Welcome        Walking Tours        Feedback        Contact        Links        Credits


In the early 18th century, public lighting was not common, even in the large cities, and nightfall brought with it almost total darkness. Glasgow at that time was more like a village, but had ideas above its station, and in 1767 the Town Council decided that lamps should be provided. Eventually, the first lamps were placed on the south side of Trongate (then the city's main street).

Lighting at that time was very primitive, however, and still consisted of a few occasional oil lamps on wooden pedestals since the complexity and expense of oil lamps made large scale street lighting impractical. In 1814, there were only 1274 street lights in the whole of the city.

As the 19th century began, the discovery of the illuminating properties of coal gas by William Murdoch paved the way for a transformation of nigh time Glasgow. In 1817, the Gas Light Company was formed, and on the 15th September 1818 the first street light proper was switched on in Glasgow. For a while, insurance companies threatened to increase rates if gas lighting was installed in private houses, fearing Glasgow properties might be prone to explosion.

With the introduction of coal gas, duties such as filling lamps and trimming wicks were no longer required. Lighting maintenance was now considerably cheaper, and lighting gradually spread throughout the city.

In the 1879, electric lighting was introduced. The first sites were St Enoch station and the head post office, which until then had been lit by open gas burners, along with Queen Street Station a year later. The first electric street light was a fizzy arc lamp outside the Glasgow Herald building.

Cooper and Co in Sauchiehall street, was the first shop to install electric lights on the premises. The owner, Thomas G. Bishop, had a love of new ideas - as well as lighting his stores, he also installed a field telegraph to allow direct communication between his three Glasgow stores in Howard Street, Sauchiehall Street and the Great Western Road, and was the first to use motor cars for shop deliveries.

In 1893, electric street lighting was established in Glasgow. A central power station had been built in 1892 in Waterloo Street, and at the end of February 1893 around 112 arc lamps lit Sauchiehall Street, Renfield Street, Union Street, Jamaica Street, Argyle Street and Trongate. Buchanan Street and George Square were also lit by electricity. By 1895 there were 20,000 public lamps in operation.

Domestic lighting, however, was very slow in coming. in 1896 there were 855 consumers, and in 1901 there were only 3000 domestic consumers of electricity for lighting.

Location: Glasgow

Erected: 1767

See also:

Electricity in Glasgow

Post Office

Queen Street Station

    People        Places        Stories