Carting Lane: London’s Sewage Lamppost?
Halfway down the Strand you get a glimpse of The Savoy Hotel facade, a sure symbol of luxury. Surprising then, to know that only a short walk away is the Carting Lane sewage lamppost.
If you head down the steps by The Coal Hole pub you’ll find Carting Lane, a narrow street sloping down towards the Thames.
On it, you’ll find a relic of the Victorian era, a stocky gas lamppost.
These aren’t as rare in London as you might think, so it’s worth keeping an eye out. I’ve written about the historical street furniture here.
But this one does have a strange claim to fame.
London’s Only Sewage Lamppost
It’s claimed that this is the only lamppost in London hooked up to the Savoy’s sewer system, meaning the light is actually powered by the waste products of the hotel’s most distinguished guests.
But is it true?
Like most myths of London, you’ll be glad to hear that this one is also based on truth.
Designed by Joseph Webb around 1890, Webb did indeed believe that light could be powered by burning sewer gas. His plan was to multipurpose; utilise an ubiquitous London byproduct, prevent the dangerous build up of potentially explosive gas and neutralise bad smells.
Great in theory, but in practice the Savoy sewer simply didn’t produce enough methane to keep the lamp glowing brightly. If the flame went out, the methane gas – and its accompanying odour – would be released into the vicinity. To stop that, it’s always been connected to regular old gas mains.
Sadly, due to a fire at the Webb Lamp Company, all records of orders have been destroyed. We know Westminster, Hampstead and Shoreditch placed large orders for the lamps, but no other details survive.
To burst your gas bubble even further, this isn’t even the original! An accident with a lorry a within the last decade meant that the one we can spot now it in fact a reconstruction.
All is not lost however, there’s still a nice trivia lamp you can spot nearby, that of the a Savoy Theatre lamppost.
The Theatre actually proceeded the hotel, the former prompting the need for the latter. The Savoy Theatre (which opened 1881) was the first public building to be entirely lit with electricity!
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