Sewer Gas Lamp, High Stanners

Article written in 2013 by Barry Mead, then Heritage Officer with Greater Morpeth Development Trust

Morpeth’s last remaining sewer gas lamp has been conserved and was re-erected on the High Stanners close to the Skinnery footbridge in June.

Sewer gas lamps were invented in the 1890s by a Birmingham man, Joseph Webb,   primarily to destroy sewer smells and germs.  They were a great success as their rate of extraction is still regarded as fantastic, each lamp capable of ventilating ¾ mile of sewers. Some of these lamps even ventilated the septic tanks and post mortem rooms of large hospitals.  The Morpeth gas lamp was placed to vent sewer gases from the sewer siphon that runs under the river from the Mitford Rd side to the High Stanners. Places such as Sheffield, Hereford, Winchester, Poole, Hampstead and Weymouth all installed Webb sewer gas lamps but one of the last strongholds is nearby  Whitley Bay where the lamps have been converted to run on electricity. A sewer gas lamp in Seaton Sluice is Grade 2 Listed.

The Morpeth lamp isn’t Listed but, as the only remaining sewer gas lamp in Morpeth, it was considered worthy of conserving. Fortunately, the flood defence works proved an excellent catalyst for the project. The lamp was located on the line of one the proposed flood defence banks and therefore had to be moved. Barry Mead from GMDT liaised with the Environment Agency who generously agreed to lift the lamp and put it on a lorry which took the lamp down to a specialist conservator in Oldham. When the lamp was returned, the EA arranged to concrete the lamp into the agreed location (as close as possible to its original position). On top of all this the EA also contributed £1,500 towards the conservation cost.  NCC’s Conservation Team also contributed a similar amount for which we are extremely grateful.

It has not been possible to convert Morpeth’s lamp to run on electricity but at least we have saved a small but significant part of the town’s heritage.

Addendum April 2020: In fact there is a second sewer gas lamp in Morpeth, at the foot of Cottingwood Lane. This was also disconnected and restored – but has recently (within the last three months) suffered destructive “making safe” procedures at the hands of an uninformed utility company.

3 thoughts on “Sewer Gas Lamp, High Stanners

  1. As the article points out the lamp in Cottingwood Lane has been decapitated, sadly. However, looking at the lamp on Google Streetview, unusual as it was, it doesn’t appear to have been a Webb Destructor lamp. Even the remaining ‘trunk’ denies that claim as it’s too thin. It would be nice to see the original repaired properly as it’s a striking lamp. Why isn’t it Grade II listed? Why isn’t the High Stanners sewer gas lamp listed; most of the rest are?

    1. We were told some weeks back by a councillor that the Cottingwood Lane lamp, (whatever its nature and origin), which was removed just before the lockdown, was due to be restored, but with no timescale given. Indeed, the North Tyneside sewer gas lamps are listed and splendidly maintained, but Castle Morpeth and its successor the County Council did not seek to have the two lamps under discussion listed. The Stanners one is partly compromised as its head blew off in a storm a few years back; it was retrieved but too damaged to be reused and so another of slightly different design was sourced to complete the job of restoration when the lamp was slightly relocated during the Environment Agency floodworks.

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