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Keith And Blackman

Messrs James Keith And Blackman Company Limited
27 Farringdon Avenue
London, EC4


Firm founded by George Keith who became a specialist in gas lighting. Not only did he invent and market many high pressure gas lamps, but he also designed Rotary Compressors, Raising and Lowering Gear, Raising, Lowering And Traversing Gear and "One-Man" Gear. Some of his most notable achievements were noted in the Street Lighting By Gas With Special References To The High Pressure system paper which was given in 1937.


"... by an author whose name is practically a synonym for high pressure gas lighting almost everywhere in the world where such lighting is used. What Mr. George Keith does not know concerning high pressure gas lamps and burners is hardly worth the knowing. This provides a fitting occassion for acknowledging the great services with Mr. Keith has rendered not only to the gas industry, but to the community for nearly 40 years, and I am glad to have this opportunity of paying my tribue." - Street Lighting By Gas With Special References To The High Pressure system, Dean Chandler, M.Inst. Gas E, APLE Conference Folkestone 1937.


The firm manufacture high pressure Gas lamps. They exhibited several examples representative of lamps used in the City of London and Westminster districts, along with a very large portion of South London. They also supply Raising and Lowering Gear (to allow a gas lamp attached to a bracket to be lowered for maintenace), and Raising and Lowering and Traversing Gears (to allow a gas lamp centrally suspended over a street to be lowered to one side for maintenance). - APLE Exhibition Catalogue 1932


A Raising, Lowering and Traversing Gear system, for Central Suspension, is described in Public Lighting #1. It is noted that such systems are now more necessary after the Intermin Report recommends a mounting height of 25 ft. for main traffic routes. - Public Lighting #1, 1936

Over 4000 raising, lowering and traversing gears are being used in London alone. - 1936 Advert


The firm gave an "excellent display" of the Supervia High Pressure Lamp, several of which were erected on columns around the bandstand outside the Exhibition Hall of the APLE's 1936 conference in Cheltenham. (Mounting height was 25' and the columns were supplied by Bromford Tube). A small compressor was required to supply the high pressure gas. - Public Lighting #3, 1936


They were exhibiting their Metro-Supervia high-pressure gas lamps at the APLE's Folkestone conference in 1937. Also newly introduced was the High Intensity Lamp which used novel new principles to ensure much greater candle power than that obtainable from standard low-pressure gas lamps. The firm's Raising and Lowering Gear, indispensable for the maintenance of lamps for street lighting, were also being shown. - APLE Conference Programme 1937


Versions of the new Magnalux Low-pressure gas lamp are exhibited (previously the High Intensity Lamp), along with underground control cocks, temporary connection equipment, a cast iron control box, examples of the Nominal Suspension and Nominal Squat lamps and raising and lowering gear - APLE Conference Programme 1938


They have evolved a new and alternative winch fitted with "Staybrite" tape instead of wire rope usually employed. This type has many advantages as the tape is immune from corrosion. Twisting is prevented entirely and a device is provided to avoid coiling the tape on the drum in the wrong direction. A special winch handle can also be supplied fitted with an overload release to prevent the overstraining of the rope, tape or gear. - Public Lighting #12, 1939

The firm have just issued a booklet describing the special features of their rotary compressors which embody a number of unique features and which are suitable for high-pressure gas lighting. - Public Lighting #12, 1939

The Magnalux is again being heavily promoted by the firm with an installation of ten Magnalux high-power low-pressure gas lamps on Keith Type 2 Raising and Lowering Gear. The lamps are fitted with permanent pilots and are controlled by Horstmann Clocks. Raising and Lowering Gear for lanterns in "Harp" brackets is also exhibited. - APLE Conference Programme 1939


A wide range of the firm's products are being exhibited ranging from lanterns (Supervia, Squat, Decorative and Standard) through to rotary compressors, raising, lowering and traversing gear and underground pattern cocks. - APLE Conference Programme 1945


"The Keith Raising, Lowering and Traversing Gears are made in two froms - type R.L. for raising and lowering gas lamps attached to ceilings, brackets or arms and type R.L.T. for raising, lowering and traversing gas lamps suspended from cables." - Highway Reference Book 1951

Keith patent raising and lowering gear.


"I am the grandson of George Keith, MD of Keith Blackman Ltd."

"George had 3 daughters but no sons. He died 3 weeks after I was born in March 1945, so we never met. Only one daughter (my mother) married, and produced 2 girls and then twins. My mother read geology at Cambridge (nowadays she would have been able to study engineering), but had to resign (it was automatic in those days) from her job at the government's Fuel Research Station in Greenwich when she got engaged in 1936 to my father, also a geologist."

"I remember my mother proudly showing us the Keith gas lights in Regent Street (London) from the top of a double-decker bus (probably about 1955), and we also visited the Keith Blackman works in Arbroath. The company by then lacked any proper direction (probably because there were too many old family buffers on the board!), and in 1968 the business, close to collapse, was acquired by Jim Slater and Peter Walker, who sold it at a loss to Weinstockís GEC empire. Woods Of Colchester still have an engineering drawing of the 1912 Keith fan (one of many inventions by George and his father James) on their website. The Keith Blackman works at Tottenham were bulldozed to make way for the Victoria Line."

"George and James Keith's inventions were wide-ranging, and included advances in ventilation (fans), heating (specialist furnaces and gas burners), laundry equipment and even a hydraulically-operated beer pump. My brother Alan and I pursued careers in chemistry and electronics respectively, but we seemed to have inherited a bit of our ancestorsí inventive streak."

"My 2 aunts continued to live in their fatherís house in Highgate (London) until about 1965, but when it was sold most of its contents (including a set of bagpipes) were disposed of, or chucked out, before my mother (who didnít drive a car) could get hold of them. All I have is a few of my grandfatherís hand tools." - Keith Maries, February 2017


References:
APLE Exhibition Catalogue Blackpool 1932
APLE Conference Programme Folkestone 1937
APLE Conference Programme Bournemouth 1938
APLE Conference Programme Glasgow 1939
APLE Conference Programme Glasgow 1945


External Links:
Grace's Guide