Plymouth's Lighting History-

Side Road Installations

This listing shows some of the installations on side roads which arrived in Plymouth through the various decades. These have been determined from lantern and time clock ages, as well as photographs from the time.


GEC's Z5001 lantern, which I believe was available in the 1940s,  was found across the city on cast columns right through until the late 1960s at least. The lanterns originally held glass teardrop outer globes and ran tungsten lamps. In this case, the lantern is mounted on a Venner control box and swan neck. The Z5001 would have been a sort of predecessor to the 1953 GEC Z5500 Brookvale.


GEC's Z5500 'Brookvale' lantern was widely installed in the outlying suburb of Plymstock, where much of the lighting was fitted to electricity poles. My own example is dated to 1954. At that time, control would be by group switching using a timeclock. There were also Brookvale lanterns to be found on 6m Concrete Utilities columns, in locations where overhead line routes avoided the roads.

Stanton were a very prominent column manufacturer for Plymouth in the 1950s, and side streets across Whitleigh, Southway, Pennycross & Crownhill had their Stanton 7 columns with swan necks installed. I'ts not known exactly what lanterns were originally fitted, but it would appear to be a GEC Z5500 or Z5540.

The 1950s also saw the installation of this style of concrete column. I believe it is a Concrete Utilites, but it is certainly more rough finish than the later styles. It's no known what lantern was originally fitted, but a survivor carries a GEC Z5679.

The GEC Z5530C 'Brookvale Mk2' clear-bowled variant of the lantern also saw use on ornate CU columns in the very late 1950s/early 1960s with swan-neck brackets. A date noted on one glass refractor ring dates the installation to 1959.


The Z8596 lantern from GEC was adopted by the city in this era, and saw much use across the city, mainly on Cohen steel columns. The lamps were generally 80w Mercury and control by Venner MSQP time clocks. One Z8596 noted was controlled by a clock dating it to 1966. The lanterns were a very common sight on residential roads.

The GEC Z5530B 'Brookvale Mk2' lantern was also found in the city in the early 1960s, with outer suburbs including Plymstock widely adopting them on 6m Concrete Utilities columns running 80w Mercury lamps. The lanterns also found use on electricity pole mounts, with control gear in metal GEC enclosures.

Eleco also played a part in this era, with their PT828 post-top lantern being adopted city-wide. It was found on Cohen or Stewart & Lloyd steel columns on residential streets & areas. The lamp fitted was a Mercury lamp of 80 or 125w. Venner MSQP timeclocks surviving from the period suggest the lanterns were fitted from around 1963.


1972 appears to be the date that this combination started to be introduced to the city. It consisted of a Thorn Beta 7 lantern, 80w Mercury lamp, clear-cased Horstmann KMK2A timeclock & a 6m Fabrikat steel column. They were fitted on minor roads across the central and west areas of the city.

Inner city back lanes also saw a great deal of new lighting in the 70s. A very common sight now across central Plymouth was the GEC Z8896 lantern on a 5m Fabrikat steel column. The lamp was again an 80w Mercury, but this time switching was by a Sangamo time clock. Commonly, if a few were used in the same lane, then one clock would control the row.

1973 appears to be the date that the final gas lanterns were removed from use across the city, and these left cast columns in back lanes to be re-used for streetlighting. The equipment used to electrify these columns was an AC Ford AC434 control box and swan neck, complete with 80w GEC Z8896 lantern. The switching was done using a Sangamo time clock, or group switching.

The Z8896 lantern also found use on side streets in residential areas in the 1970s. This time the column was a simple 5m Fabrikat 'Hockey Stick' design. The lamp size was the larger 125w Mercury, and control was by Horstmann's KMK2A clock.

GEC's Z5590 lantern found use on some of the city's housing estates in the early 1970s, being mounted on 5m & 6m Concrete Utilities columns. They were controlled by Venner MSQP clocks if individually switched. Lamps were 80w Mercury.

Footpaths in the city were also fitted with GEC lanterns. Z5670 lanterns appeared in the city in the mid 1970s on plain 5m Fabrikat columns, or Cohen steels. The lamps were Mercury and control by Horstmann KMK2A or Venner MSQP time switches.

Yet another company to have their lanterns installed on side streets in the city was Revo. Their Prefect lanterns were installed around 1972 on 5m Cohen steel columns with swan-neck brackets. The lamps were 80w Mercury and the clocks: Venner MSQPs. The lantern variant chosen was one with no refractor ring, and a simple clear glass outer globe.

Some residential areas still had their 1950s Stanton concrete columns in use. The decision was made in the late 1970s to modernise these installations, and areas such as Southway and Whitleigh had all their columns modified. Concrete swan necks were removed and steel sleeves fitted. The lanterns chosen for the new sleeves were GEC Z8896s.

The same sleeving was also carried out on some 6m Concrete Utilities columns around Plymstock. The concrete brackets were removed complete with top entry GEC Brookvales or 'Unknown' lanterns, and Z8896s fitted.


A huge percentage of the 5m & 6m Cohen & Stewart & Lloyd columns across the city were fitted with post top lanterns such as the Eleco PT828. The early 80s saw the removal of many of these as they were converted to side-entry lanterns. Tubular brackets were fitted complete with new GEC Z8896 lanterns.

AC Ford AC848 lanterns were also used to replace the PT828 lanterns. These AC848s had integral gear and ran 70w SON lamps. Although they were actually top-entry lanterns, this didn't pose a problem as conversion brackets were manufactured to fit them to the new side-entry brackets.

The whole of the Whitleigh estate was relit during the 1980s with brand new columns and lanterns. The 1950s Stanton columns, which were sleeved in the 1970s, were swept away to be replaced by Simplex Diadem lanterns on 6m Hockey Stick columns. A very through job was done, and no concrete columns remain in the Whitleigh estate.


The staple lantern now fitted was the Chalmit (Davis) GR70. This was used on side roads, lanes and footpaths across the city. Many were fitted to 6m Fabrikat steel 'Hockey Stick' columns, replacing ageing cast iron or concrete columns. These saw the removal of many Mercury lanterns- notably the GEC Z8896 on 5m Fabrikat columns in back lanes; many of these were replaced by GR70s due to failed timeclocks.

By the early 1990s, many of the Eleco PT828s still remained in the St Judes area of the city. This was soon changed, and the chosen lantern was the Davis GR70. Side entry brackets were fitted to the existing 5m Stewart & Lloyd columns.

The GR70 was also the chosen lantern for a huge replacement scheme in the Plymstock suburb of the city in the early 90s. It replaced old Mercury top entry lanterns on wood pole mounts (commonly GEC Brookvales), and 98% of the old lanterns were replaced in the period. The top entry lanterns were cut off and replaced by Davis GR70s, the GEC control boxes replaced by AC Ford AC900 boxes and the old single service cables down the pole replaced by concentric armoured types.

Thorn Gamma 6 lanterns were also a very common sight in Plymouth in the period. The Gamma 6 with 70w SON-T lamp was widely used in residential areas in the mid 90s on footpaths and housing courtyards. Many would replace old Mercury lanterns such as GEC Z5670s or Eleco PT828s.


Undoubtedly the most common installation across the city at the beginning of the decade was the 70w Urbis ZX1 lantern fitted to a 5/6m Corus steel column. ZX1s also continued to be used as casual replacements- in this case replacing a Mercury lamped GEC Z8896.

Manadon Park was previously MOD land, but when this was sold off for housing, there were many new residential streets built which needed lighting. A large scheme was designed using Urbis lanterns. Running 70w CDM-TT lamps: Alura (left) and Haydon (right) lanterns were installed on aluminium columns, while 70w SON-T lamped Linford (bottom) lanterns were installed on steel columns.

Some streets fell under areas of 'regeneration'. One step taken to smarten some streets up was to pedestrianise, and install trees and new lighting in the old roadway. One such area used 70w Metcraft Victoria fittings, and installed them on brand new steel columns. These columns however were actually covered in resin to the pattern of the ancient cast columns in use in the city. To the eye, they are identical, the one difference being a door compartment concealed on the base. An expensive idea, but worth the extra effort.

2005 saw the adoption of the brand new Urbis ZXU1 lantern across the city. These took the place of ZX1 lanterns on replacements and also new schemes. The same optic and lamp (70w SON-T) as the ZX1 is used, but design of the ZXU1 means it can be used side entry, and also post-top. This does away with the need for stub brackets on plain columns. The side entry option is used for installations where the existing bracket is retained, but the post-top mounting is standard for new columns. 6m Corus steel columns and ZXU1 lanterns are now the staple new installation for side roads. Their use also extends to casual replacements- in this case a GEC Z8896.                         

Then in 2006, a brand new type of Urbis ZXU1 was adopted in the city. It featured electronic gear, minicell, and a new type of reflector.

Monmouth Gardens in the Whitleigh area of the city received new footpath lighting in 2006. This was quite revolutionary for Plymouth as it used fluorescent lanterns in the form of WRTL 'Libra' lanterns. The lamps are 55w PL/L, which is quite an energy saving since 70w SON was in place before. The columns are also brand new- hinged 5m Pudsey Diamond steels.


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