If you’re making a relocation, you’ll surely be charmed by the lovely black iron lamps lining the streets as you look for apartments with your Relocation agent. In combination with the rows of columned terraced houses, it may transport you back to Victorian times. Sort of. The street lamps today are lit by electricity, obviously.
But think of this: by 1823, there were 40,000 gas lamps that had to be lit one by one by hand thanks to the lamplighters. That’s tremendous! How laborious, and yet how romantic.
In any case, I just stumbled on this other little factoid that you’ll definitely need to be on the lookout for after your London move, as found in Tom Quinn’s London’s Strangest Tales book:
“The year was 1807 and Londoners were eager to do what they could to celebrate the king’s birthday. […] A German engineer called Albert Winsor was then living in London and he decided to do his bit by installing posts with lamps on top all along one side of The Mall. He set up a small gas tank and built underground pipes connecting the lighting posts with each other and with his gas tank. […]
These were not the gas lamps we are familiar with from old films about London— […] Winsor’s lights simply flamed up from the top of their posts, but the world’s first street lights—which these certainly were—caused a sensation across the capital.”
A quite quirky feature of these lights is that Winsor used gun barrels taken from old muskets from the Woolwich Arsenal to make the pipes linking the lamps, as he reasoned those shafts obviously had to withstand a great amount of pressure. As Quinn continues:
“[T]he street that runs from The Mall through St James’s Palace is today one of the last streets in the world still to have traditional mantled gas lamps. They have been there now for more than a century—if you want to see what London looked like at night in Victorian times this is the only place you can still do it.”
I never knew that! Methinks I need to take a field-trip of my own over there! So there you have it. Just a bit of historical whimsy that yet again shows how this city has often been a forerunner in progress yet continues to charm us with its strong hold on tradition. When you’re on your viewing day with your Relocation agent, soak up the atmosphere of these lovely neighborhoods and ready yourself for all the ways this city will light you up from within.