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image XF405

Gas lamp, designed by Julian Harrap Architects based on research by Helen Dorey (2003) and manufactured by Rupert Harris

Museum number: XF405

Curatorial note

This replica lamp was made as part of the 'Three courtyards' restoration project in 2003. Soane installed a gas lamp fixed to the north windowsill in the central Monument Court in 1828 and this is shown in several views and recorded in archive bills. During the restoration works, when the paint was stripped from the north window sill in the Monument Court, the original fixing holes for Soane's lamp were found. They were reused in the installation of this replica, plugging the holes with lead in the traditional manner.

The use of gas lighting in the early 19th century was a new technical innovation. Sir John Soane first introduced gas lighting to No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1828 when he paid John Anchor for 'gas apparatus and fitted up - pipe etc.' in the Monk's Yard, to light his medieval ruins there. The experiment there cannot have worked because it was removed after only a very short time. However, Soane paid for gas every quarter from 1828 onwards and had not only the lamp of which this is a replica, in his central courtyard, but one in his front porch (SM XF314).

The flame produced by gas was much brighter than that obtained from oil, which helped to popularise it - the disadvantage was the smell and that may explain why Soane only used it for external lights. It might also be that he preferred the softer light of candles and lamps in his interiors, despite having poor sight in his later years.

In 1819 the Trustees of Lincoln's Inn Fields paid the Gas Light and Coke Company for four large gas lamps with square lanterns on the north and south sides of the square (the firm of course also supplied Soane's gas). Hitherto the square had been lit wtih oil lamps but by 1824 all those remaining had been replaced by gas. Four of the obelisk bases for these older oil lamps were saved by Soane. Two can be seen in the Monk's Yard, at high level outside the Dressing Room window and two in the Basement West Corridor.

Associated objects

M445, another identical
MY30, another identical
my31, another identical
74/4/1, comparison

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk