Gas lamp

A gas lamp on Rose Street in Covent Garden.

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They join supporters actor Simon Callow and historian and presenter Dan Cruickshank.

Launched by art and antiques specialist Luke Honey and antiquarian book dealer Tim Bryars, The London Gasketeers are raising awareness of the risk to 250 working gas lamps in central London.

In 2021 Westminster Council revealed plans to install “like-for-like lanterns on non-listed lamp columns and gas effect LEDs” in areas including Cecil Court and Covent Garden.

However following an initial campaign by The London Gasketeers, in January this year the council put its plans on hold (as reported in ATG No: 2528).

The council will now launch a month-long consultation on October 20 on the “replacement of gas lamps with high quality replica LED lamps”.

Tim Bryars

Antiquarian book dealer Tim Bryars lit by gas light outside his shop Bryars & Bryars on Cecil Court.

However The London Gasketeers want to widen the debate so that the consultation focuses on a discussion to keep the original lamps.

In a statement Bryars and Honey said: "Replicas aren’t the answer. The lamps use a minimal amounts of gas (we estimate that the Westminster lights use less gas than 40 typical patio heaters, and account for just 0.013% of overall Westminster carbon emissions). There are also growing concerns that the rush to install LED lighting across Europe could be potentially harmful to human health and wildlife.

"The council has cited safety concerns, but the brightness of the lamps can readily be adjusted and there is no shortage of spares or skills to maintain them indefinitely."

Joe O’Donnell, director of the Victorian Society, said: “Westminster Council’s plan to replace gaslights in areas of considerable heritage significance – often conservation areas with many surrounding listed buildings – is concerning.

“If Westminster is serious about reducing its carbon emissions, there are much better places to start. For example, preventing the demolition and rebuild of existing buildings which is hugely wasteful in carbon terms. Replacing the lamps’ pilot lights with electric ignition, as has been proposed but not implemented, would significantly reduce carbon emissions at a much lower cost than the £3m budgeted for conversion to LED with replacement lanterns.”

Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary, said: "These central London gas lamps are part of our heritage. Every year thousands of tourists flock to see them and it would be a tragedy if they were replaced in the name of modernisation. With the potential to convert them to hydrogen just around the corner, such a decision would be a short-sighted attack on our capital’s heritage."

Gas lights on Cowley Street

Gas lights on Cowley Street in Westminster.

Honey said the campaign had attracted wide support and its Instagram account has around 4000 followers. He added: "People feel very strongly that these lamps are of great historic interest and we are in danger of losing an important part of working history."

Bryars added: "As street lighting, these historic lamps are openly available to everybody. They are aesthetically pleasing and light the street in a beautiful way. We are also committed to the preservation of traditional skills associated with the maintenance of gas lighting technology."

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, cabinet member for City Management and Air Quality, said: "I'd like to offer reassurance that we will only consider installing replacement lamps that meet the highest possible standards of historical authenticity.

"No decision has been taken and we encourage people to share their views through our upcoming engagement review."

The consultation opens on October 20 at Westminster Council online.

Separately, The Victorian Society is also in discussion with the council regarding the removal of a gas lamp near Pall Mall, St James'.

The Victorian Society’s conservation adviser Connor McNeill, said: “The Victorian Society submitted a planning enforcement complaint to Westminster City Council last week regarding the removal and replacement of a gas lamp at the Grade II* listed 4 Pickering Place.

“As far as we are aware this was done without Listed Building Consent and therefore constitutes a criminal offence. It appears that the new lamp was installed some time before May 2021 and therefore it is unclear if this was part of Westminster’s project to replace gas lamps or an isolated incident. Thus, we do not know who was responsible for replacing the lamp. Westminster has confirmed receiving our complaint and I hope we will know more soon.”