What a marvellous invention. Pavel Yablochkov certainly knew his onions when he decided to hang some lamps from a stick and light up his sewage strewn alleyway. No more treading dog shit all over the Kazak rug and giving the baby thread worm. Yes Pavel my old son, you did us a big favour.
The metal pole that changed the lives of people all over the world is just as interesting today as would have been to the opened mouthed village idiot when the parish council installed the first one.
So how did the lamp post change people's lives? Let us start with the ordinary man in the street.
In the year 1690 London was a growing city. A typical man would leave for work in the early hours of the morning the street would be pitch black. If he was lucky, he may find his place of work without incident but records from that era make stark reading. It was reported that in one week two men walked into bollards ripping their genitalia off and leaving them with high pitched voices. The following week, a man was found wondering around a coal cellar singing "Ole man ribber".
Mr Duddy from West Ham fell into the River Thames thinking he was leaping a puddle. He drowned.
Women could not walk the streets without being accosted. Mrs Rundle a washer woman from Kensington was touched up seventeen times while walking up and down outside the barracks.
Life was pretty grim before the Lamp Post was installed on streets and alleyways all over the world.
In 1700 Great Britain took the street light into their hearts and demanded more and more of them to the point where foundries could not cope with orders and started using cardboard cut outs. New street lamp lighters lasted less than a day, either falling off ladders or setting themselves alight. In cities and towns blind and infirm people were used with devastating but hilarious consequences.
Jack the Ripper tried in vain to have them banned and the Gay Park Strollers Society lobbied parliament for a cap on the amount of Lamp Posts sited in St. Jamses Park. All to no avail because the people wanted their streets lit with rancid smelling animal fat. No longer did the candle maker have to rely on orders from the local Nunnery, it was a good time for the industry and many men made their fortune from boiling stray cats and dogs to meet the demand from councils all over the country.
In 1789 a man named Eric Pume from the village of Nisbie in Cornwall came up with the idea of using electricity to light up street lamps. He was stoned to death on the orders of the magistrate who thought he was a wizard. However, sometime later another man, Joseph Swan from the north east of England lit the street lamp outside his house with electricity. It was not earthed or insulated resulting in four dogs and an elderly drunk being electrocuted. After many similar incidents around the country the government passed a law that meant only local council could install electric street lights.
By 1800 the majority of streets in the country now had electric street lamps the transition was not a happy one. Gas lamp lighters went on strike. Some committed suicide by sticking their fingers in the sockets and waiting for lighting up time. Candle manufacturers no longer had a use for stray cats and dogs which led to packs of rabid animals attacking anyone that looked like an industrialist.
Prostitutes complained about the extra make up they now needed to wear in order to hide the scabs.
Nuns held a night time vigil at the Virgo Fidelis café in Soho giving thanks for the return of bees wax.
With the turn of the twentieth century, street lighting and the Lamp Post came into its own.
How would life be today without this iconic masterpiece adorning our streets and open air car parks?
So the next time you are leaning on a Lamp Post, or urinating up one, just stop and have a think about the history and the people that brought you a wonder of the modern world.