A miner’s safety lamp

My two blogs – this one and my museum one – have very similar items on today. Both feature a miner’s safety lamp. The museum one was a bit of a ‘why have we got this’ blog. My safety lamp is one I have because I liked the idea and it was given me by an old friend and work colleague called Mike.

Mike, when I knew him lived in the south of England far away from coal mines but he hailed from Yorkshire and his dad had worked down the pit. Mike, after travelling with a gent’s outfitter on ocean going liners, became a science teacher. He’d have taught people about safety lamps – such a clever and simple idea which saved the lives of many miners.

The idea was that the lamp’s flame was contained in copper gauze which rapidly conducted the heat and prevented any inflammable gas in a mine from burning. A naked flame would have ignited the gas causing explosion and catastrophe.

But even better was that if there was gas about the colour and form of flame was changed so the lamps gave warning and other activities that might strike sparks could be halted. These lamps remained in use even when electric lamps provided the illumination.

Now my lamp is not in good order and wouldn’t be safe to use.

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The obvious fault is that it has lost its carrying and hanging handle off the top.

Before delving inside, let’s just see the maker’s plate.

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Aha, it was made in Wigan and it would have been at some time in the 20th century.

OK, let’s open her up.

The paraffin tank and burner just unscrews on this lamp. Others, I believe, had some kind of key so that they couldn’t be opened down the pit. Opening it would have turned it into an unsafe and explosion causing lamp.

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It should have four wicks to give a bright flame and the tank filler cap appears to be missing too. We can see this lamp has the serial number 4784.

Above the tank there is the glass window and above that, normally hidden by the metal body are the gauzes. They come out easily enough.

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The glass window (possibly of pyrex type) is so pitted that it would stop most of the light from getting out. But we can also see that the gauzes have melted or burned away at the top which would probably render this lamp as unsafe and useless.

But I’m happy to have it and be reminded of my old friend Mike.

I’ll finish with a usual comment. I do not collect lamps – whether mining ones or otherwise. I have a few which have a meaning to me. Don’t bother to offer me any more. I neither need nor want them.

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