Gas lighting in the streets early-to-mid 20th century
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
When I was a child in the early 1900s, the street lights ran on gas and were lit by teams of lamplighters.
How gas street lights worked
Street lights gave out more light than house lights because there were more gas jets to a lamp, each with its own mantle. When the mantles needed replacing, which was more often than they were actually replaced, the light flickered so that shadows seemed to move.
The light from the street lamps
The light from the gas street lamps was greenish, eerie and flickering. Both my father and I on separate occasions thought we saw a woman ghost in our front bedroom, but I didn't want to think of such things and put it down to the eeriness of the flickering shadows.
Gas street lamps gave out a circle of light which didn't spread far. In between the lamp posts was dark.
Clockwork timers for gas street lamps
Shortly after the Second World War clockwork timers started being installed in street lamps. Then the light came on automatically every evening and went off automatically every morning - which meant the end of the lamplighter. Nevertheless, every so often a man with a ladder would still visit each lamp to wind up the clockwork mechanism.
Also every so often during the day a man came round with a ladder to service the lamps or to repair the panes of glass that often got broken. Council men would also come round to paint the lamp posts which were made of cast iron.