Illumination

Iron Bridge, ExeterAmongst all the products that Garton & King and its predecessors manufactured there is one category that it seems that I have completely overlooked and it was only when a black and white photograph came into my possession recently did it make me realise that, apart from a mention of the Gordon Lamp (see Monuments page) the subject of Street Lights and Lamps in general had been all but overlooked and forgotten.

I have now hunted through my files and photo albums and this new page is the result. I have reproduced the image that set the ball rolling here, the first one on the page. To those of you familiar with Exeter you will immediately recognise the structure as the Iron Bridge that leads from the bottom of North Street towards St David’s and Mount Dinham, across a deep valley. At first glance there is nothing remarkable about the image apart from it being particularly good on detail. What I noticed is that the capping on the railings to the left of the support is partially missing and the stanchion had been damaged and repaired with additional brackets.

Lamp Posts at Iron Bridge and Spicer Road, Exeter I believe I am right in saying that back in the 1960s a traffic accident on the bridge caused one of the ten matching lamp standards that are placed at regular intervals on the bridge and incorporated in the railings, to sustain damage and it was beyond repair. The left hand image is of one of the present Lamp Columns. Garton & King cast a replacement, in fact two; one for the bridge and the other for our home in Spicer Road and which is shown in the right hand image. The property has since been demolished and No 10 Spicer Road is now Magdalen Court. The lamp post somehow ‘disappeared’ during the redevelopment and I am almost sure it has cropped up in a property in West Hill, Ottery St Mary. It was supposed to remain and be incorporated in the new development. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how it ended up in West Hill!

Taylor & Bodley Lamp Post at Whipton‘Grovelands’ lamp post in New North RoadDecorated Lamp Post in Bystock TerraceApart from these ten rather special lamps on the Iron Bridge – only one being made by Garton & King, there are in fact a great many cast iron lamp standards within the city, the majority of which are in excess of 100 years old. Over time they have transitioned from being Gas Burning to Electric Light and the style of the lantern tops have been altered and redesigned. Early conversions were fitted in the 1940s and later with Mercury Vapour light bulbs (those were the ones that gave human skin a sickly hue!) then Sodium Bulbs (SOX & SON) and maybe some nowadays sport an LED type of light.

Lamp standards or ‘columns’ unfortunately are somewhat awkward to photograph being tall and thin. The image (right) of the column in the pavement in front of the Bungalows (Whipton, Exeter) is by Taylor & Bodley as is the left hand in the next image (below left) is one located at Follet Road, Topsham. The central image which includes a phone box and a letter box is of a G & K lamp standard in Powderham Crescent, Exeter. The close up (below right) confirms another by Garton & King in Marlborough Avenue. This style of lamp column is a pretty standard design and can be seen throughout the UK. In Exeter they were cast by all manner of Foundries including G & K, Parkyn, Willey, & Co, Taylor & Bodley. & the large Revo Company located in Tipton, West Midlands (who designated the design as the ‘Groveland’) This particular design has been around since the late 1890s as the 1907 tinted postcard image on the right shows. The location is New North Road, near to where Veitch’s Nurseries were located, and the lantern on top is a typical gas burning light. With the march of progress they were all eventually replaced or converted to electric though some gas lights survived and were still illuminating the streets of Exeter in the 1950s.

Lamp Posts at Topsham, Powderham Crescent and Marlborough Avenue

One distinctive style of lamp column that Garton & King had the drawings for, were those columns that flaunted the City Crest and the motto Semper Fidelis. In 2003 there were still at least 12 in their original locations, often outside former Mayors’ houses. Most were cast by Parkin but some by G & K. The ones that are still in situ are often in a sorry state but the one in Bystock Terrace, together with other cast iron columns in St David’s, have received in recent years a bit of a spruce up.

Two drawings of Lamps for the first Theatre RoyalApart from Street Lighting the Company, in Victorian times particularly, were involved in Interior Lighting. Another drawing refers to an order by Sidney Herberte-Basing Esq, New Theatre Royal. Sidney Herberte-Basing was the manager of the first Theatre Royal in Longbrook Street, the building where the tragic fire occurred in 1887. This theatre opened in October 1886, following the fire at the second Bedford Circus theatre in February 1885. At the bottom of the drawing is a scale, and what could be RWT... as a signature, but not really legible. The left drawing is ‘Elevation’ and the right ‘Section’. The candle is standing in a saucer with the word ‘Water.’ (Detail by Dick Passmore.)

From the Order BookThe Order Book gives us a requirement dated 26 January 1911 for an Exmouth Style Column with a lantern as shown; the style of lamp post is probably similar to the 3rd image from the top on this page.

Exeter Gas LampThe black and white image of an Exeter Gas Lamp has an enamelled notice attached to it headed Exeter Gas Light and Coke Company reminding persons that there is a 10/- (50p) reward for anyone giving information leading to conviction of any persons for breaking glass on any Public Lamps!

Gas MantlesGas lighting in homes and shops was commonplace in the 1900s but by the end of WW2 was very much a thing of the past. Caravans of the 50s and 60s had gas (bottle) lighting and Woolworth’s main store in Exeter, located on the former site of G & K and Pinder & Tuckwell’s premises at 191 & 192 High Street still had gas lighting installed for use in emergencies in the 1950s.

Originally ‘gas’ was Coal Gas. Coal gas is a combination of hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and sulphur and areas needed to be well ventilated to avoid the deadly carbon monoxide.

G & K retailed, in Victorian times, all manner of gas lights and fittings and were one of the first commercial premises in Exeter to install Gas Lighting. See below the colour tinted drawing and some suggestions for chandeliers from the G & K Catalogue for 1900.

Design for Column Lights Design far a Hanging Lamp Catalogue page of Gas Fittings and Chandeliers

A novel adaptation in Ashton ChurchThe last colour image (right) is taken of a lamp in Higher Ashton Church and I could not resist adding it to this page. It demonstrates a novel approach on how to convert a former Gas Lamp to operate on Electricity. You do, however, need a 13amp socket nearby!

December 2020

Top of page