Farewell to former engineer who lit Sheffield's streets

A former chief lighting engineer who oversaw the disappearance of Sheffield's final gas lamps has died aged 97.

Monday, 8th August 2016, 1:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:16 pm
Joseph Woodhouse

During a long career, Joseph Woodhouse, from Fulwood, rose up the ranks to take charge of the local lighting network, and masterminded the engineering side of the famous Sheffield Christmas lights in the 1960s.

Paying tribute to his father, Joseph’s son Peter said he was a ‘man of principle’ who was ‘always prepared to help other people’.

Joseph was brought up with three younger sisters on Martin Street, Upperthorpe, in a yard of terrace houses demolished as part of the slum clearances of the 1950s.

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He attended Crookesmoor Junior and Infant School, as well as scouts at the nearby Unity Church. Joseph passed the scholarship to grammar school, but his father Charles, a steelworker, refused to let him go because of the cost, and the expectation that he would leave early to take on a job.

But his father was persuaded by a scoutmaster, and a minister at Unity, to allow him to study at the Central Technical School, where the headteacher enabled Joseph to secure a job as an office boy at the city lighting department.

Peter said scouts, and attendance at Unity, were ‘the critical factors’ in Joseph’s life. He became a scout leader, and a lay preacher, and met his wife of 65 years Kathleen, who died in 2011, at church.

During the Second World War the lifelong pacifist was classified as a conscientious objector, and he carried on working in lighting.

After becoming deputy engineer in Sheffield in 1949, Joseph acted as engineer for Derby from 1951 to 1960, before returning as chief to Sheffield from 1960 to 1974, when the switch from gas to electricity was completed.

He finished his career at South Yorkshire County Council from 1974 to 1980. Joseph also served as president of the Association of Public Lighting Engineers, and after retirement helped to run training courses for new engineers.

In his spare time, Joseph enjoyed the theatre, opera and, with Kathleen, trips to the Lake District, Cornwall and the Alps. He had four children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and died peacefully at home on July 19. The funeral is at Fulwood Old Chapel from 1.45pm on Friday, August 5. Donations to Aid for Himalayan Education.