Gas lamp

A gas lamp on Rose Street in Covent Garden.

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Art and antiques specialist Luke Honey and antiquarian book dealer Tim Bryars are continuing to raise awareness of the risk to the historic lamps.

There are around 260 working gas lamps in central London. In 2021 Westminster City Council revealed plans to install “like-for-like lanterns on non-listed lamp columns and gas effect LEDs” in areas including Cecil Court (an antiques ‘hub’ full of dealers and a Sworders auction house office) 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) and then launched a month-long consultation (as reported in ATG No 2564) and has U-turned on some of its plans.

The council said it has now decided to “halt the proposed conversion of 174 gas lamps to LED. The 174 gas lamps include 138 Grade II-listed gas lamps and 36 non-listed gas lamps in prominent positions across the city.”

It said it will still go ahead with the conversion of 94 non-listed gas lamps to LED.

Gas lights on Cowley Street

Gas lights on Cowley Street in Westminster.

The London Gasketeers said: “We cautiously welcome the news that Westminster City Council has dropped plans to electrify all of its remaining gas lamps. We have been overwhelmed by the extraordinary outpouring of support - a reminder that London is a world city, and Westminster's heritage belongs to everyone.

“However, the Westminster statement leaves the door open for the piecemeal removal of gas lamps at a later date. We want a firm commitment from the council for their long-term preservation. The wording of which lamps are safe (for now) is also ambiguous.

“If 174 lamps are to be maintained, it makes more sense to retain all 275. What unique problems afflict the lamps which are under sentence? And maintaining a critical mass of lamps – to support the skilled lamplighters – is vital. We’re glad that the council now acknowledges that their original position was untenable, but the devil is in the detail. The London Gasketeers will not be disbanding any time soon.”