174b. Hamstead Road, Great Barr, Birmingham With thanks to YouTube user "Jack B" for informing me of these Survivors. Installed along the full length of the road are a number of Stanton '6' 25 ft (8 m) concrete columns, with many of these continuing to support Thorn Alpha 1 90 Watt SOX lanterns in 2020, despite virtually all of the columns having had their original 1950s' B-type concrete brackets replaced with sleeve brackets in the 1990s; the Alpha 1s being transferred to the new brackets at the time, rather than new lanterns being used. As these Alpha 1s are not the original Atlas type, I am inclined to believe that they may not be the original lanterns for these columns; nevertheless, the timeless design of this lantern ensures that it looks in-keeping, regardless of the age of the column to which it is attached.

The Alpha 1s are (largely) in very good condition; we start at an example with a particularly clean Opticell unit.

NEMA photocells are fitted to all of the lanterns; these may be factory-fitted (which would confirm that they are not the original lanterns), but just as equally, may have been added to the lanterns in more recent years, even though the internal construction of the Alpha 1 does not lend itself to easy modification on site. The majority of the photocells appear to be made by Royce Thompson, which was based in Birmingham for many years before relocating to Leeds more recently.

A Philips SOX lamp is seen within the Opticell unit. Given that Philips ceased production of SOX lamps in 2019 (effectively, ending worldwide production in the process), these veteran lanterns can only survive for as long as the Local Authority has stocks of spare lamps.

The following installation was much the same.

This example's Opticell wasn't quite as pristine, however.

A 1980s' replacement was next - by then, Stanton had discontinued the manufacture of the bulky 6 Series of columns; the less monolithic octagonal 18 Series now being the closest match.

The revised grub screw positions on this Alpha 1's rear casting (the same as on my EMI example) confirm that this is a later Alpha 1, and probably is the original lantern for this installation. The current style of Oasis 1000 photocell is employed here.

The next few columns saw a return to the 6 Series.

An older Oasis 1000 was fitted here.

Columns sleeved in the 2000s didn't see their lanterns re-used; instead, these sleeves were designed to accommodate a lantern mounted post-top, with the new lanterns being WRTL Vectras. An example of this is visible in the background of the picture below.

This Alpha 1 too had received a new photocell in the not-too-distant past.

The sun was moments away from appearing from behind the last of the day's clouds when this picture was taken - I had to hurry to take this picture and not have the installation captured in silhouette only!

The Opticell's upper prismatic section is demonstrated to good effect here.

Time to start photographing from the other side of the column, now that the sun is out!

Lengths of insulation tape of various colours are wrapped around the ends of the sleeve brackets; I assume that this is some sort of colour code system that is used for identifying when lanterns were re-lamped last.

A Zodion photocell was fitted to the lantern in the background; one of a small number that had managed to sneak onto Royce Thompson's home turf.

Another 1808 column, this time, seen with a short outreach bracket, was spotted on the adjacent Tanhouse Avenue.

I am not as much of a fan of this lantern and bracket combination - the Alpha 1 seems a bit long for the reduced outreach.

Back on Hamstead Road, and another 1808 bracket length is spotted.

A large tree surrounded this installation; surprisingly, however, the Opticell was clean internally - the 1950s' sales blurb regarding the lamp being housed within a weatherproof enclosure was true here!

I'm not sure that it covered overhanging foliage obscuring the lantern, however...

As a brief digression, I noticed that many of the neighbouring side streets lit with Thorn Beta 2 lanterns had had their original refractor bowls and 55 Watt SOX lamps / gear trays replaced with completely transparent bowls and an LED gear tray. I assume that the replacement bowls were fitted in an attempt to reduce the 'stripe' effect produced when light produced by LEDs passes through refractors.

I am informed that this installation received a 'new' Opticell in summer 2016.

I assume that this must have been a second-hand Opticell removed from a scrap Alpha 1, given that it has a damaged front end, which has allowed dirt to gather in the lantern.

Ingress of a more liquid-based variety troubled the next lantern.

The rainwater had evaporated, leaving a rusted mark in its wake.

The next two installations retained their original B-type brackets.

The concrete is beginning to crack around its attachment to the lantern, and also, just below the point at which it fixes to the column.

Interestingly, the two B-type brackets are both slightly different in their design, with the background example being the older type that was designed in the 1930s, and the foreground example being the modified design from the 1950s.

The newer design features a smaller rear 'fin'; the reduction in its protrusion removing the small triangular open section that existed in the original design. The concrete is cracking quite badly around the column join here too.

Both installations again, from a slightly different angle.

Internal salts exposed by the cracking have deposited down the column shaft.

The final few columns were sleeved. This lantern's Opticell didn't appear to have any damage, and yet, a swarm of dead wasps was present within it.

This example had a slight lean to it - it is situated adjacent a bus turning area, and so, may have been knocked at some point...though I'm sure that the bus came off worst in that fight!

A rather grubby Opticell manifested itself here too.

A nearby footpath leading to Walcot Drive was home to an 1805 concrete column supporting a 1960s' Revo Lucidor 'B' 35 Watt SOX (originally, 45 - 60 Watt SO/H and SOI/H) lantern. Given the structural issues that are now known to exist with the 1805 style of column, I am amazed that this installation has survived, given that there is no vehicular access to it, and that using ladders to reach the lanterns for maintenance is strongly discouraged for this column type.


As can be seen, the bowl's securing catch has failed, requiring a cable tie to be wrapped around the lantern, in order to secure the bowl.

An identical setup existed at the start of Walcot Drive.

The bowl clip on this example had failed too.

The bowl, being polycarbonate, has discoloured over time - originally, it would have been colourless and transparent.

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