We need to keep the flame burning

A sewer gas destructor lamp on Stewart Street in Sheffield, which has been added to the National Heritage List.
A sewer gas destructor lamp on Stewart Street in Sheffield, which has been added to the National Heritage List.
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Have your say

I was delighted to see your feature on Historic England new listings, and especially the sewer gas destructor lamp.

Although hundreds were installed, not only in the United Kingdom but as far afield as Australia and Singapore, in all kinds of places from street corners to hospital mortuaries, only around 50 survive today, and Sheffield has 25 of these.

This makes our collection the largest and most important in the world.

Recognising this, in the early 1980s the council converted 18 of the surviving lamps to natural gas (the lamps need to burn mains gas so that the sewer gas is drawn off and burnt as well), and most of them were still working in 1995 when 19 lamps were legally protected by listing.

For some reason, the Stewart Road lamp was missed, until I and others asked Historic England to list it, but it is one of the best, and now beautifully repainted by a member of Sharrow Vale Community Association.

Since the 1980s, I’m sorry to say that the council have neglected them, and gradually they have gone out until today only four burn gas, although most of the rest are almost certainly still able to do so if maintained properly.

Streets Ahead plan to refurbish the lamps, but also proposed to extinguish them and fit LEDs.

After pressure from conservation and neighbourhood groups, a successful online petition and firm negotiation from the council’s own excellent conservation officers, they agreed to allow the four that still burn gas to continue to do so, and to do nothing that would prevent the remainder from being restored to gas operation.

But we need them to do more: these internationally significant assets have been allowed to deteriorate, and the Council should be using a small amount of the vast Streets Ahead budget to put right their neglect, reconnect the gas, and keep the flame burning for the next generation.

J Robin Hughes

Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35