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Gas street lighting in Coventry

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SJT
Brisbane, Australia
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1 of 17  Wed 23rd May 2018 12:34am  
Member: Joined Apr 2018  Total posts:20

Just wondering if anyone has information on when Coventry first got gas street lighting? I read somewhere it was around 1820 so I'm guessing it would have been prevalent (at least in the city centre) by 1832 (which is my particular area of research).

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Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Heathite
Coventry
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2 of 17  Wed 23rd May 2018 9:20am  
Member: Joined Aug 2012  Total posts:614

Here's a little information from two directories.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
coventry49
Devon
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3 of 17  Wed 23rd May 2018 8:58pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2015  Total posts:191

An interesting new topic! Does anyone know when the last gas street lamps were replaced by electricity? I was born in Cambridge Street, Hillfields and can remember the men coming round regularly to clean the glass in the lamps and replace the mantles. They used a l;adder with a pointed end, which they propped against the horizontal rungs just underneath the lamps. Although the lamps weren't as tall as modern-day electric street lights I don't remember many being vandalised. This would be in the 1950s. We moved from there in 1957 to Cheylesmore which had electric street lighting. Incidentally, a pub in Ash Green still had gas lighting in the late 1970s.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Helen F
Warrington
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4 of 17  Thu 24th May 2018 8:03am  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:1635

One of the things I noticed was that the earliest lights seemed to be exclusively outside drinking establishments so it's a fairly reliable way to identify the pubs. Initially as a lamp attached to the building and then a stand alone post. The lamps would have acted as a lure to customers and an aid to leaving drunks so they didn't fall until they were far enough away to be someone else's responsibility. They may have been funded by the pub chains/landlord and/or was run off the pub supply. It would have been dark bar some light from the windows of homes but most of them had external shutters on the ground floor and maybe internal shutters/curtains upstairs. I think that the lamp posts would have come in round about the mid 18 hundreds. They're in the photography from about 1860 but not in the earlier sketches I've got.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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5 of 17  Thu 24th May 2018 8:50am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3121

Heathite, HelenF, interesting posts. But what an exciting time for the people to have street lights, to be able to go out in the evenings feeling much safer. It must have opened up much more for the people, encouraged much more social life. When the gas lights came indoors, would be an immense change from those smelly oil lamps much brighter. Even during the war kids evacuated to oil lamp farms and country cottages found it hard to adjust to old ways. Oh God I shudder to think of all that trimming of wicks, filling the oil lamps. The war brought streets of darkness and made the people aware of the good old lamposts.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Slim
Another Coventry kid
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6 of 17  Thu 24th May 2018 10:05am  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:540

On all the side roads in Coundon, just off Four Pounds Avenue, where I lived, all the street lamps were gas, cast iron posts with a large glass lantern reminiscent of Victorian times. The lamps in Four Pounds Avenue, which was built later, were electric, and the road at that time was a single carriageway. It always puzzled me that the lamps were not manually ignited, but turned themselves on as if by magic at a specific time in early evening. Until I actually saw one turn itself on, I had always imagined that a man with a long pole or ladder and matches came round. They had a pilot light, which I could see burning if I looked carefully. I'm now guessing that the pilot flame somehow caused a mechanical timer to operate; I doubt the timer was electrical, since that would require an electric cable to be run up inside the post, and if you were going to do that, why bother with gas? Those gas lamps were still there in the mid 60s, when we left. They were replaced by electric light some years afterwards.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Annewiggy
Tamworth
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7 of 17  Thu 24th May 2018 12:00pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2013  Total posts:1553

Yes Slim, I lived in Poole Road and can remember the street lamps being gas when I was little. The poles were green with arms on either side by the light and the man used to put his ladder up against that to get up and clean and service the lamp. we also had gas lamps in the house on the wall for a time, I can remember rushing round to find a new mantle. When dad decorated there was still a bit of pipe sticking out of the wall. The wall clock had to be carefully hung over it to get it in the right position and it had to hang just right or the pendulum would not move (that clock eventually finished up at the 32nd Scout Hut in Beake Avenue and used as a bar by the senior scouts!) I don't think there were any wall sockets, everything was plugged into the light socket.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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8 of 17  Sun 27th May 2018 10:11am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3121

But the gas lamps had a lot more to them than that. On dark early nights in the winter we kids would play round them, swap fag cards, comics, learn to smoke, talk of Red Indians, Martians and all kid stuff, but we would also play a game, the boys would defend the lamp and the girls would try and touch the lamp and say something like abracadabra. There were rules, you could not pull a girls hair or rip her clothes, and things I have now forgotten. By the time we were about ten, boys would stop playing, girls were taking on a new meaning, and girls stopped playing because it was not lady-like any more but the lamps altered opinions. A boy I knew from day one had a father that was very bombastic, rude, and aggressive. People were a little afraid of him, but come the day when the lamps went out 'Blackout ' and this tough guy was frightened of the dark, and as for going on a roof to fight fires and he turned to jelly, and suddenly we had to change our opinions. 60% of people were not the same anymore, the loss of those lamps sorted the men from the boys.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Prof
Gloucester
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9 of 17  Sun 27th May 2018 4:21pm  
Member: Joined Jul 2014  Total posts:1120

Coventry49 I also remember the men who came in the 1950s to service the gas lamps in Momus Boulevard, one was outside our house, and they did light automatically with a small pilot light that was triggered in some way to turn it on. Oddly I cannot recall the gas lamps in Wyver Crescent, where I was born, but there must have been some, presumably so much a part of street furniture that in daytime would be hardly noticed. Edited by member, 27th May 2018 4:23 pm
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Helen F
Warrington
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10 of 17  Sun 27th May 2018 4:43pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:1635

One of my favourite books is the Little Prince and I was taken by the section with the lamp lighter. I first got the story on tape read by Peter Ustinov. Magical. Kaga, few of us born to modern lighting know what it is to see darkness.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Greg
Coventry
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11 of 17  Tue 29th May 2018 9:16pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2011  Total posts:297

On 24th May 2018 10:05am, Slim said: It always puzzled me that the lamps were not manually ignited, but turned themselves on as if by magic at a specific time in early evening. Until I actually saw one turn itself on, I had always imagined that a man with a long pole or ladder and matches came round. They had a pilot light, which I could see burning if I looked carefully. I'm now guessing that the pilot flame somehow caused a mechanical timer to operate; I doubt the timer was electrical, since that would require an electric cable to be run up inside the post, and if you were going to do that, why bother with gas?
From memory, there was a clock and a pilot light. The clock (which must have been manually wound occasionally) would have operated a valve to allow gas to the mantle and the pilot light would have ignited it. The clock would, again,have switched off the gas to the mantle at a predetermined time in the morning.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Slim
Another Coventry kid
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12 of 17  Wed 30th May 2018 7:24am  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:540

Thanks for that, Greg. You are right. I just found this: "Shortly after the Second World War clockwork timers started being installed in street lamps. Then the light came on automatically every evening and went off automatically every morning - which meant the end of the lamplighter. Nevertheless, every so often a man with a ladder would still visit each lamp to wind up the clockwork mechanism. Also every so often during the day a man came round with a ladder to service the lamps or to repair the panes of glass that often got broken. Council men would also come round to paint the lamp posts which were made of cast iron. Peter Johnson" Gas lighting in the streets, early to mid 20th century I guess I was at school when the man came round, which is why I never saw him. It must have been a full time job just winding up a few street lamps in one area. I can't imagine a clockwork mechanism going for long after being wound up!
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
scrutiny
coventry
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13 of 17  Wed 30th May 2018 9:34am  
Member: Joined Feb 2010  Total posts:683

The gas lamp in Alma Street had an arm with a loop on each end underneath the mantles. The lamplighter would put his pole up and pull one of the loops to turn the gas on or off, this was early fifties. When it changed to clockwork or electric, no idea. Oh my Update, There are still 1,500 gas lamps in London. Each one still hand-lit by a five man team every evening. Edited by member, 1st Jun 2018 12:28 pm
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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14 of 17  Sat 9th Jun 2018 9:33am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3121

Ah! I think your all in the dark about this one. The Lamplight became the most famous song in the world during wartime. Underneath the Lamplight, by the Barrack gate, Darling I remember the way you used to wait There you whispered tenderly that you loved me and you'd always be my Lili of the Lamplight. My own Lili Marlene Orders came for sailing, somewhere over there, all confined to barracks, was more than I could bear I knew you would be waiting in the street, I heard your feet, but could not meet My Lili of the Lamplight, my own Lili Marlene Mods note: This particular "conversation" continues in the "Our Kaga" thread, to enable this thread to remain on-topic Thumbs up
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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15 of 17  Fri 15th Jun 2018 1:18pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3121

I just loved the winter evenings when it was not wet. We would stay indoors till the workmen were all home and the dark street was empty, then we would steal down the dark, deserted road to the luminous space of the lamplight. Here we would turn our backs on the dark scoop of the night and play games, like yo-yo or conkers (cobblers, the old name our fathers called them) until others rushed up yelling. Occasionally somebody would come by and in a dozen yards the night had swallowed them up. Here we were exceedingly close, like brother and sisters. If we were six or more, the girls would start skipping and singing "Adam and Eve went to the river to bathe, Adam got drowned so who do you think was saved" - at this point the girls called a boy's name and he would have to run in and the girl would run out, then Eve got drowned and the boys called out. Sometimes the big yellow moon would lift itself up slowly over the house tops like some big bird. Perfectly absorbed in the games our voices came out of the night - around eight o'clock we would go home, tired but happy. In earlier years, the miners would wind there way over the fields from the pit head and see the string of lamplights spaced out along the roads that got larger as they got nearer and they would sigh with relief that they where not injured.
Town Planning and Development - Gas street lighting in Coventry

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