The last remaining streetlight that’s powered by the farts of Londoners
By the end of the 19th century, London was trying to shed its reputation as a stinky cesspool. Now, it had an expansive sewer network the trouble was; it was smelly and full of gas. Engineers proposed various ideas for aerating the sewers, and one of those schemes included lamps that would burn off the gases from the underground sewers and illuminate the streets above.
Methane was collected by a small dome in the sewer’s roof, with the gas then being diverted into the lamp on the street above.
Patented by British engineer Joseph Edmund Webb in the 1890s, the so-called ‘sewer gas destructor lamps’ were designed to extract gases from the pipes and burn them off at high heat. Thus, cremating all the germs and nauseous gases.
Not far from the world-famous Savoy Hotel lies an ingenious—if not slightly nauseating–piece of Victorian engineering. Situated in Carting Lane, you’ll find a modest-looking street lamp that most Londoners wouldn’t even notice. But this is no ordinary street light. This is a gas lamp with difference.
Although there aren’t any accurate details of how many of these lamps were supplied to London (a fire at the Webb Lamp Company some time ago destroyed all records), it is thought that Westminster, Hampstead and Shoreditch all placed large orders.
Unfortunately, a reversing lorry accidently knocked over the lamp some years ago, but it was subsequently restored by engineers from Thames Gas and is now protected by Westminster Council.
Some locals apparently still refer to Carting Lane as ‘Farting Lane’ in an affectionate jab at its past.
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