Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Throwing a light on historic street lighting

EWH is researching historic street lighting in the World Heritage Site.

Jul 19, 2010

Do you have any historical photos, paintings or other materials that can help the research? You can e-mail images to us at info@ewht.org.uk or drop into the EWH office and we can scan any drawings or photos.

The on-going research has revealed many new aspects of historic street lighting in the World Heritage Site.

The first public street lighting was installed in 1684, when the Lord Provost bought 24 lanterns for oil lamps from London, but only the High Street and Cowgate were lit.

Gas lighting was introduced to Edinburgh in 1819 on North Bridge, and the Corporation then began to replace wooden poles with cast iron lamp standards. Five of these original standards still exist, on the north side of the Advocates' Library (visible from George IV Bridge, 125 George Street, 12/14 Stafford Street and at 22 and 38 York Place.

The architect W. Burn proposed a free-standing lamp design with fluted column and square base in 1827, which was accepted by the Corporation and later lights of this type were installed all over the city. The pavement-mounted gas lamp standards used to stand on a square stone block, and a few of these still survive in Edinburgh, typically showing five lead-filled holes.

Electricity was first used in 1881 with the trial installation of electric street lighting in Princess Street, Waverley Bridge and North Bridge.

During the Second World War the glass from the street lamps were removed, perhaps to prevent casualties from flying glass during bombing raids. The last gas lamp was switched off in 1965 in Ramsay Gardens, and was even celebrated with a small ceremony.

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