This section is devoted to the many manufacturers and other organisations that produced gas street lighting over the period that William Sugg was in business. It was started following discussions with several enthusiasts and collectors who knew a great deal more about these widely spread manufacturers. Some are well known, some are much rarer and some may well be the product of individual craftsmen or even the Lighting Department of a City or Gas Company whose task was always to maintain the gas street lighting in their area in perfect working order. There are plenty of instances of one model being upgraded with later burners but also of having components ‘borrowed’ from later models or even items from competing manufacturers! This can thus cause confusion in identification and often requires intimate knowledge of component parts!
One source of name information has been the minutes of Gas Works being reviewed by researcher Tony Marks. This has also provided address or location details in many instances. His information has been marked with an asterisk. Some of Tony’s information has also been added to existing manufacturers.
The aim is to help anyone who wants to identify the manufacturer and learn a little more about these companies and their products.
IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO ADD – OR ESPECIALLY TO CORRECT – PLEASE DO LEAVE A COMMENT AT THE END OR USE THE CONTACT FORM TO ATTACH FILES – LIMITED TO 2MB.
During the initial stages of developing this section it became clear that an alphabetical list of manufacturers would be necessary to which information could be attached as it became available. Each of the names in the list below has a link to a further section carrying the details. However, few lanterns actually carry manufacturers names so, following the list, I have included a collection of gas street lighting photos taken in the 1960’s most of which have been identified by one or other of my able band of enthusiasts. Further details can then be found under the relevant manufacturer’s section.
Manufacturers in alphabetical order: (Some may have been formed from others in the list but existed separately at one stage.)
Information on each company – where available – will be found against each manufacturer’s section by clicking on the name in the list below.
(* = Information provided by Tony Marks – see paragraph 2 above.)
54 names so far, excluding W.Sugg!
I have been very fortunate to have been given access to the collections of photographs taken by and belonging, separately, to Philip Tordoff and Dorron Harper.
Philip, whose lifetime career as an organist has been matched by a lifetime enthusiasm for gas lamps is the first to admit, however, that it was the aesthetics of gas lighting that attracted him whilst his knowledge of the technology and the manufacturers lagged far behind. This was back in the 1960’s when there was still quite a lot of gas street lighting but it was under threat. Indeed, several of his pictures were taken only a short time before the lamps were removed.
Unknown to each other at the time, Dorron Harper was also taking photos of gas street lighting in a similar area at a similar time! The main difference between the two observer/photographers was that Dorron, unlike Philip, had an eye for the engineering and technical aspects and the manufacturers of gas lighting.
Dorron has been involved with the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway ever since 1983 when he was struggling single-handedly with the gas lighting system. Another Philip, Philip Milner, a skilled engineer volunteered to assist Dorron on the KWVR, – solely to work on the gas lighting! This was before he retired, which was useful according to Dorron because his boss let him use the firm’s engineering facilities to supplement his own! Dorron tells me that Philip Milner was born in 1933 in Mirfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and had been fascinated by gas lighting ever since he was a boy. Sadly he died in 2008.
The connection between the two Philips was that Philip Milner provided the technical details for Philip Tordoff’s photographs when he decided to produce a small publication called ‘When the Streets were Lit by Gas’ which I see can still be found on Amazon. Having obtained a copy of his publication I contacted Philip to see if he would be prepared to let me use some of his photos for this additional section of the website. As you can see he was kind enough to do just that!
Dorron says that in conjunction with Philip Milner and another enthusiast KWVR volunteer, David Lane – the only one of them who had actually worked in the Gas Industry – they ‘made something better out of the ageing gas lighting system’! Over a lifetime of interest he has become one of the most knowledgeable gas lighting enthusiasts I have had the pleasure of knowing. Philip Tordoff met Dorron Harper through Philip Milner and it is Dorron who has provided much of the lamp detail for the photos below.
Philip Tordoff annotated the back of each of his pictures with the location and date that I have copied below the pictures “in quotes”. Dorron Harper’s notes have been added in italics and I have added relevant comments where I felt useful. As there were a large number of photographs I have selected a relatively small number of full pictures with more close-ups of the lanterns for identification.
AVIL, Naylor, Foster & Pullen
Look at the rooftop repairs in this 1963 picture!
“An old Low Moor street and old lamp standard. (Electric street lighting 1 year later.) (Much of the property in this vicinity was built around 1845.) July 1963” (P.T.)
Early ‘Naylor’ which company may have morphed into the AVIL Company that stands for ‘Anti Vibrating Incandescent Light Company’ around 1910 and later became Foster & Pullen around 1920. (D.H.)
The opal glazed top indicates that this lamp is, like the Sugg Camberwell, from the era before the gas mantle and at the stage in time when it had been realised that the top of the lamp no longer needed to be clear and that opal glass would provide a little extra downward light. It is also before the reflector was added at the widest part of the lamp. The lantern burner will have been updated in several steps finishing up with this 2 lt inverted mantle burner with clockwork ‘controller’ and permanent pilot. The 1845 property date may well date the original lighting.
The unusual but locally typical long mounting frog may have been designed to give additional room for an earlier time when the burner was lit by a lighting torch pushed up through the bottom of the lamp. The last of the group of 6 pictures below shows one of these lamps with a circular lighting port in the bottom of the lamp.
Another evocative picture from an earlier age with the same lamp and a variation on the long mounting frog, known by Dorron Harper and another super specialist, Peter Millican – of whom more later – as a ‘West Yorkshire Frog’.
“A bit of Victorian industrial Bradford (Dudley Hill) which survived into the mid 1960’s. Picture taken in July 1964” (P.T.)
The location and date of the 6 photographs above, clockwise from top left:-
“Effective wall – top lantern in an ancient Bradford street. Winter 1964” (P.T.)
“19th Century scene at Low Moor, Bradford. (Lamp replaced soon after) Winter 1965” (P.T.)
“Old Bradford Corporation lamp at Lidget Green September 1964” (P.T.)
“Bradford-type lantern converted to electricity, at the foot of the main street, Howarth, on extended post”. (P.T.)
“Old part of Low Moor near Bradford July 1963” (P.T.)
“Lamp at Oldenshaw shortly before removal, October 1964” (P.T.)
Several variations on the ‘West Yorkshire’ frog appear here, one Sugg type frog and two base frame mountings from wall brackets. The West Yorkshire frogs all have a ladder bar attached except for the wall-top mounted one, for obvious reasons. All these gas models have 2lt in-line burners with pilot ignition and clockwork controllers. The Naylor lamp construction includes a cast base which adds a lot of strength to the part of the lantern that receives the largest stress under windy conditions and is often the weakest part of the lantern. This feature continued through the model/manufacturer name changes as an integral part of the design. See Foster & Pullen below.
Dorron Harper adds:
“Foster & Pullen continued to make the “old-fashioned looking” Bradford type glass headed lantern long after more modern products could be obtained from them, presumably to please its home town Lighting Dept. Modern F&P’s retained the base dimensions of the old Naylor’s of years before, and a derived ventilator style also. Not until the “Gledhow” with the hexagonal vent, and the “Bradford-Windsor” did they make any changes. The standard base meant that the old frogs could, at least in economically-minded Bradford, be retained for years. Standard Bradford columns had no ladder bar, hence the frog being so fitted.”
The following is the alphabetical list with added details which is linked to the list at the start of the section. If there are no details they are yet to be found or uploaded!
The initials and dates in brackets indicate the source of the information e.g. JOGL = ‘Journal of Gas Lighting’ and the date at which this information appears. Items in quotes relate directly to what was in the document. This detail was supplied by Tony Marks – see the second paragraph of this section, above.
As I am particularly familiar with Sugg lamps, I may well make comparisons with Sugg features as a way of illustrating the differences between lamp designs.
The silver finished lantern is a Glasgow Alder & Mackay from 1920’s or 30’s, sadly lacking its frog, porcelain reflector and the base cross member. Never say never, all sorts of stuff turns up on ebay! I love the way it is stamped G.C.L.D. and with its own number. Photos of these in gas days are rare and not very clear, but they seem to have had a Newbridge controller and a very large inside governor. Some had the street name on a glass panel, something else sadly not in my collection.
Interestingly, both Birmingham and Glasgow got their first gas street lamps in the same year, 1818. Dorron Harper.
This is another refurbished lamp by Dorron Harper. He says:
It’s an Alder & Mackay of the common type with finial, used in Edinburgh and throughout most of Scotland, including, latterly, the railways. It was made, I would think, not much after 1930, as it has a ceramic reflector, still intact, and a cast brass base insert with a trapdoor for the lamplighter’s torch. The olive green colour is as accurate a match as I could mix to the paint I found under the canopy lip. Later ones had an enamelled steel reflector and often, a hinged canopy. It was bought from Biggar in South Lanarkshire and was thought to be local to that area. It had been painted primrose yellow and red for garden use, and the cap and finial had been horribly mangled. Alas, no frog, or shapely spire nuts! A lucky find really, which illustrates the manual lighting era well. It is slightly different to the Glasgow “handle-top” which I sent you a previous picture of, in several ways.
This picture was sent to me as a postcard with thanks. Dorron Harper says:
The lamp in your card depicts, as you say, an Alder & Mackay lantern- their “Edinburgh” model, described as “hurricane proof”. I have the bits of one but sadly none of the internal venting and draughting arrangements are with it so I don’t know how they worked. The column is the standard Glasgow pattern by the Sun Foundry. Both lantern and column were found all over Scotland and bits of England and Wales too. Appears to be painted green and aluminium (silver). I have read somewhere that the Edinburgh lantern was never used in that city!
Greenock Promenade 1938. Photographer unknown.
Two refurbished Alder & Mackay Edinburgh lanterns.
A rescued Avil lantern in 1996
An Avil, saved for posterity, being bench tested on natural gas. More of the original ventilator survives on this one, and the weighted lever-catch for the door can be clearly seen. This top-opening door must have been a perpetual nuisance to the automatic attendants after the conversion to clockwork control, as they would have to hold the door in the horizontal position when winding and setting the clock. The top glazing would originally have been of opal glass, replaced in later years with cheaper, clear glass, sometimes painted over, or even tinplate sheet. The internal reflector dates from this time.
The restoration has been carried out to show how the lamp would have looked at the very end of its seventy-five-or-so years in the street, deterioration having gone too far to put it back to original condition. The Carlisle-type frog never looked well on these lanterns. Dorron Harper
I have included this lamp as it is often mistakenly considered a gas lamp whereas it is in fact an oil lamp with an oxygen supply to the centre of the argand type circular wick producing an intense white light. The other reason for including it is that, although it is named after and originates in Bude, two of the very rare examples, albeit modified to operate on electricity, are mounted on opposite sides of Trafalgar Square in London, another famous location lit by William Sugg!
This lamp is notable for its rather handsome, tall chimney coming out of the ceramic part glazed top. Unfortunately, although there are several examples nobody as yet has been able to find any documentary evidence to confirm the Cranford name which has been provided by one of the most knowledgeable experts in gas street lighting. In addition even the Newcastle location is an educated guess! A couple of pictures have been found showing the “Cranford” installed in Newcastle. Both pictures are taken from a similar position but one is an early postcard with the lamps post mounted whereas the modern picture has the same lantern mounted on a wall bracket promoting a restaurant.
The mounting frog is a substantial one with bosses for screwing ladder bars.
This Cranford lantern is mounted on a splendid piece of ironwork at the Beamish Living Museum of the north site. Although it has been converted to electricity the view on the right clearly shows the inner top section and the pierced corner pieces. Two other Cranford lamps in store are due to be refurbished and fitted to a pair of new buildings to run on gas.
Donville was the last new British company to be set up solely for the manufacture of gas street lighting equipment, and consequently it enjoyed a necessarily short existence. Perhaps because of this, the name is not regularly encountered, either in the annals of street lighting history, or in the accounts of Birmingham’s legion of small manufacturers. In fact, the history of the firm is quite obscure, considering its comparatively recent existence. What follows then, is such information as I have at my disposal, but that does not mean that the answers to all the remaining questions are not out there somewhere, awaiting discovery.
The earliest public mention of Donville which I can find is in the Birmingham telephone directory issued in January, 1947, but not before. We can therefore assume that the firm was set up some time in 1946 and applied for a telephone line, appearing in the first subsequent directory. This was the period not long after the end of the Second World War, during which time street lighting had been almost entirely turned off because of the “blackout”, except for specialist equipment like the “Starlight” burner, which used gas, and equivalent low wattage electric lamps.
Much gas lamp equipment had been removed from the streets and stored away to await the end of the war, and that which was left in place in larger towns and cities had often suffered the effects of five years of neglect or been damaged by enemy action. Someone, then, saw an opportunity to manufacture and market new lanterns and burners to a modern design, and thus Donville (Birmingham) Ltd. was created. The invaluable Kelly’s Commercial Directory, in editions for the years 1947 to 1954 inclusive, lists the firm as “street lighting contractors”, of 123, Rupert Street, Birmingham 7. Its description in Kelly’s as a street lighting contractor, rather than simply a manufacturer, suggests that it also maintained gas lighting for local authorities and provided new items where required.
Rupert Street still exists, although most of its original premises have been demolished and replaced by housing. Perusal of the large scale Ordnance Survey plan for the 1950’s identifies 123 Rupert Street as one of a terrace of similar long slender properties at the northern end of the street, near the junction with Rocky Lane. Although there is a rear yard, or maybe garden, behind the narrow building, it hardly seems big enough to be a factory producing the large and varied output that we know Donville was responsible for at that time. With no other information to the contrary, one is drawn to the conclusion that 123 Rupert Street was only the office of the company, and perhaps the residence of the proprietor, and that actual manufacture was carried out elsewhere.
By July 1955, the telephone directory was listing Donville at a new address, still as street lighting contractors, 70/71, Legge Street, Birmingham 4, retaining the same telephone number. For some reason the Rupert Street address had been forsaken, and a move made across town. It may, of course, be that the factory had always been in Legge Street, and the office simply moved there later. Once again, we cannot now see the former works, because the greater part of Legge Street is obliterated, and the Ordnance Survey plan, although not actually identifying numbers 70 and 71(the numbers in Legge Street were consecutive) suggests that they were part of the now redeveloped area.
There were at this time four or five remaining major British manufacturers of gas lighting equipment, including the late comer, Donville, and they had probably by now seen that the writing was on the wall for their trade. C. H. Kempton & Co., of Hammersmith, and William Sugg & Co. Ltd., of Westminster, were able to continue probably by virtue of their London market and, in the latter case, extensive connections with British Railways. Birmingham’s only maker apart from Donville, Parkinson & Cowan, had always produced of a wide range of other gas-related products, and simply closed the lighting division. The same situation existed for Falks Stadelmann, which traded as Veritas, although its lamps were made for it by Kempton’s. A fifth contender, Foster & Pullen Ltd. of Bradford, had already given up the struggle and apparently gone into liquidation. There is no doubt though, that the demise of its rivals had given the firm some welcome business, for new Donville lamps were to be seen appearing in many towns in the 1950’s.
Donville continued at Legge Street at least until 1961or 1962. By this time all the other manufacturers, except William Sugg’s and Kempton’s, seem to have been obliged to close or change direction, and yet Donville continued to find work. This gives rise to the belief that a large contract, perhaps with Birmingham Corporation, must have been keeping it in business. It is, of course, unlikely that it was manufacturing any large quantity of new equipment at this late date in the history of lighting of streets with gas.
The August, 1962, Telephone Directory lists the firm as “lighting engineers”, at 39-41 Nursery Road, Birmingham 19, and so a move from Legge Street had taken place. The works was now further out from the city centre, and the description of business had changed. However, these latter premises still survive, although much altered. In the Donville days, numbers 39 and 41 were situated on either side of an archway, with rooms over, leading into a large yard with outbuildings at the back, certainly more the kind of establishment one would expect to see. This was to be the last move for the firm, and in 1963, Kelly’s directory alters the description further, to simply “lamp makers”. What kind of lamps? If only we knew!
Kelly’s continues to list Donville for two more issues, but the inevitable happens in 1966- no entry appears, and we must assume that trading had ceased after around nineteen years.
D. L. Harper, 2016.
A Donville Birmingham lantern, in use on Cambridge Street in its home city, 30th July, 1970.
These three pictures were snatched whilst the Donville lantern was being prepared for an exhibition in a museum that you can see in the middle picture. Unfortunately I cannot remember which museum (probably in the Midlands) but at least this demonstrates how the later models had the name stamped on the tent. You can also see the substantial cast ‘frog’ or chair that they used in the central picture
DONVILLE (BIRMINGHAM) LIMITED
The following information is taken from the G.P.O. Telephone Directories and Kelly’s Commercial Directories held by Birmingham Central Library in June, 2010, and revised, in September, 2013.
1946- No entry in Kelly’s, although as the firm appears in the Telephone Directory dated January, 1947, we can assume that it had been set up in 1946.
1947-1954 inclusive- Donville listed as street lighting contractors, of 123, Rupert Street, Birmingham 7, tel. Aston Cross 1690.
1955- No Kelly’s directory available in the Library. However, the July 1955 Telephone Directory lists the firm at the Legge Street address below, and so the move from Rupert Street had taken place before then.
1956-1961- Listed as street lighting contractors, of 70/71, Legge Street, Birmingham 4, tel. Aston Cross 1690.
(There is no Kelly’s directory available for 1957, but that does not matter in this case.)
1962- No Kelly’s directory available in the Library, but the August 1962 Telephone Directory lists the firm as lighting engineers at the Nursery Road address below, and so the move from Legge Street had taken place before then.
1963-1965 inclusive- listed as lamp makers, of 39-41 Nursery Road, Birmingham 19, tel. Northern 8917.
1966- No entry, and therefore we must assume that the firm had ceased trading.
William Edgar & Son Ltd
Blenheim Works, Hammersmith, London W6
Existed previously as Wm.Edgar, Hammersmith, Blenheim House, Waterloo Street, Hammersmith, London. This name & address form was in use 1915.
This is the nameplate on an Edgar lamp from Carlisle owned by Dorron Harper which is ‘in a queue’ for refurbishment!
William Edgar lamp in front of Enfield Library 1909.
In a 135 page catalogue entitled ‘Gas An illustrated treatise on its Application to ILLUMINATION’ Issue 696 with a 50% Trade Discount slip which is dated October 1934 it says at the bottom of the front page ‘Established 1882’. The Head Office is given as Veritas House, 83-93 Farringdon Road, London, EC1 and Works are given as Edward Street Parade and also Acocks Green both in Birmingham, Rainhill in Liverpool and Garratt Lane, Wandsworth, London SW18. This last address is that of the Veritas mantle Works.
It has been suggested that all their street lamps were made by Kemptons, a fact that needs verifying
The following pictures show a Veritas lamp – which is obviously very similar to the Sugg Upright Rochester – in partially and fully stripped down state. One component, the aluminium interior 3 screw gallery in the bottom left picture would seem to be out of place! Click to enlarge to look closer at the components.
Now you have to see what Martin Lawrence has managed to make from these very tired components! I think you will agree it is a masterly result – and it works well!
If you want to see more of Martin’s work go to Collectors & Enthusiasts for a truly remarkable addition to the world of gas lighting!
The 1934 catalogue has an illustration of several lamps of this type under the name ‘Warrington’ Outdoor Lamps. The version illustrated above with a cast iron box for clock control is numbered G72680
This may simply be the name used with the mantle business. The same catalogue as mentioned against Falk Stadelmann above with the date 1934 carries a full list of the ‘GASWORKS” Mantles showing 7 versions in 6 sizes also available in ‘Daylight’ effect. In addition it offers Veritas-Artosil High Pressure Mantles for Keith Lamps.
One of the most significant features of F & P lanterns that distinguish them from Sugg’s Windsor lamps is the base construction. The base is made from a brass casting which provides a great deal of strength to the most heavily stressed part of any base mounted traditional street lamp. A relatively expensive approach, It does however allow various features to be included. You will see in the illustration below of what Dorron Harper calls an F & P ‘Lincoln’ base, both a lighting port, or what he calls a ‘pole hole’ and the very obvious way in which the frog mounting is cantilevered outside the lantern. The side ribs have their own fixing.
In a Sugg Windsor the side ribs pass through the inner corner of the copper base frame and through the fixing hole in the frog.
Below is Dorron Harper’s refurbished c1950 “Gledhow” F & P, ex Bradford. You can see the cast base in this lantern is a simpler version of the one above but the cantilevered mounting clearly shows and you may be able to see that the holes are square to lock the ‘frog pins’ to prevent them rotating whilst being tightened.
Below is the classic Foster & Pullen lantern and it’s badge. The cast base is, however, identical to the one above.
The model below is a product of the final derivation of this well known Bradford company as this advert from 1931 shows.
A ‘Strip’ Lantern in the High Street at Beamish. Clearly on an earlier bracket belonging to a much larger lantern!
Thomas Glover & Co Ltd.
Although many ‘gas men’ will recognise Thomas Glover as a long term manufacturer of gas equipment you may not know that at one time they manufactured gas lamps as seen in this advert showing upright mantle burners which puts them into the first quarter of the C20. The advert points out that they are “late of Clerkenwell” but now in what was to be a long term address in Angel Road, Edmonton.
*Henry Greene & Sons
‘New high power gas lamp Westphalʼs patentʼ
153 to 155 Cannon Street London Bridge EC (JOGL 8th March 1892)
ʻSt Albans street lanternʼ ʻBeacon globe lampʼ
Address 19 Farringdon Road London (JOGL 31st January 1899)
D. Hulett & Company
‘Manufacturers of gas chandeliers, glass lustres, hall lanterns, vestibules, brackets, pendants, double cone, albert, shadowless, & every description of burner, union jets, batswings, etcʼ
55 & 56 High Holborn, London (JOGL 4th January 1870) Same address ʻpatent street lampsʼ (JOGL 11th July 1882)
The pictures show two Hutchinsons photographed in the depot of St. Helens Lighting Dept. (then in Lancashire) on 20 Sept. 1972. I pulled them out of the scrap pile (an enormous heap) and set them up on the glass cutting table to be photographed. You can see that they have the canopy secured by spire nuts, and the ventilator is constructed without spinnings. The finial was a casting (non-ferrous I think). One still has its reflector. The close-up shows the lamplighter’s trapdoor outlined in chalk, a neat little fitting.
The strange frogs were a St. Helens idea, applied to nearly all their lamps, regardless of maker. Several towns did this, buying lanterns without frogs and fitting their own, usually to some weird design.
St. Helens was the only town where I saw Hutchinsons in use. I could have had one for a couple of quid, and I have always regretted not doing. There was at least one still out on the district in Campbell Street, and the photo shows it on 31 Jan.1973, day-burning natural gas. Yes, that Ford Popular with one mudguard in red primer was mine!
St. Helens’ lamps were a great variety, a subject in itself. Dorron
Kempton employees working on gas lanterns 1963 Charlie Evans, Albert Wilkinson, George Reynolds, Horace Robinson (From Pathe News – Google it!)
A Kempton Windsor type lamp in London (No.8099, off St John’s Street) Dorron Harper comment and picture.
Khoma Gas Arc Lamp Ltd
ʻThe Khoma incandescent gas lamp for exterior lightingʼ Office and works, 96 Middlesex Street, London (JOGL 12th December 1905)
R. Laidlaw & Son
ʻGaseliers, brackets, pendants, pillars, & gas fittings of every description, lamp posts and lanterns for streets, etc.ʼ
Iron works and foundries Glasgow (JOGL 4th January 1870)
Dorron Harper says – “This is a standard Liverpool 16-inch of which there were hundreds in that city, made in their own workshops to accommodate the new-fangled clockwork control. They were never used anywhere else, (except the handful they sold to Thornton-Cleveleys).”
Dorron continues:”The almost universal Liverpool system, post-1930, was to use 16-inch lanterns like these, or the 18-inch version, fitted with Horstmann’s Midnight Reduction controllers (4/3A/UNI). One burner extinguished at, say, midnight or whatever time the operator wished, and the other burned until dawn, or again, whenever desired. The clocks were the standard movement, but the dial has three tappets and is not interchangeable with a standard clock. Some of the Liverpool clocks were very old, pre-1920.”
“There was a two-light strip version of the burner also (they were made by Bray), and a three or four-light set was therefore available. Nozzles were a small Bray No.2, the kind with a 1/4-inch BSP thread. Finally a one-light was used in some locations and employed a standard 3A/UNI.”
“This is another Liverpool lamp at Beamish. Compare this with the Cranford also at Beamish. Similar but the square section below the chimney is round, the chimney is longer and particularly the ‘tent’ or ‘roof’ is part glazed on the Cranford.”
James Milne & Son
ʻEvery description of gas fittings and gas apparatusʼ
2 King Edward Street, Newgate Street, London & Edinburgh (JOGL 4th January 1870) ʻnew Viaduct gas arc lampʼ (JOGL 31st January 1899)
These two pictures were kindly provided by gas lighting enthusiast Brian Pocock who said that “my North British Railway Backlamp is by RC Murray & Co, Carlton Court, Bridge St, Glasgow. It seems that they were a preferred supplier for the NBR as their lamps appear in a number of pictures. I attach one of Peebles showing my lamp in its original position (but with a finial that somehow got lost!). The line closed in 1962 and I travelled on the last day and thereafter cheekily wrote to BR to ask if I could buy that lamp – and they sold it to me for 2/6d – but I’m not really sure if it is the same one !
At this time there is a lot of detail along with the pictures provided by Tordoff and Harper in the photos above. In due course relevant details will be added here but currently please scroll back to the section immediately following the initial alphabetical list.
This rather sad Parkinson lantern at least shows both a ceramic reflector in one piece and a Parkinson label. It was not until I asked the owner to give me the exact wording did he kindly clean it up as shown so we could see that it says:-
W PARKINSON & Co.
PARKINSON & COWAN GAS METERS LTD
LONDON AND BIRMINGHAM
So it is clear that the Parkinson name continued to be used after the company was incorporated with Cowan Gas Meters – but how does that tie in with W & B Cowan Ltd.?
Hopefully the lantern will eventually reappear ready to take its place operating on gas again.
(Pictures and lamp with thanks to Robert Caldicott)
Although meters, stoves, lamps and many other gas and none-gas related items were all manufactured under the Parkinson Cowan brand, here we concern ourselves only with the gas street lighting side of the output.
On the 16th of November, 1900, the two firms of W. Parkinson & Co. and W. & B. Cowan Ltd. were amalgamated. Parkinson’s appear to have been makers of both lamps and meters, while Cowan’s were apparently only meter manufacturers. The first gave its address as London and Birmingham, the latter as London, Manchester and Edinburgh. The amalgamated company was known as “Parkinson and W. & B. Cowan Ltd.”. Gas lanterns manufactured by the new company bore a stamped label on the canopy with that full title. In trade advertisements, the sole name “Parkinson” seems to have been used as a brand, with the full company title at the end, as manufacturer. The porcelain reflectors of these early lanterns were usually lettered “PARKINSON BIRMINGHAM” around the central opening.
1925 saw a change in name of the parent company to simply Parkinson and Cowan, although after this, and certainly by 1937, but probably much earlier, a company named Parkinson & Cowan (Gas Meters) Ltd. had appeared. However, gas lanterns manufactured by the new company were again credited on the canopy labels to W. PARKINSON & CO. (i.e. as pre-1900), resurrecting the old name, with a mention of incorporation in Parkinson & Cowan (Gas Meters) Ltd.. This reversal of naming method could cause confusion unless understood, inferring as it does that the newer lamps are the older ones. Interestingly, these labels, made of impressed copper, are sometimes seen with a single initial letter, hand stamped onto them. I assume that these were added by the men who assembled the lantern in the works in Birmingham as a “signature”. Reflectors were still lettered “PARKINSON”, but with the Birmingham name omitted.
Around this time the firm manufactured, or at least assembled from supplied parts, some lanterns for other makers. These are virtually indistinguishable from the said other maker’s own products, but carry the “W. Parkinson & Co./ Parkinson & Cowan (Gas Meters) Ltd.” incorporation label. Known examples are Alder & Mackay Ltd.model lanterns thought to be for Sheffield, and Foster & Pullen Ltd. types for Leicester. There could have been more.
Parkinson and Cowan took over, in 1920, the London based Gas Meter Co. (in which it may already have had a stake), which along with many other products, made the Kingsland clockwork gas controller for automatic lamps.
The Parkinson Cowan Ltd. title, i.e. without the “and”, appears to date from the late 1940’s, but the Maxilla family of lanterns, which were possibly the only ones it produced after WWII, bore a label lettered simply “PARKINSON” and one of a total of about 15000 serial numbers, allocated one to each lamp. D.L. Harper, January, 2018.
Thomas Lighting Company Ltd
ʻManufacturers of the Thomas patent lamps for general lighting, also for public buildings, institutions, etc and for outside purposes. The best regenerative lamp in the marketʼ
15 Carthusian Street, London (JOGL 15th March 1892)
Webb Lamp Company
The Webb Sewer Destructor Lamp is, uniquely in gas lighting terms, a system rather than just a lamp. The large diameter post itself is an integral part of the system connecting the sewer beneath the street to the lamp which uses its continuously operating gas burner to draw foul air from the sewer into the atmosphere. It was designed to reduce the growing problem of foul air in sewers as the population increased and the sewer frequently became over used making it particularly dangerous for sewer workers to enter.
The common misconception so often quoted, is that the lamp actually burns sewer gas. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE. The burner is a standard street lamp gas burner that runs all the time. It is true that some sewer gas can be inflammable and, knowing this, the lamp is made very substantially with castings top and bottom of the lantern and a heavy enamelled top. There is no door, access being made through the top which is hinged at one side. You will note that there is a rather strange element at the top of the lantern with a ‘U’ shaped section. As the heavy top is swung over it eventually comes to rest with the ‘U’ section fitting on the ladder bar. If this was not the case the weight could easily break the hinges or smash the glazing.
A genuine operating Sewer Lamp has a section of pipe in the gap between the top of the column and the bottom of the lamp within what we call the ‘frog’ space. Without this the lamp could not ‘pull’ the fetid air up the column. The white cone shaped piece sitting in the bottom of the lantern helps to funnel the extracted air past the burner.
The ‘frog’ on a Webb lamp is uniquely made of 4 separate pieces with a stepped appearance. The top of the post has 4 lugs onto which they are fitted so that they are out of the way of the connecting tube between post and lamp. This arrangement allows for enough movement to rotate the lantern to ensure that the ‘tent rest’ comes to a stop on the ladder bar – as explained above.
At Sugg Lighting we made a number of Webb lantern replicas and during this time we came across just one example of a smaller version but I have never seen a smaller post.
As this new section will take a long time to develop, uploads will be made as and when information becomes available or forms a realistic ‘chapter’.
Thank you particularly to the super specialists who have been so generous with their time information and photos!
Apologies for the gaps. (Some are unlikely ever to be filled!) If you are desperate for more details on any particular aspect, or particularly if you can add to the information, please send your enquiry/information including photographs using the Contact Form below.
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