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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:36 am 
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Whilst researching his book, Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements, author Hugh Aldersey-Williams contacted me for some background information about street lighting. He had picked the characteristic orange lamp to represent sodium and wanted to know more about its history and its abilities.

He was well aware that many authors, poets and social commentators hated the bulb and was looking for further quotes to illustrate how many used the orange wash of sodium as a background in some dystopian future. I was able to give him some leads, and some concrete examples, but none better than “Inexpensive Progress” by John Betjeman.

This poem was published in 1966 but is equally prevalent today.  The last verse is of particular interest:

Encase your legs in nylons,
Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let's say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor car is master
Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
'Keep Left,' 'M4,' 'Keep Out!'
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small 'amenity,'
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we'll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
We'll know that we are dead.


Hugh loved it and Beteman’s verse was mentioned in the book. I was also amused to hear the section read out on Radio Four when the book was the “Book Of The Week.”

All the best,
Simon


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:43 am 
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Indust wrote:
According to that blurb, some poet called the light that a SOX lamp produces 'yellow vomit.' How rude.  :evil:  :evil:  :lol:


Urbis Saturn Land wrote:
Whoever wrote the blurb should have put "Glowing caramel" rather than yellow vomit as SOX does look like glowing caramel, well to me it does.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Very interesting poem there. I suppose back in the days when white light sources were being replaced by Sodium, it was seen as Yellow Vomit.  I tend to think of the light as a ''luminous egg yoke''. It's the same colour, only it gives off light.

I'm wondering how to compare SON to SOX as a modern example. SOX is more a mood light or atmospheric lighting when compared to SON.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:58 pm 
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SON always makes me think of something along the lines of POW camps for some strange reason!

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:31 am 
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It might be something to do with the hefty floodlights in them.

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From streetlighting to radio, dance through the night whilst the streetlights are glowing outside.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 9:52 pm 
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Was going through some old photos today and stumbled across this photo my dad took back in the 60s of a streetlight on the main road, taken from the back garden of a house (not my house). He took the shot so it lined it up with a stench pipe on the roof of the house, so it looks like the streetlight has been installed on the roof of the house! Clever, eh? I'd be really grateful if someone could identify the lantern and column as well!


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:21 pm 
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Rojojnr wrote:
I'd be really grateful if someone could identify the lantern ...


I think this lantern looks like a Revo C13723/S for 140W SO/H lamps. The slight giveaway is the distinctive horizontal ridge on the top the canopy casting. No doubt the lantern was either timeclock or group controlled.

As for the column, I would take a guess at it being a Stanton 8D. Most of the main roads in and around Lytham St Annes in Lancashire are still lit by these columns. Although mostly sleeved,  a few with original brackets still survive.

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"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:26 pm 
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Phosco152 wrote:
Indust wrote:
According to that blurb, some poet called...


Although I was never a big fan of poetry at school, I certainly wouldn't call this piece of work "blurb" done by "some poet" - in this case, John Betjeman.

Although he was Poet Laureate until his death,  it seems he was into more than just poetry.  

Like many here on Ukastle, he was concerned by the loss of our architectural history and the often needless but officially sanctioned destruction of the past (a bit like some of the PFI schemes of today). This march of progress was something which was very evident in our towns and cities in the 60s and 70s.
He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and was considered instrumental in halting the demolition of St Pancras station and other buildings.

In some respects, his despising of the then uncommon SOX (or should that be SO/H), which was steadily replacing tungsten, mercury and even gas lighting is understandable.

Despite its efficacy, most people have always disliked its colour, its ability to monochrome the life out of our streets.  

Although "yellow vomit" is a strong adjective to describe sodium lighting, (which to many of us on here is now almost an endangered species) at the time such musings were quite typical of Betjeman's style. If you think sodium streetlamps had a rough time under John Betjeman's pen, it is worth reading his 1937 poem called "Slough".

Interestingly, streetlighting is a surprisingly common topic in contemporary poetry with some of it being quite good.

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"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:20 pm 
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Just a quick post which you might find interesting.

If you google "chriscyprus.com", you will access the website of this artist. He is from Mossley in Greater Manchester and is known for his northern streetscenes.

His works are very colourful and encompass many aspects of local life.

However, here is the interesting bit.

He has been working on an exhibition of his artwork entitled "Northern Lights". which incorporate his interest in streetlighting (with SOX being the main attraction). This project has taken over a decade to complete.

Here I reproduce a short passage of text from his webpage, which explains his inspiration for the Northern Lights series of artworks.

"I noticed the back alleys of terraced houses glowing under orange light, illuminating wheelie bins, and bizarrely the ugly skip at the end of the drive had been transformed into a beacon of beauty, as it bathed in sodium glory.

Chris was featured on BBCs One Show as well as the local NorthWest Tonight programme. He laments the passing of SOX lighting in favour of white LEDs.

Looking at examples of his work, you can see he really has a talent in capturing what will soon be no more.

As well as an exhibition held in Manchester recently, Chris has also released a limited edition book based on his artworks.


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"As we moved along in a little procession, I was delighted with the illumination of the streets. So many lamps and they burned until morning, my father said, and so people did not need to carry lanterns."
Mary Antin - US author & activist. 1881-1949.
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