194A. Gateacre Brow, Belle Vue, Liverpool With thanks to Lighting Gallery's 'Frontsidebus' for posting details of these Survivors. Situated along the length of this road are several 20 ft (6 m) steel poles, with three of these still supporting vintage Wardle 'Liverpool' lanterns dating from 1933-4 in 2022. These lanterns are the sole remainders of a much larger lighting scheme across the City of Liverpool that formed the first commercial low-pressure sodium installation in the UK. Such was the newness of the LPS technology at the time that very few luminaires existed, resulting in the Lighting Engineer, P.J. Robinson, designing a product himself, which then went into full production by Wardle Engineering of Manchester. Although no further orders of Liverpool lanterns from other parts of the UK materialised (leaving these unique to that city), this pioneering lantern is the forerunner to all other LPS lanterns that would be produced in the following seven decades, before LED technology (finally) sounded the death knell for the LPS lamp in 2019.
The first of the original installations is located at the top of the hill, near the Acrefield Road / Rose Brow junction. Ironically, the next column along (visible to the left, in the background, and obscured by tree foliage) now supports a Hardie 'Jewel' LED lantern, which was installed at some point between April and November 2015, replacing another Liverpool. The lights are fed on an overhead electricity supply, with the columns not containing base compartments.
The brackets appear to be made by Stewart & Lloyd, going on their design, and are possibly later replacements for original brackets, which may have seen the lantern positioned more centrally over the carriageway. The lamp control gear is housed in the box that is attached to the column shaft below the bracket.
After nearly 90 years' service, these old ladies are looking decidedly weathered, but are not defeated. Early research on lantern optics suggested that a cut-off distribution was most appropriate for optimum distribution of the then-new low-pressure sodium lamps, resulting in these rather ungainly, industrial-looking boxes being produced. Before long, as more research was conducted, and a greater understanding of the lamp operating characteristics emerged, semi cut-off distributions were determined to provide a better spread of light, with cut-off distributions being reserved for more specialist locations, such as where lanterns were situated adjacent railway lines and airfields, where the characteristic 589 nm wavelength colour could cause confusion to operatives.
The undersides of the lanterns are (intentionally) left open - they were not designed to accommodate any sort of cover beneath the lamps. Designed for 140 Watt SO/H lamps, the lanterns now run 90 Watt SOX lamps instead, which are the same physical size and run off the same control gear as the earlier lamps did. Two patterned curved glass mirrored reflectors situated either side of the lamp provide distribution of the beam onto the carriageway. The wingnuts visible externally in the corners of the lantern frame allow these reflectors to be adjusted, depending on whether the mounting height is 20 ft or 25 ft (7·62 m).
The next of the three surviving Liverpools is to be found approximately half-way along the short road.
Keeping the overhead wiring working looks to be a labour of love, although the fact that the columns are wired in this way is possibly how they have managed to survive for so long, especially if the cost of obtaining new supplies from an underground source would be considerable.
This lantern appears to be held together with insulation tape, while a cable tie provides a rudimentary means of supporting the lamp, following the loss of the original lamp support within the lantern.
The third (and final) Liverpool installation is located near the Halewood Road / Grange Lane junction. The background column (still of the same vintage as these) supports a Philips MA 90 90 Watt SOX lantern. With the MA series being about the last new low-pressure sodium main road lanterns produced, this picture provides an excellent comparison between old and new, and shows how the technology and knowledge improved in the intervening 40 years, or thereabouts.
The wiring to this column also looked decidedly precarious.
Tape had been used to keep this lantern together too. The overall appearance of the lanterns (and relative lack of corrosion) can be attributed to their panels being aluminium - although the first example seen could be cast iron, which would make it an older (and original) version.
Over-exposing the image allowed the insides of the lantern to be seen in all of their faded glory. Sadly, the facing mirrored reflector is damaged, although the lamp support appears to be extant in this example. The symmetrical appearance of the lantern, with protruding pieces at either end, serve to allow the long lamps to be slotted into position - the lampholder is situated in the rear protrusion, and the empty front protrusion would be where the front of the lamp would be placed temporarily before being pushed back into the lampholder.
Fellow collector Simon Cornwell discusses his own Wardle Liverpool here, while the meticulous restoration is detailed here.
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