Hidden in Plain Sight: London’s Gas Lighting

Look a little closer (and up!) when you walk past London’s ubiquitous street lamps, there are still around 1,500 functioning gas lamps in London.

Electric street lighting was first introduced in the late 19th century quickly becoming more popular and doing away with most of the gas lamps.

London Gas Lighting

Out of the 1,500 (English Heritage protected) gas lamps left in London, around 200 are private owned and looked after. The rest are under the care of 4 British Gas workers called lamp attendants.

These 4 attendants ride on scooters to collect their ladders, left – locked up – at handy spots.

London Gas Lighting

You’ll probably see these all over Westminster now…

Then they scoot off to maintain and turn on their 400 lamps. Some are automatic, with a pilot light burning all day that gets a boost at nighttime. Around a third of the lamps have windy clocks inside, making sure they’re wound up every 14 days.

London Gas Lighting

One of the British Gas workers caught in the act!

London Gas Lighting

Can you spot the pilot light burning?

Some of these lamps are over 200 years old and haven’t weathered as well as others…

London Gas Lighting
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London Gas Lighting

Merrily burning away, the gas lights have a slightly warmer colour compared to electric lights

Watch this video by The Londonist where they interview a British Gas lamp attendant;

Some trivia…

Each lamppost has the initial of the day’s reigning monarch. The oldest gas lamps in London can be found on Birdcage Walk with George IV’s insignia.

Electric street lighting was first introduced in 1878 along the Thames Embankment and near Holborn Viaduct, quickly becoming more popular and doing away with most of the gas lamps.

The first street to be lit with modern electricity as we know it was – obvious really – Electric Avenue in Brixton, 1880!

If you’re on the Strand, pop by the Savoy Theatre’s stage door to find this lamp. There’s a plaque which acknowledges Savoy Theatre (1881) as the first building to be lit throughout with electric lighting.

London Gas Lighting

The curious bauble-shaped lamp

Want to find some Gas Lamps in real life?

British Gas have created this handy map to guide you around some of the most interesting lamps between Buckingham Palace and Covent Garden.

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