Discover the captivating story of lantern restoration in the heart of Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district. William Sugg & Co. Ltd was called upon to revive the last remaining gas lamps on Duddell Street, a beloved landmark that has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Learn how skilled artisans and craftspeople worked to restore these iconic lamps to their former glory, ensuring that they continue to radiate a nostalgic glow for years to come.

The customer

Tucked away in the vibrant Lan Kwai Fong district in Central, Hong Kong, lies the quaint and historic Duddell Street.  This charming avenue, named after George and Frederick Duddell, is home to a beloved landmark: the last remaining gas lamps in the city. 

The nostalgic radiance emanating from these iconic lamps has made them a popular choice among movie and TV show directors of the past. Fans of Hong Kong romantic comedies instantly recognise the location, which has been designated a historical monument since 1979.

But after being ravaged by a typhoon, these iconic lamps were in dire need of expert care. Enter William Sugg & Co. Ltd, who were approached to help restore these cherished pieces of Hong Kong’s history to their former glory.

The challenge

The lamps were made by William Sugg around 1925, or a little earlier, so it was important to the team in Hong Kong that the restoration was carried out sensitively and by experts.  Our team’s history with the original lanterns meant the restoration would be truly authentic. 

A large tree had grown in a somewhat precarious location at the top of the steps.  It was believed that a very rare typhoon caused this tree to fall and, in doing so, had smashed much of the balustrade and two or three of the iconic lamps. 

As the team at William Sugg delved into the restoration of the Duddell Street Gas Lamps, it was clear that this was a project of historical significance. Not only were these beloved fixtures listed as an Historic Monument, but they were also the final remaining gas lamps in all of Hong Kong.  

The original lamps were manually lit, but over time, clockwork controllers were added externally, making the historical design critical to the success of the restoration. Adding to the challenge was the confusion surrounding the name and design of the original lamps, which was unknown.  It was eventually decided to name the larger storm-proof lamps ‘Rochester’ and the more curvaceous design ‘Littleton.’ Despite these obstacles, the team at William Sugg & Co. was determined to bring these cherished fixtures back to life and honour their place in Hong Kong’s rich history.

“The universal character of gas-lighting is, perhaps, hardly realised to the full, even by many of those engaged in the industry; and as we felt that greater knowledge on this point would be of benefit, we have taken upon ourselves the collection and publication of what we hope is an interesting series of photographs of gas-lighting installations.”

Gas-Lighting at Home and Abroad

The solution/product

The Sugg team were invited to fly out to Hong Kong to see the lamps in person and ascertain the damage and the exact approach needed to restore them to their former glory.  Following the visit the four lamps were sent back to the UK and were refurbished by the William Sugg team in the Horsham factory.  

The Industrial History of Hong Kong Group and the Antiquities and Monuments Office sent a representative to oversee and record the process and there was much delight by all parties that this important restoration work was carried out by the original maker.

Sugg’s team of skilled artisans and craftspeople worked tirelessly, restoring each lamp individually to its former glory.   One of the cast iron columns suffered severe damage and required delicate reconstruction through a specific welding procedure.  This also involved grinding all welds to achieve a uniform shape, followed by sandblasting and coating with red oxide primer.  Once the column was restored, it was reunited with the lanterns for final touches and finishes and then shipped to Hong Kong for reinstallation.

With a commitment to authenticity, they employed original techniques to bring these cherished pieces of history back to life.

Further information: 

The results

The restoration of the Duddell Street Steps and their iconic gas lamps has proven to be a resounding success.  Thanks to Sugg’s team of skilled artisans and craftspeople, the lamps have been meticulously restored to their former glory and now take pride of place in their original position on the steps.

Not only do the lamps look as spectacular as they did when they were first installed, but they also function perfectly, providing a warm and inviting atmosphere to visitors. The attention to detail and commitment to authenticity is evident in the lamps’ intricate design and flawless operation.

The short video below showcases the entire process, from the damage caused by the typhoon to the final reopening ceremony, highlights lengths the restoration team went to ensure the project’s overall success. 

“The lamps, known as a heritage landmark in Central, will again be lit from 6pm to 6am every day!”

South China Morning Post

The restoration of these beloved pieces of history has brought joy and pride to the community, preserving an important part of their heritage for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. The success of this restoration project is a testament to the importance of preserving and protecting cultural landmarks and artefacts.

Speak with one of our experts today to find out more about our restoration and refurbishment services.