mailing list
site map

cambridge: old installations

This section of the website is primarily by Peter Rivet who e-mailed me with links to various archival pictures of Cambridge. These were taken before the electrification of the city's street lighting so provides a glimpse of the lighting installations before REVO and BTH.

"I have been trying to find more pictures of gas street lighting in Cambridge. If you want to extend your piece on the Candles backwards, the following may be of interest. I have placed them in something approximating to chronological order". - Peter Rivet

hexagonal gas lantern

"A fine example of a hexagonal gas lantern, at the corner of Hills Road and Station Road, with the Roman Catholic church visible in the distance. This shows the 4 foot gauge horse tram tracks which would have been removed after the service closed in 1914 so I think the "1927" at the bottom is a serial number, not a date." - Peter Rivet

large windsor style gas lantern

"Another large size lantern, this time in Chesterton." - Peter Rivet

windsor style gas lantern on wall bracket

"A picture of Regent Street in the 1900s; again the tram tracks are visible. The lamp on the right is interesting - evidently those sweeping wall brackets weren't unique to Rose Crescent." - Peter Rivet

large gas lantern

"This is one of a series of pictures held by the National Tramway Museum which show fairly conventional gas lanterns in the years up to 1914. This picture shows a special lantern mounted on top of a tram shelter outside the Roman Catholic church at the north end of Hills Road." - Peter Rivet

windsor style gas lanterns

"Gas lighting in Market Hill, with Great St Mary's in the background. Apparently this postcard is dated 1928 but as the lamp in the foreground appears to have old style burners rather than mantles I think it's probably a pre-1914 view." - Peter Rivet

Windor Style Gas Lantern
© Francis Frith Collection

"Dated 1931: shows St Andrew Street with a conventional Windsor lantern. No sign of the big Sugg Rochesters in this, or a view of Petty Cury so they must have been installed later." - Peter

Sugg Southport Gas Lanterns
© Francis Frith Collection

"Dated 1931; Hills Road - Station Road Junction with a prominent view of a Sugg Southport lantern. Evidently the Windsor lamps were already regarded as inadequate for such a busy road." - Peter

Sugg Rochester Lantern
© Francis Frith Collection

"Dated 1938; shows one of the post mounted Sugg Rochesters on Market Hill. These disappeared before my time as they had been replaced by the four REVO Leicesters, one at each corner of the market place, by the early 1950s." - Peter

BTH 600s / Diadems
© Francis Frith Collection

"Trumpington Street circa 1955 during the experiment with different types of lighting - you've already found this picture but the version here doesn't have a crease down the middle."

"What I still don't have is a really good view of one of the big Sugg lamps, which ought to be a major part of the story. I am still looking. I have narrowed down their installation to the mid/late 1930s and their disappearance (except for the recycled columns) to the years 1955-1965. About a year ago I found a useful but rather blurred picture of one in a book about Cambridge in the 20th century, but I didn't feel able to justify buying the whole book for one not particularly good photo!" - Peter

There is a particularly interesting picture of the cross roads at the bottom of Castle Hill which can be found in the waiting room of Cambridge Registation Office at Shire Hall. This shows the large Sugg Rochester lantern which stands outside the Folk Museum; the column is still there, converted to electricity, and now sporting an upwardly sloping bracket and 90W SOX lantern (a Davis GR100 which has replaced the older AEI Amber.) Amazing to see the column still there.

sugg rochester lanterns

"It must date from c. 1950 as the railings outside the Round Church which appear in earlier pictures have been removed for the war effort. On the left is a reasonably clear view of one of the standard Sugg gas lamps which at that time were used on almost all the main roads. The lantern doesn't have side reflectors but in other ways it is very typical of them. You can see the little box for the winding gear, allowing the lantern to be lowered to street level for maintenance, on the right hand side of the column about 5 or 6 feet from the base. On the right is a post mounted Sugg which I don't remember in this particular location, but it would have disappeared fairly early when the first Richardson Candles were installed." - Pete Rivet

"Thanks for posting set of advertisements from the APLE conference at Folkestone in 1937. The one for Walter Slingsby & Co of Keighley illustrates clearly the way that the Cambridge Sugg gas lamps were maintained. I can remember the lanterns in Silver Street being lowered to street level but I hadn't made complete sense of how it was done; the photos shows how the jointed supply pipe worked. It's all very ingenious and it's a pity no example appears to have survived." - Pete Rivet

sugg rochester lantern

"Here at last is a reasonably good picture of one of the Sugg Rochester lamps which were characteristic of Cambridge in the early 1950s. The site is in Emmanuel Street. The photo was taken to show the demolition of the row of houses on the right, to allow road widening - these days they would probably be listed and worth a small fortune. You can see the control box for the winding gear fairly clearly. The jaunty angle of the lantern was something I remember on several of them, and was probably a sign that the equipment was wearing out! You may remember that early photos of these lamps showed column bases which later disappeared, and this puzzled us. I think I can explain why they were taken away. In Leicester the traction poles carrying overhead wires for the tram wires had ornamental bases too, but most of them were removed c. 1940, like the railings around parks and houses, as part of the drive for scrap metal to help the war effort. Presumably something similar happened in Cambridge." - Pete Rivet

open lantern

"I took this around 1980; it shows one of the recycled gas columns, still with an open sodium lantern though the neighbouring ones have enclosed ones. Except for the pale green colour it's much as it would have been in the late 1950s. You can see clearly the openings for the original gas fittings on the left hand side of the column." - Pete Rivet

The history of these open sodium lanterns in Cambridge is somewhat vague. Many could still be found on the city’s streets in the 1980s, although they appeared to be randomly placed within the ranks of the BTH and AEI Ambers. Some were even mounted on modern trefoil brackets near the Catholic Church; this all suggested that they were used as casual replacements for the Amber lanterns.

But, archive photographs show that some streets were entirely lit by these lanterns e.g. Histon Road. Therefore, in these cases, the enclosed Ambers were the replacements. Pete Rivet also recalls that the open lanterns were the first to be installed and were then shortly replaced by the Ambers.

Many were still being used until the early 1990s when the vast majority were replaced by Thorn Alpha Nines. One lone example remained on the eastern section of Mill Road until 2002. I hoped to rescue it for the collection, and also to identify it, but it was mysteriously smashed in-situ and its ragged stump was replaced by a Philips lantern.