Oil Hand Lamps
(This is an element of ‘Lighting‘)
This is another speciality produced by the Company and is included because of the pure numbers indicated by this advertisement. Fortunately, there are also collectors who have provided photographs to prove the existence of a non gas item, doubtless produced for the railway companies who were extremely good customers for their gas fixtures.
Lamp in stripped state showing the rotatable inner with coloured glass, the oil container, wick holder with porcelain nozzle and removable reflector. The front lens hinges open to allow for lighting. The pierced inner base can be seen providing a protected route for the air for combustion from a ring of holes around the base which are more obvious on the other model.
Petroleum (Oil) Hand Lamps.
The patents refer to the way in which the glass is fitted to allow for replacement without tools and to a breather arrangement which prevents oil spillage should the lamp be knocked over.
The pair of hand lamps shown together belong to the collection of Kevin George and are photographed on a suitably dated steam engine in the Sheffield Park station of the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. The other GWR lamp was photographed in the Sugg Lighting factory many years ago when it was brought in by its owner whose name has unfortunately escaped!
Kevin George writes:
“These lamps are believed to be the forerunner of what became the GWR ‘Paddington’ lamp. Prior to 1923 there were a few railway companies that bought these examples, those being the GWR, Rhymney Railway Co (RRCo), Brecon & Merthyr Railway (B&MR), and also the Liskeard & Looe Railway (L&LR). There may well be others but I am unaware of them at this time. After 1923 the GWR took over most of the Welsh companies and the pattern of these lamps went on, albeit they were manufactured by other companies by this time. The pattern and style even went into the BR days after the 1948 nationalization.”
“The fact that they were classed as ‘Petroleum’ lamps caused some confusion among a lot of railway workers, bearing in mind that when the majority of hand lamps across the board went over to paraffin the lamps were plated ‘Petroleum’ to distinguish between paraffin from colza, or rape oil as it is better known. A Dr James Young obtained the patents for extracting Petroleum oil, or paraffin as it is better known from bituminous coal in the early 1800s, therefore petroleum was plated on most lamps. After several railway employees mistook it for petroleum spirit it was decided to change the plates to Kerosene.”
“The operation of the lamp was done by turning the top which rotated an inner drum with coloured glass, to bring the required colour aspect in line with the front lens. This construction can be seen in the picture of the lamp in a stripped state.”
This one section should perhaps be included within ‘Collectors’ but, although a genuine Sugg product, it is not a gas product so has been given its own section. I am convinced that William Sugg was approached by GWR, with whom he had worked for many years with gas lamps, complaining about the shortcomings of their then hand lamps. His knowledge of ventilation and air movements within gas lamps was soon applied to the oil lamp resulting in a lamp which became the ‘standard’. GWR doubtless retained the design rights – so had presumably paid William Sugg for the development – and in due course the lamp was manufactured by many others. As you can see from the advert at the top GWR alone took 15,000 lamps.
In 2011 I had the opportunity of seeing the amazing collection of hand lamps amassed by Kevin George. This one picture will give you some idea of what the title ‘Collector’ really means!
If you wish to contact Kevin George to discuss oil hand lamps his email address is email@example.com
This Article from Railway Engineer of August 1906 explains the advantages of the Wright’s Patent lamp and we learn the reason behind the change to ‘Petroleum Oil’ against the earlier colza or rape oil. Clearly this is before the problems associated with the misuse of ‘Petroleum Spirit’.
Since publishing this website there have been many contacts from enthusiasts and collectors of various Sugg related products. ‘Hand lamps’ is one of these categories, doubtless because of the huge interest in all things related to the railways. This picture and others were sent to me from New Zealand by a collector who was showing at a local Antique and Bottle Show in October 2006 and he got a first equal for his hand lamp display! I have an email address if anyone wishes to contact him.
Antique & Bottle Show October 2006. Sugg hand lamp on the left
My correspondent said: “I am a railway collector and historian in New Zealand, and have in my possession one of the patent lamps, which is in excellent order and complete. It would appear from my research that it was brought by New Zealand Railways, probably in the early 1900’s as they trialled a number of lamps including the Corrugated iron lamp which I also have one of. Getting back to the Wrights Patent one, it is stamped and has a number as being used at Invercargill South Island New Zealand.” “The other Wrights Lamp is at the Ferrymeade Museum at Christchurch ready to go on display when they get their National Rail Museum set up. As far as I know there are only two Wrights patent lamps known to be in NZ.”
Does anyone else know better?!
Copyright © Chris Sugg 2006-13
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