Where you can still touch the glow of the past

When blogging was in the ascendancy we bloggers were asked by Time Out (it was printed then) to write about things to do in London during autumn. I chose to see the gas lamps being lit with their ethereal glow:

See Victorian London blaze into life There aren’t many places left in the capital where you feel like you may be in Dickensian London, but Kensington Palace Gardens is one of them. At night you’ll notice the soft glow emanating from the street lights: they’re a handful of the 1,500 Victorian gas lamps remaining in the city. Just five lamplighters maintain them – it’s a job so popular that vacancies are rarely advertised by British Gas. As dusk falls and the birds start to roost in the trees, a clockwork device inside each lamp turns on the gas jet, which is ignited by the continually burning pilot light. The flame then heats a silk casing coated in lime oxide which turns white-hot and gives off that misty glow. For a short time, modern-day London is but a memory.

About 300 of Westminster Council’s 14,000 streetlights are gas-powered, now for various excuses, the council is looking at plans to convert them to electric. The council had argued that the gas lamps, dating from the 1890s, were expensive to maintain, don’t provide suitable lighting, caused a serious obstruction to traffic, that the council needed to address the climate emergency even though 40 patio gas heaters, in widespread use in the borough, used the same volume of gas. Only 0.63 per cent of Westminster Council’s 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions were taken up by these street lights.

Under mounting pressure, Westminster City Council has now decided to halt the proposed conversion of 174 gas lamps which include 138 Grade II listed gas lamps and 36 non-listed gas lamps. However, 94 non-listed gas lamps will still be converted to LED.

However, the future of the remaining gas lamps isn’t safe, the Council made a proviso that: ‘where they face lengthy delays to repairs or it becomes too costly or unsafe’, they will destroy our Victorian heritage.

So my favourite London street, Goodwin’s Court, has been spared for the immediate future.

4 thoughts on “Where you can still touch the glow of the past”

  1. Hi

    We usually communicate in connection with cabbie shelters, specifically the one given by my great grandfather, Squire Bancroft, now in Russell Square. You have very kindly sent me some wonderful pictures of it in its original position in the Haymarket, outside his theatre.

    This post today reminded me of something completely different. My wedding day was 62 years ago last week – my late husband and I were married at the Temple Church on 19 November 1960. I remembered that a photo of my father and my husband’s mother, leaving the church together, were wonderfully photo-bombed by the Temple gaslighter! Very special. See photo attached. He must have been just setting out on his rounds. I don’t know if the Temple lamps are still gas. I expect you know!

    Thank you so much for all your blogs, which I enjoy immensely!

    Best wishes

    Caroline Blomfield


What do you have to say for yourself?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s