Sugg 5-burner cluster gas street lamp, c 1870.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In the early 1870s, cast iron lampposts were becoming a familiar sight on city streets. Their lanterns contained one or more gas jets, which would be lit at dusk by a lamplighter, carrying an ignited oil lighter on a pole. In the 1850s, William Sugg had introduced the steatite burner, which utilised the low thermal conductivity and long lasting properties of the mineral steatite (or soapstone), which could easily be machined to form gas jets. The Sugg company also manufactured ornamental household gas fittings.