Listing Protection for Westminster Gas Lamps
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Arts and Heritage Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has announced the listing of 4 historic gas lamps in Covent Garden, London.
The decision has been welcomed by Nickie Aiken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, the London Gasketeers, and the Victorian Society, who have requested the protection of the capital’s early streetlighting.
The 4 lampposts along Russell Street are part of a collection installed around Covent Garden in 1910 to mark the beginning of George V's reign.
They have been listed at Grade II as a result of a pilot project by Historic England to help inform ongoing discussions about the management of gas lamps in Westminster and beyond. Further listings are likely to follow.
London's gas lamps have been an integral part of the city's identity for more than two centuries. From the novels of Dickens and Conan-Doyle to Mary Poppins and The Muppet Christmas Carol, they have provided an evocative backdrop to many of our capital's most cherished scenes and locations. The particular lamps being listed today along Russell Street date back to the start of the reign of King George V, more than a century ago. They will now rightly be protected so that their inimitable glow can continue to brighten the lives of Londoners and millions of tourists for generations to come.
The London Gasketeers are delighted that all four Russell Street gas lamps now have legal protection, recognising their group value. Together, their distinctive light will help future generations appreciate the architecture and ambience of London a century ago, which is wonderful for walking tours of Westminster by gaslight. We are especially pleased that the listing includes one of the more modern lamps, installed following the successful campaign to save historic Covent Garden from demolition and redevelopment in the 1970s. Campaigners who won that battle appreciated the value of preserving the lamps in chains and clusters, as we do. These are the first Westminster gas lamps to be listed in 40 years, a milestone in our grassroots campaign, and it provides a model for protecting the remaining handful of survivors.
Street lighting fuelled by gas began in London. The first recorded demonstration worldwide of gas-powered street lamps was on Pall Mall in 1807. By 1823, public spaces across the country were lit by gas. There are now around 1,300 working gas lamps in London, with around 270 in Westminster. Of these 270, about half are currently listed.
Many surviving gas lamps are made up of columns, brackets and lanterns of different ages and styles. There are various standardised designs as well as now unique examples like the Grade II listed sewer gas destructor lamp on Carting Lane near the Savoy.
Gas lamps are an evocative part of our heritage, transporting you to the streetscape of another era. The more you look at them the more details you discover. These newly listed lamps enrich the character of this historic part of Covent Garden, and form part of a wider collection across Westminster. The 1910 columns and their 1930s ‘Upright Rochester’ style lanterns – designed to reduce shadow and improve distribution of light – help illustrate how streetlighting technology has evolved over time, in an area of particular importance to the development of gas-powered streetlighting.
Link to entries for newly listed gas lamps on the National Heritage List for England: