Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Looking Backwards

In our conservation area of London, we had elegant and simple street lighting. A plain iron pole with an arched, “crane’s neck” top, distributed a mellow, yellowish light on to the street and pavement below.

            Then, one day, a notice appeared through the door asking for a considerable monetary contribution to pay for a change from these lights to fake gas lamps “converted” to electricity.

            Considering that these were in excessively bad taste (“taste” being very subjective) we declined – but to no avail.

            The pantomime set, “Victorian”, gas lamps are up and running, far taller than would meet with the approval of a lamp lighter – who would also have too high a cross piece on which to rest his ladder. They spread a harsh, cold light.

Ornamentation consists of moulded collars, slipped down the poles to be attached by screws. These are meant to represent the shapes of Victorian cast iron originals, in use when gas lighting was invented. I think that a royal personage would approve of the conversion.

Who instigated this rearward-looking move? Perhaps it was owners of houses in a nearby, late Georgian square who rent out their abodes to film-makers of period dramas. But even to an artistic director, these lampposts will still not look quite right.     Will the next monetary request be for plastic half timbering to nail on to our houses?

Change is inevitable and necessary. But surely change in buildings and street furniture should represent the period in which we live. Thank heavens the Georgians did not copy Stuart architecture, or architects in the early twentieth century the Victorians (well, some did).

What it has done is to make us much more aware of real, original, cast iron street furniture, which is viewed with renewed affection.