Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sheffield's sewer gas lamps get new lease of life

Sewer Gas Destructor Lamp, Stewart Road, Sheffield Image copyright Historic England
Image caption Twenty of Sheffield's sewer gas lamps have been Grade II listed by Historic England - including this one on Stewart Road in Sheffield

Gas street lamps originally invented to burn off dangerous sewer gas are being restored in Sheffield.

JE Webb's cast iron Sewer Gas Destructor Lamps were designed to burn methane and other stagnant gases which regularly accumulated in urban Victorian sewers.

They were erected all around the country between 1914 and 1935.

Sheffield once had more than 80 of the lamps and now has 25, 20 of which are Grade II listed.

Residents began campaigning for the lamps to be restored when the city council's replacement of every lamppost began, as part of the 25-year Streets Ahead road improvement programme.

How Sewage Gas lamps worked

Image copyright Geograph/Martin Speck
Image caption The Kent Road Sewer Gas Destructor Lamp, Sheffield
  • JE Webb of Birmingham invented the Sewage Gas Destructor Lamps for places which had pockets of gas, often at the top of hills
  • Burning mantles created intense 700F heat in the lamp-hood, drawing up sewer gases
  • As the gases passed through the lamp into the air, smells and bacteria were destroyed by the heat
  • Sheffield has four gas-powered lamps, which will remain so after their restoration

Nicola Wray, of Historic England, said: "These lamps are notable survivals of a type of street furniture which were once common, but are increasingly rare.

"Combining them with sewer vents was an ingenious way of safely disposing of sewer gases which could otherwise lead to explosions."

Image copyright Geograph/Martin Speck
Image caption The lamps are across the city, many in hilly areas including on Mulehouse Road in Crookes, Brincliffe Edge Road in Nether Edge, Upper Albert Road in Meersbrook and Burnaby Crescent in Walkley
Image copyright Geograph/Stephen Richards
Image caption All working Gas Destructor Lamps were converted to mains gas over 20 years ago. Four in Sheffield are gas and the others are being electrified

Some lamps, now more than 100 years old, have been vandalised or have lost parts over time, and will get new lanterns and arms.

They will be repainted and powered by solar power LED lights to replicate the original lighting.

The work is due to be finished by December.

Councillor Bryan Lodge said: "The lamps provide a nostalgic reminder of days gone by and remain lasting landmarks of Sheffield's celebrated heritage."

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