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Shine on: Activists save London’s historic gas lamps


Intrigued tourists watch Paul Doy climb a ladder outside Westminster Abbey in London and lift the globe from a gas lamppost.

Winding his timer, he then lights a small mesh of fabric, creating a distinctive soft warm light that illuminates the darkness.

“I love the historical side,” he says, “even if it means getting up at 5 a.m. to tend to the lamps.”

The 200-year-old nighttime ritual almost became historic when the local government announced plans to replace 174 gasoline-powered lamps with eco-friendly LED bulbs.

The City of Westminster Council’s plan caused an uproar among some residents and heritage lovers, and even sparked a question in parliament.

But the board decided to drop the move. Instead, it will convert another 94 gas lamps that are unprotected.

London has more than 1,000 gas streetlights, which were installed in the early 19th century.

At the time, they were considered a major innovation in a city of dark, dirty and often dangerous streets.

In central London, they still light up parts of The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace, the lanes of Covent Garden and around Westminster Abbey.

The ambient light they diffuse evokes the novels of Charles Dickens, Mary Poppins and Sherlock Holmes.

“They are an incredibly important part of the fabric of London history,” said antiquities writer Luke Honey.

“They are in London’s DNA.”

To learn more, watch the video above.

euronews Gt

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