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Elm Works Parade Lantern

Genre: Open Type Conical Lantern

The open type conical lantern was on the first types of specialised street lighting lanterns developed with early examples appearing in the 1900s or even possibly earlier. The design of the distinctive conical reflector was designed to create a symmetric distribution in plan with flux reflected at high angles to increase the illumination at distances from the lantern and hence increase the space-height ratio required.

Whilst the theory was sound, many manufacturers elected to use white stove-enamelled steel-spun over-reflectors. Unless extremely highly polished, these reflectors exhibited little specular reflection as required by their design, and instead acted as diffusers. The result was a reutilisation of some of the flux emitted in the upper hemisphere by the lamp but not at the required high angles to achieve uniform illumination.

Therefore the lantern type was quickly discredited by many theorists and lighting designers but to little avail. Local authorities looking for a cheap lighting solution installed this lantern type in huge numbers, even after more scientifically proved lanterns with suitably placed reflectors and refractors began to appear. The symmetric distribution was also particularly suited for residential areas where a wide symmetric illumination was particularly preferred.

It was kept on manufacturer's catalogues up until the 1950s when finally the specifications caught up and required the lamps to be enclosed. But the lanterns themselves proved to be remarkably durable – despite the rust problems of the thin spun steel reflectors – and many were still in service during the 1980s and 1990s.

Name: Elm Works Parade
Date: Circa 1950s
Dimensions: Width: 14", Height: 36"
Light Distibution: Uniform Distribution
Lamp: 60-200W GLS


I initially thought this lantern was a home-made bodge of a harp-bracket and gas lamp canopy. However, the chance discovery of the pictures of the Teddy Boys in Notting Hill, London in 1954 (left) shows the same type lantern in-situ.

Therefore I believe the lantern was manufactured as a cheap gas-to-electricity conversion in the 1950s and utilised spare gas lamp canopies from redundant or cheap stock.


The lantern is easily identified in pictures thanks to its unique appearance. However, there are no manufacturing names or numbers on the body of the frame or the brass canopy.


It was an extremely rare lantern. The only documentary evidence that it was a street lighting lantern is from the Notting Hill pictures and the example in my collection.

Optical System

The lantern used a conical shaped over-reflector to redirect flux emitted above the horizontal. The intention was to focus the flux at a high-angle symmetrically around the lantern and therefore increase the range of the minimum illumination striking the road or path surface. In reality the enamel surface acted as a diffuser and the flux was redistributed at all angles – whilst this ensured that the lantern’s reflector appeared bright at all viewing angles, it meant that claims of the lantern's efficiency were over-stated.

The Elm Works Parade Lantern In My Collection

facing profile

I purchased this lantern from one of the stable antique shops in Camden Market in 1994. The frame was originally painted white and the canopy was dull with corrosion. The seller didn’t know anything about its history.

front profile

It’s fanciful to suggest that this was a survivor from the Notting Hill installation given the proximity of Camden Market.

trailing profile

The lantern was extensively restored and repainted silver. All screws were replaced and many of the holes in the frame required retapping. Finally the canopy was polished although this was just a cosmetic move on my part – the original installation would’ve probably been painted.


The brass canopy was from an old gas lamp and included an inspection cover. It was made from three separate brass spinnings which were screwed together. The finial was held in place by three metal straps. One was missing and had to be replaced and this gave the finial a jaunty angle – this same problem can be seen in the pictures of the Notting Hill example.

inspection cover

The inspection cover was now redundant and didn't serve any obvious function. Access to the fixed lampholder could be achieved by simply unscrewing the four screws around the circumference of the bracket top.

pedestrian view

This view shows how simple the optical system of this lantern was. The flux was simply redistributed symmetrically around the lantern – there was little light control at all.