The Lamplighter in Palterton

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The street lighting in Palterton during the 1930's and early 1950's was a few gas lamps dotted along Back Lane and Main Street.  These lamps attracted a regular evening visit at dusk by the local lamplighter.

The lamp posts were the usual cast iron version with the four sided glass housing for the mantle at its top and just below it, the rod on which he rested his hooked ladder when any maintenance was undertaken.

Such maintenance was done in the day time on a rota basis about once a week when any broken mantles were exchanged and the glass windows required washing.  A maintenance visit was obvious for he would have with him his ladder and a bucket of water and scrim to wash the glasses.

Often he did this trip on his bicycle and what with one thing and another he would sometimes be seen wobbling his way between lamps.

A typical village gaslamp

There must have been a manual laying down the correct procedure for he always went through his routine of approaching each lamp with his already lit pole resting on leather lined shoulder.

He would push his pole up the gap by the gas pipe on the underside of the lamp after giving a yank to the see saw pivot which turned on the gas supply, his pole having on its end a brass hook specially designed for this purpose.  The metallic section of his pole had within it a small container of kerosene and a wick and this was used to ignite the gas mantle.

Gas lamps gave a beautiful soft light and some people believed they were "romantic".  Perhaps in the early part of the twentieth century couples did their courting beneath these lights.  The soft glow of these lights is said to have inspired scenes in C. S. Lewis's Narnia stories for children.

Most certainly from around 1930, maybe earlier to the early 1950's, these gas lamps attracted the village children during the late autumn and winter months.  Children were attracted to these lamps like moths.

There was a gas lamp on Back Lane opposite Ten Row and another one at the bottom of Thirteen Row.

Games of hide and seek, "can a' lurkey" and other games were played around these lamps, but that's another chapter in the life of the village in yesteryear.

Gaslights, though enthusiatically celebrated by people that remember them, may not have withstood modern demands. Their brightness was not good. The moonlight met and often exceeded the candle power of these street lamps.

Nevertheless they are part of the heritage of Palterton and without these gas lamps, the village would have resembled "war time", when there was a complete "black out" - a very dark place indeed!

An autumn sunset in the village of Palterton looking west over the Doe Lea valley. Photo courtesy of Neil Helsby.
There was no electricty supplied to Palterton prior to 1939, though in March of that year, Balfour Beatty & Co. Ltd. submitted a suggestion to supply electricity to the village at an estimated cost of 1,750.

The Lamplighter in Palterton


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Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 1 October 2010