Sugg & Co
1837 - 1969
Rochester & Littleton
(This is an element of 'Lighting - Street Lamps')
The Regent, Littleton & Rochester Family of Gas Lights with Variants, including a Guide to the Recognition and Refurbishment of one of the most important and widely used Families of Gas Lights ever produced.
This range of gas lamps starts with the Regent in 1908 and in one form or another was manufactured in quantity by William Sugg & Co. Ltd for half a century with one of the largest ever orders received following the end of the Second World War to replace those damaged in London during the blitz. Spares and small quantities of lamps continued to be made right up to the 1960’s, particularly for the railways that had been a regular and substantial user. Following the takeover of the original Sugg Company, there was a relatively short gap before the Rochester lamp became a stalwart of the Sugg Lighting Company, formed with a group of ex William Sugg employees. Whilst becoming an electric fixture in its new guise, one model in particular was reconstructed for gas. This, the large Upright Rochester may still be seen, particularly in parts of Westminster, London, a very apt location considering that Westminster was the home of the Sugg business from its foundation in 1837.
Pictures of Rochester's running on
gas in Covent Garden 2007.
Position of the shadowless lamp in the history of gas lighting
Prior to the introduction of the suspended shadowless style of gas lamp that is considered here, there had not been much progress beyond the traditional box shaped lantern for the lighting of streets. From the early days of gas at the end of the 18th century, the open flame batswing or fishtail type of flat flame burner provided a very modest performance when placed in these all-glazed box shaped enclosures which were designed purely to protect the flame from the wind and weather. The use of a gas flame was only one step from the wick of the oil lamp and in both the flame flickered and threw what light it could largely sideways and upwards, often leaving sufficient of a shadow close to the lamp post to disguise the presence of a footpad ready to jump out on the unwary.
William Sugg was very aware of the shadow thrown by the ribs of a conventional frame lantern but whilst the flame burned upwards it was difficult to arrange the burner so that it did not produce shadows. A range of decorative interior fixtures known by the name ‘Cromartie’ was designed by his son David Sugg in the 1880’s which did achieve a shadowless result. However, the burner design did not allow for the multiple high performance use necessary for street lighting and it remained a highly decorative interior fixture. See Lighting/Interior Lighting/Cromartie.
Effect of the introduction of electricity
Once the introduction of the electric arc lamp had galvanised the gas industry into action in the last quarter of the 19th century and the almost impossibly fragile gas mantle had developed into a more practical lighting device, we begin to see how these developments influenced the design of a new type of light.
The inverted mantle was introduced in 1903 but it was not until 1908 that the Regent lamp was introduced as the first of the new breed of “shadowless” lamp. Never before had such a large candle power been obtained from a wind and weather proof lamp of such small dimensions. The Regent utilised the large No 4 and No 6 size mantles on separate gas and air regulators. It was not until 1911 that the superheated cluster was introduced. This cluster was commonly known as the Littleton type and thousands of Regent lamps were converted from No 4 size mantle to the Littleton principle. The Littleton lamp is thus a superheated cluster version of the Regent. More information on the development of these burners in Lighting/Burners.
The Regent may well have been inspired by earlier suspension lamps such as the Chertsey and the Newark illustrated below which utilised upright mantles within a glass globe suspended below a circular shade reflector.
The Newark exhibits a number of interesting features some of which are used on later developments. Access to the twin upright mantle burner and the inside of the glass for cleaning is achieved through a section at the bottom of the globe which hinges down. The body is wind and rain proof which allows for remote control with a second supply pipe providing a permanent pilot. The 'Mercurial Seal' is designed to prevent gas leaching out of the pipework when a remote tap has turned off the supply. The problem that this overcomes is two-fold. Where several lamps are being controlled together there is no delay and they all light together. The more significant problem that the seal eliminates is related to air mixing with the coal gas back up the pipework. Under certain circumstances this mixture can reach explosive levels such that when turned on, there is explosive ignition within the mantle which is thereby ruined. Those readers who experienced 'towns gas' manufactured from coal will also have experienced the 'pop' frequently heard when lighting the gas on a cooker or fire.
The controls developed for the Rochester & Littleton lamps include the DCD or Distant Control Device and the CCS - or Central Control System which both provide a similar measure of control over gas leaching out of the system and air replacing it.
Surprisingly, at first sight to the 21st century mind, these 'old fashioned' designs continued to be manufactured alongside the Regent. This, however, ‘hedges the bet’ that the new design will be taken up whilst also ensuring that customers of the earlier design do not feel upstaged. Imagine what would happen if a car manufacturer introduced a new model whilst leaving the old one in production!
The List 11, for January 1912 “Lamps and Fittings” catalogue below, illustrates the Regent on the cover with the same body shape as the Littleton. You need to look closely to see two of the multiple gas and air regulators and also the large mantles.
The confusion over names due to the series of developments of the same lamp
The confusion over the names of various generations of the Littleton lamp is well illustrated by the page, above, taken from a lecture by J.W.Lofts, a Director of William Sugg & Co., at the Technical College, Huddersfield in November 1924.
Both the ‘upright’ and ‘wall bracket’ models have bodies much closer in style to the Rochester then the earlier Littleton, itself more recognisable in the suspended form in the same illustration.
The retro fitting of the later technology
A major effort was made in due course to convert street lamps to the superheated cluster of small mantles. By 1912 hundreds of thousands of lamps were being converted all over the world because it had been demonstrated that the Littleton principle both developed the greatest illuminating duty from the gas consumed and reduced the maintenance cost of mantles. The fact that the traditional square lanterns continued to be sold, despite their obvious disadvantages compared to the new lanterns, is almost certainly because of the huge numbers of 8 ft to 10 ft posts which would also have needed to be replaced to take best advantage of the extra power available. Bear in mind that the levels of acceptable illumination meant that a 14” Windsor would frequently have only 1 No.1 mantle and a 16” only 2!
Although it is possible to recognise the basic models quite easily there are many variations on the theme which can provide a moments uncertainty! The reflector can vary in both diameter and shape and there are even models with parabolic reflectors and others with hexagonal opal glass shades. Name indicators attached to the edge of the reflector are very rare because they were made of glass. Enamelled reflectors that hang down vertically from either side of the reflector, following the shape of the globe, are more likely to have survived. More unusual are “squat patterns” in which the body height has been dramatically reduced as they say “for low headways”. The “Holyhead” is a small wall bracket mounted Rochester without a reflector designed for “porches, verandas, passage ways, latrines, etc”! It has an overall height of just 12” and the projection from wall to centre line is only 6”. In the 1930’s the art deco mood produced chromium plated Littleton’s with octagonal panelled globe and Rochester’s with a similar octagonal globe which was frequently used as an advertising sign - at the extra cost of 9/- per panel. The railways even used a suspension model with an opal Perspex shade in later days.
Confusion due to upgrading and sometimes modern conversions.
On the basis that the Littleton is a superheated cluster version of the Regent and the Rochester is a storm proof version of the Littleton, a major confusion comes about when a Regent has been converted to the “Littleton principle”. However, this inevitably leaves the extra holes in the largest diameter of the body which previously had supported the individual gas and air mixing arrangements for the individual large mantles.
You will also find that because the upright models are somewhat less popular for domestic applications and carry larger reflectors than their suspended brothers, they are occasionally the subject of a major modification to make them look like a suspended model. This is not that easy because upright models have fixed reflectors with the globe held in a hinged ring which swings down below the reflector and between the upright arms. The suspended and wall mounted lamps on the other hand have reflectors which are hinged directly and support the globe in a recessed space within the reflector itself. I have seen upright models with the arms reversed (converted to electricity) and suspended from the lamp post collar! I have also seen uprights converted by removing the shade completely, blanking off the position of the suspension ears for the upright arms and running a piece of chain through a hole drilled in the top knob decoration! None of these things are crimes but if you are looking to purchase a nice example for display you want a genuine one.
There are an extraordinary number of sizes! When one considers the standardisation that is so essential in manufacturing these days in order to stay competitive, it is truly remarkable that Sugg’s found it worthwhile making this huge range. It does of course reflect the Victorian engineering view and the flexibility that plenty of cheap labour provides. As all the circular components such as the reflectors and bodies were spun by hand and the company had its own foundry in the basement to provide the castings for the various iron superheaters and cast brass components and row upon row of assembly staff, variety was the spice of life!
Starting with the Regent, the September 1910 catalogue lists 6 models with from 1 to 6 No.4 mantles in 4 body sizes all 6 of which are offered in “Strong Copper Case” or the smaller 4 in “Enamelled Steel Case”.
Both the Rochester and Littleton lamps were manufactured in a large number of sizes and the tables below from 1937 provide the basic dimensions from which it should be possible to identify any particular lamp. Note that each model is available in a number of body sizes, several of which have an alternative number of mantles—or ‘lights’ as they are known. Thus a 4 light (or commonly 4 lt) lamp is a lamp with 4 mantles.
Sizes and prices (in 1937) for the Rochester (above) and Littleton (below)
As you will
see from these tables, the largest fixture is the 15 lt Rochester,
although the body size for this number of mantles is the same as for
both 12 lt and 10 lt. It is worthy of note that the City of Westminster
has always used 6lt burners in 12 lt (or 15 lt) casings for their
‘upright’ Rochester’s which can still be seen all over Westminster. I
believe this decision was taken in order to increase the scale of the
fixture to be more in keeping with the multitude of original and very
substantial lamp posts, many of which have been in place since the days
of the enormous open flame lanterns discussed under