Gas Lamp

Sewer Gas LampHere’s something you might not expect to see in 21st century Sheffield: a working gas lamp. However the main purpose of this lamp was not to provide street lighting, that’s just a useful by-product. This is one of Joseph Edmund Webb’s Patent Sewer Gas Destructor Lamps.

JE Webb’s design solved the problem of how to dispose of sewer gases by creating the right conditions to allow the gas to burn off: intense heat to burn the gas and a chimney to draw the gases up out of the sewer. The lamps were made in Birmingham and installed in many towns and cities, but Sheffield had more of them than any other city – at one point eighty four of them were in operation. Why so many? Sewer gas tends to collect at high points in the system and Sheffield’s hilly terrain creates plenty of those. Or maybe we just have badly designed sewers.

The lamp in the picture is in Broomhill and is one of twenty-two that still survive in the city. Nineteen of them are listed structures – although not all of them still work, some are incomplete and some are in poor condition.

Alan Cordwell has a page listing the sites of all 22 lamps.
He also has Wilf Jessop has created this pdf document with much more information and pictures.
My apologies to Wilf for not giving credit where it is due in the earlier version of this post!
A nice shot of a green version of a lamp – in rather better repair than the ones near my house!

I think I’m turning into Arnold J Rimmer! I’ve started photographing more of these lamps, Mr TLC says he is worried about me… Anyway, my Flickr photoset is here.

All twenty-two lamps are shown on the map below (or click here for a larger version):

4 comments to Gas Lamp

  • I have noticed that after I have had a curry at the excellent Kashmir Curry Centre on Spittal Hill, the sewer light near our house glows as brightly as a searchlight in a concentration camp. Wonder why?

  • Mark F

    You’ve missed two. one on foxhill road, down at Birley car.
    And the two on the bridge from Penistone road, to neepsend lane. Though those two are vandalised to bits.

  • Robin

    Are the opearational gas lamps still powered by the sewer? I remember one in London that was an original, but I think they had changed it to be powered by electricity.

    • Lois Lindemann

      As far as I know they still use sewer gas. I’ve been told this by various sources, including a local architect who had done an awful lot of research for a tour of Broomhill that included this particular lamp. It is certainly some sort of gas, it’s definitely a flame in the ones I’ve seen working, rather than a flickery electric effect. Can be hard to see though – needs the right light.