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BLEECO Hove Lantern / BLEECO Sunstar Lantern 686

Genre: Open dome refractor lantern

The open dome refractor lantern appeared in the 1920s, a result of the burgeoning scientific approach to street lighting. By using a refractor dome positioned around the upper parts of a symmetrical point light source, beams of light could be fashioned and positioned to illuminate the road surface. The flux emitted in the lower hemisphere of the light source was uncontrolled, producing a circular pool of light below the lantern. In this way, the road surface for some distance and the environs around the lantern were illuminated.

This lantern design changed little during the next seventy years, although the glassware, refractor assembly, bulb holder and lantern canopy became steadily simpler. Although open lanterns were frowned upon by the mid-1950s (as no protection was afforded to the bulb nor the glassware so both got dirty and required regular cleaning), the open dome refractor continued being popular with local councils, still being made in the early 1980s.

In cases where no precise focusing mechanism was present, the filament of the bulb was either located at the base of the refractor, or at the position marked on the refractor glass (usually indicated by "LC" or "Lamp Centre"). In the case of high-pressure mercury bulbs, the arc tube was positioned in the same place as the filament.

Name: Bleeco Hove Lantern / BLEECO Sunstar Lantern 686
Date: Circa 1920s - 1950s
Dimensions: Width: 18", Height: 11"
Light Distibution: Uniform Distribution
Refractor: Holophane Duo-Dome 4607 (75°)
Lamp: 60-100W GLS / 80-125W MBF/U


The only recorded appearance of this lantern was in a BLEECO catalogue from 1934. Named the Hove, it could take a 100W-200W tungsten filament bulb.

The lantern's name reflected the civic pride inherent in the UK's towns and cities during this period. Council members, or lighting engineers, with the help of a manufacturing firm's experts, often designed lanterns and brackets for their towns, and representatives of Hove probably specified, and perhaps, designed this lantern. BLEECO's styling was also evident including the white conical over reflector and totally exposed refractor.

It appeared to be a simplified version of the Large Worthing lantern. The scalloped canopy was simplified slightly to allow it to be cast in one piece, and the two knurled lamp adjusters were replicated by two circular extrusions. As it was contemporary with the Large Worthing lantern, then I believe it was simply an attempt to produce another lantern which looked almost exactly the same, but didn't have the lamp focusing mechanism, and was ultimately cheaper to make.

Post-war, the lantern became part of a range of different sized lanterns, called the Sunstar Open Type. Each took a different version of the Holophane dome refractor for different lamp wattages.


Early BLEECO lanterns have no manufacturers name or model number. Identification is only possible by matching the lantern against those in the catalogues.

Later BLEECO lanterns featured "Made In England", a three digit number, and a square symbol cast into the canopy of the lantern. Unfortunately, in these cases, the number isn't included in the current range of catalogues, but the lantern can be identified by examples in earlier catalogues.

The Hove can be identified by its simplified stepped canopy and fake knurled knobs.


It was a very successful lantern, probably the most successful in BLEECO's range. It escaped its original home town of Hove, and could be found distributed throughout the south of England and further northwards. It was particularly common in various Sussex towns and cities, with large installations in Worthing, Brighton and Hove.

During the later years of the 1930s, the lantern was often advertised utilising the new mercury discharge lamp (MB/U, MBF/U). This marketing push, along with its low cost, probably contributed to its popularity.

Optical System

The BLEECO Worthing used a Holophane Duo-Dome refractor to control the light distribution. This optical system divided the flux from the tungsten filament lamp into two halves: light emitted from the lower hemisphere of the bulb was uncontrolled and symmetrically illuminated the area below the lantern; the light emitted from the upper hemisphere of the bulb formed two main beams directed by the prisms in the refractor. Therefore, the area around the base of the lantern was well illuminated for the pedestrian and house owner (e.g. pavement, front gardens and parked cars) and the road surface was illuminated at longer distances from the lantern for the car driver (e.g. bright road surface, dark kerb edges etc.). Some flux was also redirected by the over reflector, forming a much larger symmetric distribution around the lantern.

The Holophane Duo-Dome comprised of two interlocking pieces of prismed glassware. The outer dome carried the vertical prisms and controlled the flux in azimuth; the inner dome carried horizontal prisms and therefore controlled the flux in latitude. Whilst two pieces of glass made the refractor large and heavy, and caused extra light loss (due to the flux having to traverse two air-glass-air boundaries), the Duo-Dome was extremely suited for open lanterns as the refractor had entirely smooth outer faces which simplified cleaning and maintenance.

Different sized Duo-Dome refractors were required for different wattages of tungsten filament bulb. In the case of the Worthing, the 4607 refractor dome was the most commonly used. Control of the elevation of the main beam required different inner domes, so they were marked with the beam angle measured from the vertical. 75o was the most popular, suggesting conformance with the uniform distribution system (BS 307:1927).

The BLEECO Hove Lantern / BLEECO Sunstar Lantern 686 In My Collection

facing profile

This lantern was rescued from the skip at Brighton Council's depot. It was complete and in relatively good condition having been sawn off its original bracket.

front profile

These pictures show the lantern after restoration and painted in its original green colour. It's fitted with a Holophane Duo-Dome 4607 refractor with 75° 2-way asymmetric non-axial distribution.

trailing profile

The lantern is a simpler version of the popular Large Worthing lantern and was designed for 100W-200W GLS lamps. When the MB lamp was developed in the late 1930s, the lantern was showcased in BLEECO's literature as a mercury lantern. And this example is fitted with a 3-pin bayonet lampholder so was equipped with a mercury lamp during its working life.


The spun steel reflector bolts onto the single-piece canopy with three wing nuts. The scalloped canopy is a simplified version of the Large Worthing lantern allowing it to be cast in one piece, but appear to look the same.

This allows different sized steel reflectors to be fitted, allowing a family of Sunstar Open Type lanterns to be economically created.

The two circular extrusions on the top of the canopy are simply to replicate the knurled knobs of the Large Worthing. Again, this is just cosmetic to allow the lantern to look like the Large Worthing.


Like all early pre-war BLEECO lanterns, the canopy has neither the maker's name nor any model number.

pedestrian view

The spun enamel secondary reflector is in good condition. It supports the refractor assembly and is secured to the canopy by three wing nuts.


The lantern has been fully restored and fitted to a BLEECO Worthing type bracket. This was a popular bracket-and-lantern configuration in Sussex.

Removal of the three wing nuts allows the reflector assembly (spun steel reflector and refractor) to be removed. Internally the lantern is very simple with a simple lampholder screwed onto a threaded pipe. (There is no provision for adjusting the lamp focussing).