Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday 20 November 2022

Save the Westminster gas lamps: London-lighting lovely lanterns under threat

The above lamp, in Bull Inn Court Westminster, is a Grosvenor style gas lit lamp (see the spotters' guide below).
Update 22 Nov 2022: Westminster City Council has said it will now only electrify 94 lamps and leave 174 as gas. This has been welcomed cautiously by the London Gasketeers campaigners as it raises more questions than it answers.

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Westminster has nearly 300 gas powered street lamps, a small percentage of the thousands of electric street lighting across the borough. The lamps are over 100 years old and under threat.
Below is a copy of my submission to the Westminster City Council gas lamps review (consultation), which closes today. I've emailed this to and (the leader is Mr Adam Hug). Help yourself to anything I've written if useful.
For detailed background information on the gas lamps and the campaign to save them see

Here's a nice article in the Daily Mail about the lamps and the people who look after them, with pics. Plenty more articles in that LinkTree link above.

A spotters' guide: What Grosvenor, Rochester and Windsor lanterns look like. There are other styles too, there's even a Westminster!
- - - - - - - - - - Copy of my submission - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Westminster City Council lighting team and Mr Hug

Until 31 October 2022 I had no idea that we still had any working gas lamps in Westminster (or anywhere in London) and was delighted to discover their existence thanks to seeing a retweeted story about them. This was followed by surprise that I'd not known about them, and that "We have gaslamps!" isn't more widely known. I think this interesting historic link with our own past should be more widely celebrated and actively exploited as a 'draw' to the area.

Other than information about the gas lamp review I didn't find* a page on the WCC website celebrating these evocative lights. No 'gas lamp trail' with a map showing where to find them, and suggestions of nearby places to have a meal ('10% off with code: LANTERN' sort of thing). "Have you seen Westminster's wonderful gas lamps?" seems like it would sell itself.

When I think of Westminster I think of Parliament and the Abbey and the Northbank BID areas, Trafalgar Square, Aldwych, Covent Garden etc. It's a shame I'd not have been thinking of the gas lamps - I imagine it's been the same for many others who have recently and enthusiastically discovered them - but I think this has been a missed opportunity.

You might think, given I'd not even noticed they were there, that I shouldn't be too bothered about their loss - no. I would be very sorry to see them go. Within a few days of hearing about them I had gathered information about where to find the lanterns then met up with a friend one evening so that we could see them ourselves. We thought they were wonderful and rather magical; we also enjoyed spotting the different kinds (Rochester, Grosvenor etc). We also discovered a lovely new (to us) restaurant after emerging from a side-alley.

Now that I'm more informed about their history (and that the first street in London to have gas lighting installed was in Westminster) I'm astounded that there are plans to sever that historic link. London is famous for its history and is full of original buildings and other features. These 100+ year old lamps were definitely a 'Wow!' moment for us, now that we were aware of the historical context. That can't be replicated with LED facsimiles.

The suggested replacement lamps are nice enough (I suppose in the 1800s and 1900s the current gas lamps must have looked a bit too shiny and new too) but now that we're all going to know they're not really gas it's going to feel a lot less authentic. It's not just what they look like, it's knowing that they're using a living historic technology - that's amazing, please celebrate it.

People come to London to see the bright lights, why not invite them to come and see the warm ones too. The gas-lit lanterns link us to an earlier London - I think replacing them would be irreversibly damaging, and a terrible shame. Please don't electrify or replace these lamps.

* gas lamps - there's a brief mention here but only in the context of pausing the gas review. I also varied the search with gaslamps, gas lights and lanterns.

Thank you
P.S. I am not a Westminster resident nor do I work there but I visit frequently, and now have an additional reason to visit!

P.P.S. On the night I visited Carting Street at the back of The Savoy hotel the place was eye-searingly floodlit to film Netflix's new 'One Day' series and there were lots of people with equipment. Despite the (presumed) energy consumption of lighting, cameras and generators we accept this because we enjoy the end product, I think it's similar with the gas lamps.

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