Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


World Heritage Lighting Strategy

A groundbreaking lighting strategy for the World Heritage Site is currently being drafted as a joint project between EWH and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Feb 11, 2010

A groundbreaking lighting strategy for the World Heritage Site is currently being drafted as a joint project between EWH and the City of Edinburgh Council. As part of the strategy, a pilot project will be carried out in Scotland Street to establish standards for lighting in the New Town.

EWH has previously funded installations of historical lighting in Edinburgh’s New Town, on streets where the modern concrete lamps have deteriorated. On the initiative of the residents association, new lights for the street were modelled for Lynedoch Place after originals from the southwest corner of Charlotte Square and from Ann Street. Defective modern lights have also been replaced in a similar project for Claremont Street, by the same company that installed the original lanterns in the 19th century; Suggs Lighting Ltd, established in 1837.

Original historic lamps are sparse in the New Towns today, but there is evidence of 19th century lighting on many streets. Two square indents, about six inches apart on the base stone can be seen along the rails in New Town. These can indicate the location of the original lamp posts, or in some cases boot scrapers when near a door. It is likely that there were plans to light those streets that lack these traces. The design details and patterns for New Town lighting also had subtle differences from one street to the next, adding diversity to the architecture.

The new lighting strategy will offer guidelines for the replacement of modern street lighting that falls into disrepair in the New Town. It will give advice on a more historically considerate approach but also allow for new design where appropriate.

New Town street lighting

Wrought iron oil lanterns can still be found on Charlotte Square and York Place.  Some cast iron standards that were put up privately still exist on Heriot Row, Queen Street, Ann Street, Howard Place and Northumberland Street.

The committee of Commissioners of Police of the Lighting Department commissioned rail mounted street lights with public funding in 1819. There are surviving examples on George Street, Stafford Street, in the Advocates Library and York Place. Most oil lamps were taken down in the 1820s to give way for new gas lights that were mounted on the pavements. These however were inspired by draw the design of oil lamps.

Edinburgh’s street lanterns were powered by whale or train oils in the late 18th and early 19th centuries giving a rather sparse light, which was only provided in the winter. Sir John Carr reported that one July night that he had to feel his way from George Square over North Bridge to St Andrew Square. The oil was also very valuable and versatile; causing Russian sailors to climb the light posts and make off with the oil for use in cooking, and resulting in a dark street.

From 1815 the oil standard was beginning to give way to gas pipes. This was considered a great wonder, ‘most beautiful and brilliant’ as expressed by George Combe. ‘What folly, to have a diamond necklace or a Correggio, and not to light your house with gas’, thought Sydney Smith in 1820.

‹ Return to List
Recent Projects

From the three year Twelve Monuments Project to the major restoration of Well Court.

Who We Are

EWH staff directory and biographies.

Support Us

Find out how you can help support our work.


© Edinburgh World Heritage. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Cookie Policy
5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD. T: 0131 220 7720. E: info@ewht.org.uk
Registered in Scotland No.195077. Scottish charity No. SC037183


Website by Urwin Digital