I received a wonderful email today from Robin Hughes of Sheffield England about Sewer Gas Destructor Lamps that read:
I wonder if you are aware of a very special sort of streetlight, the J E Webb Sewer Gas Destructor Lamp. Patented in 1895, it was a typically ingenious product of the Victorian drive to improve sanitation. Lamps are connected both to mains gas supply and to the sewers, the column acting as a sewer chimney and the heat of combustion drawing off potentially dangerous sewer gases and microbes to be destroyed at high temperature. Many hundreds were installed in British towns and cities and also exported across the world. I only know of 46 that survive, all in the UK, and 25 of them in my home city of Sheffield. They were especially suitable here, as the hilly terrain meant that there were many points in the sewer network where gases could be trapped. A few even still burn gas: 18 were converted to natural gas in the early 1980s, but since then they have been neglected so that only 4 are working today (there are also 2 or 3 gas-burners in other towns).
The good news is that Sheffield City Council has a project to renew all streetlighting, under which the surviving lamps will be refurbished. Less good is that it is proposed to replace the burners with LEDs, meaning the loss of an internationally-unique heritage of lamps which have burnt gas almost continuously for up to 100 years.
Attached are a couple of pictures which I hope you will find interesting. The Brincliffe Edge Road lamp was the first in Sheffield, installed in 1914. The Rural Lane lamp shows how good they can look when someone looks after them – a private householder, in this case – although unfortunately this one is no longer burning gas.
The lamps are beautiful AND functional!
The photos he included are: