The Windsor lantern is a heritage lantern design that is recognised and loved across the world, and especially in the UK.  Here at William Sugg, we have been manufacturing the Windsor Lantern for over 125 years!  Here we look at its history, how the design came about and how it has developed over the years.

A historic lantern – The Windsor Lantern

The Windsor Lantern is used in cities around the world and commonly seen lighting streets, parks and thoroughfares. Originally gas-lit, this classic heritage lantern is often used with several other forms of light source, including LED.

Despite the changes in lighting technology, the unique design of the Windsor Lantern has remained popular for over a century and its beauty and craftsmanship continues to be appreciated by many.  If you drive around London and several other cities in the UK, you will not be far from a Windsor Lantern!

The Windsor Lantern _ William Sugg
The Windsor Lamp had gained iconic status.  Here it is in 1906, eight years after it was first introduced.


A history of the Windsor Lantern

William Sugg was responsible for designing and manufacturing many of the iconic gas lamps that lined the streets of London, including the Windsor Lantern.  Windsor lights have a rich history that dates back to the 19th century when gas lighting was first introduced to the streets of London. The original Windsor Lanterns were manufactured by William Sugg & Co. Ltd., founded in 1837, quickly becoming one of the leading gas lighting manufacturers in the country.

Gas lighting was first demonstrated on January 28th, 1807 in Pall Mall, London by Frederick Albert Winsor, using gas which was a flammable gaseous fuel made from distilling coal. This was the first public street lighting using gas.

Our historical records indicate this historic lamp was named after the place in which it was first used – the Royal Borough of Windsor on Thames.  This applies to many, if not all of William Sugg’s most popular lamps.

Adapting Historic Lanterns For Future Centuries

Over time, the design of Windsor lights evolved to meet the changing needs of the city. In the early 20th century, for example, the lantern was modified to include a reflector that would direct the light downwards, making it more efficient and less likely to cause glare for pedestrians and motorists.  The Windsor expanded its range of lamps, special burners, and devices to enhance the performance of existing lamps that were available in the late 1930s.

The four Windsor Lanterns shown in the catalogue above have an upright mantle with a patented anti-vibrator to reduce breakage. The two on the left have ‘patent ball traps’ and are still manually lit, while the two on the right have permanent pilots for easy lighting and reduced damage.

The historic lighting design

The Windsor light design is truly unique and instantly recognisable.  In 1898, it was the first lantern designed specifically for use with the gas mantle as opposed to open flame. In the early years the Windsor was fitted with upright mantle burners, finally converting to the inverted burner in the early years of the 20th century.

The lantern features a scalloped cap and steep tent or roof that create a distinctive silhouette. The cap is a nod to the lantern’s heritage as a gas-lit fixture, which would have required a vented top to allow for proper ventilation.

Did you know? 

The lamplighter’s goal was to complete their route as fast as possible, and using a ladder to open a door wasn’t on their timetable. Even after the introduction of the pilot to ignite the burner, the lamplighter still had to turn the lamp on and off. To accomplish this while cycling, they became skilled at using a pole with a hook to turn the lever cock on or off.

Although bespoke designs and sizes are available, the Windsor Lantern typically comes in three sizes: 14″, 16″, and 18″. This allows for versatility when it comes to choosing the right size for a particular space or installation.  Saying this, the design is so popular that a bespoke piece, originating from the original Windsor, is a popular option for several settings today.  Its recognisable design is a clear indication of Victorian England and a favourite of those wishing to replicate this look and feel.  William Sugg also manufactures the much-loved Windsor Backlamp, derived from the original Windsor light design and which is suitable for residential settings, passageways, doorways and office buildings.

The Windsor Lantern’s patent

One of the most interesting features of the Windsor Lantern is that its patent combined a cast iron base and ball trap door, which was designed by William Sugg & Co. Ltd. This innovative design allowed for easy maintenance and cleaning of the lantern, as the ball trap door could be opened to access the lamp and reflector. This feature was especially important in the days of gas lighting, when lanterns required frequent cleaning and upkeep.

The extraordinary success of the Windsor is indicated by the statement on this catalogue cover that “50,000 of our ‘Windsor’ Lamps are now in use”.  Every manufacturer eventually produced a similar fixture.

Now, more than 100 years after this catalogue, the Windsor Lantern is still manufactured by us, with a version still available ‘in gas’.  It would be interesting to find out how many Windsor Lanterns and lamps were produced in total?!

Overall, the design of the Windsor Lantern is both functional and visually striking, making it a popular choice for those looking to add a touch of heritage charm to their lighting design.

Windsor Lantern Patent _ William Sugg & Co. Ltd

Historic lighting for today

The Windsor Lantern has become an iconic symbol of British heritage and a testament to the enduring craftsmanship of its original designers and manufacturers. Its history and design make it a popular choice for those looking to add a touch of nostalgia and charm to a space.

Despite the decline of gas lighting in the mid-20th century, William Sugg continued to manufacture the Windsor Lantern, along with other heritage lighting fixtures. Today, we are the oldest and only surviving British gas lighting company, and we still make the lanterns using the same traditional methods and materials as our predecessors.

All William Sugg, Windsor Lanterns are custom handcrafted to order according to our customer’s needs and are offered in various finishes, sizes, and specifications.  To further discuss your requirements and preferences, contact us today.