box last year!), and the impending move to a new house (well, new OLD hopefully) will see them installed and working, as well as the SUGG Victoria Back lamp I’ve had for about 25 years. I’m also planning to have at least one working early gas fire, and a couple of rooms with pairs of brackets over the fireplace….

    During the lockdown period I’ve done quite a bit of restoration of one sort or another (early electric lamp fittings and appliances, gramophones, vintage radios, clocks etc) all from my own collections… This was the stuff that was going to get done ‘when I retired’ – ten years ago now! I’ve also sorted my rather large gas collection (large is subjective of course), and gotten rid of a lot of the more mundane swan-neck wall brackets and pendant fixtures etc – all the exotic, historical or decorative stuff has been retained. At least everything is now in proper plastic storage crates, wrapped, and in dry storage.

    I’m currently working on three of what I THINK are Sugg lamps, and I did originally email you some pics of them but have now identified at least two as a Littleton and a Holyhead. There’s a third which is aluminium and is a 3lt x No. 2 with bypass – there’s one of these lit in your ‘collector’ section but without a name..

    In addition, one of them (the aluminium lamp) has two broken No. 2 ceramic nozzles, and I was wondering if you might have any, or if you could point me in the direction of someone/a company that would? I’m not sure if I have the glassware for this one, so will need to investigate in some of the crates….!

    Do you know if anyone supplies a pilot burner that I can fix to the end of the existing pilot tubes on each of these?

    With kind regards
    Steve Sidaway

    1. Hi Steve, I have sent a reply by email with links to the various lamps you mention. Regards, Chris

  11. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme
    in our community. Your site provided us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job
    and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  12. Are Sugg & co replacing Westminsters Gas lighting as we are loosing our lights in SW1 after nearly two centuries? We have offered to repair the existing lights but the environment and complaints apparently led to a change of all lighting. I notice our replacements are rather like the Sugg reproductions?

    Any help would be usefull.

    1. Hi Wayne. What an extraordinary sight. All those dead animals as decoration and is that a small camel? There would be an outcry these days.
      Although the lamp has some similarity to the Osborne House lamps I don’t think it is Suggs. There were lots of companies that made lamps and Birmingham has always been a centre of metalwork so it is more likely to be a local manufacturer. Thanks for the photo.

  13. Hi Chris just found your site while searching the internet to try and find some no2 g3773 mantles, We still use our 3 beautiful double swan neck sugg lights we purchased about 25 years ago. recent power cuts prompted me to service them , I now only have 3 new mantles left ! I now find veritas in Malta closed may years ago. Have you any or do you know where I can find some , I do have a box of 20 new 3769 ? No 3 mantles in the shed that I could swap. Or if you know a deserving home !

    I came across sugg lights while visiting St Fagins museum near Cardiff where the lights were still used in the Victorian farmhouse,
    We still love the beautiful light and gentle hiss and heat from the lights, happy to send working photos
    Thanks Nick

    1. Hi Nick, I retired in 2005 and the company has been through a number of hands since. It now exists with the original William Sugg & Co name and I believe does hold No.2 mantles as they are still making exterior gas lighting. I continued making a small range of interior fixtures and dealing with the interior spares such as glassware but finally used up the remaining No.2 gas galleries and decided working in the shed was no longer for me! However I do help where I can with anything historic which is also why I started the History Website to help people understand what they had and find out about the amazing range of equipment made by the company over 140 years.
      The Veritas and the German Welsbach mantle companies gave up mantle manufacture and all their production equipment was bought by an Indian company Indo International that have pushed the price up and up and made them only available in huge quantity cash up front and collect from the airport! The Sugg company has still gt the same phone number 01293 540111 and are based in Horsham. Give them a call.
      I would love to see your photos which you could send to ch***@wi****************.uk
      Thank you, Chris

  14. Someone essentially help to make significantly articles I would state.

    This is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now?
    I amazed with the research you made to create this actual publish extraordinary.
    Magnificent activity!

  15. Always like this to look this up . Growing up in Toledo ohio family would talk about the gas light co. Gary Sugg ….

    1. Hi Gary, do you know of a connection to the UK Sugg’s? If so we might be able to build an addition to the family tree. Let me know any names and dates of any Sugg who came from the UK
      Regards, Chris

  16. I am writing from the U.S. asking if the William Suggs Company is still in operation? My friend has an English gas street lamp and is looking for the “frog/spider” part that fits along the bottom of the lamp and the unit is then attached to a pole so he will have one in his front yard. The part I’m describing Ialbeit feebly) is made of metal and attaches to the bottom of the lamp – the lamp is a Donville product. Any information or direction will be appreciated. thank you. I can send you a picture of the lamp bottom and dimensions if that would help.

    1. Barbara, So sorry for the long delay in responding to your query. Yes, there is a company called William Sugg & Co Ltd after the original for which this is the history website. The item you want is known as a ‘frog’ and is normally attached to the bottom of the lamp with 4 nuts on the 4 corners of the base. Donville did produce lamps similar to the Sugg Windsor but you would have to check the dimensions of the 4 fixings – that is the distance apart . In addition the diameter of the spigot of the lampost needs to be checked. Most frogs fit onto 3″ diameter spigots. You can send an enquiry – if you have not already found an alternative – to: sa***@wi*********.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


William Sugg & Co