Memory Lane: Let there be light

Memory Lane August 31st'Picture courtesy of Ted Lightbown. An engineer attends to an arc lamp in Talbot Square, Blackpool, in 1893 14 years after the "artificial sunshine" trials. The Clifton Hotel is in the background. / HISTORICAL / NO PHOTOSALES

Memory Lane August 31st'Picture courtesy of Ted Lightbown. An engineer attends to an arc lamp in Talbot Square, Blackpool, in 1893 14 years after the "artificial sunshine" trials. The Clifton Hotel is in the background. / HISTORICAL / NO PHOTOSALES

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BACK in 1879, after Blackpool Council devoted the sum of £5,000 to experiment with the concept of electric street lighting, visitors and locals were tripping the lights fantastic.

They looked on in awe when just eight arc lamps bathed the Promenade in what was described as artificial sunshine – the forerunner of today’s award-winning, season-stretching Illuminations.

Retired electrical engineer Ron Whalley, a volunteer at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester (MOSI), has powered up an arc lamp, the basic form of historic light in MOSI's Electricity Gallery using a generator from the Electric Construction Company. It will be illuminated regularly during half term, in the basement of the Electricity Gallery.

Retired electrical engineer Ron Whalley, a volunteer at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester (MOSI), has powered up an arc lamp, the basic form of historic light in MOSI's Electricity Gallery using a generator from the Electric Construction Company. It will be illuminated regularly during half term, in the basement of the Electricity Gallery.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of that earliest event, although we can show you – courtesy of local historian Ted Lightbown – an engineer attending to an arc lamp in Talbot Square, with the Clifton Hotel in the background, in 1893, 14 years after those trials.

But now there is a chance to witness up close the wonders of an arc lamp, which has been restored to full working order at MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. Retired electrical engineer Ron Whalley,

a volunteer at MOSI, has powered up this basic form of historic light in the attraction’s Electricity Gallery, using a generator from the Electric Construction Company.

It drew the crowds when illuminated during the recent half term and will be shining out again for the Easter holiday visitors and at other times by arrangement with the museum. You will find it in the basement of the Electricity Gallery, as part of Energise – a series of events about energy.

Ron says: “The arc light hadn’t been fired up for many years, but the light and generator just needed some servicing and a safety barrier, so that it can be demonstrated to the public.

“This was a significant development in lighting, and this lamp is one of only two working examples left in the country.”

The museum is open daily, 10am to 5pm, with free admission. Hit www.mosi.org.uk for details.