Did you ever hear the one about Farting Lane?
Well firstly, ‘Farting Lane’ is actually ‘Carting Lane’, the one right by the Savoy Hotel. The story goes that the street lamp here was fueled by both mains gas and the noxious gasses from the sewers below. The thinking behind this great scheme was to attempt to veer away the wafting stench away from the hotel guests. The lamp that stands here today is a replica, the original was damaged by a reversing lorry – a great enemy of the street lamp apparently.
Recently we learned that not only is there truth behind this old London legend but there are in fact some 1,500 gas lamps still lighting the way on London’s streets today, albeit without any connection to the sewers. Even more interesting and heart warming is the fact that there are 5 dedicated engineers charged solely with the care and maintenance of these remaining vestiges of street illumination within Westminster.
Each night the dedicated team dutifully tend to their luminous wards. They clean away soot, repair them when they fail and every 10 days the engineers wind up the little clocks at the heart of the lamp, a job that can only be done by hand. The clock is a timer that triggers automatic lighting according to the season so they do not need lighting every night.
Some of these gas lamps are over 150 years old, and a few even older than that! In today’s London where we are often flooded with light by night, so much so that we can barely see the stars, these gas lamps gently glow with the wisened comforting confidence of an elder story teller. For those that care to stop and listen, they whisper secrets and tales of an old London. A London where ‘link-boys‘ and ‘Pluto lamps‘ still make a shilling on our streets.
If you want to seek out the gas lamps by night, you can find some along Pall Mall, outside Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden and Westminster Abbey to name but a few locations.
Cheers Hiro for seeking out and snapping these for us!