History of Lindal & Marton

A village community at the heart of Furness

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Miners' Lamps

Early miners used tallow candles, made from animal fat, although they were smoky and gave little illumination. They had the advantage of being very cheap, and could even be eaten in an emergency. Sometimes the miners attached these to their hats with a soft ball of clay, or they attached them to the ground, a rock, or a ledge using clay or a metal spiked holder. Gradually, other more efficient forms of lighting took over.

Davy Lamp

The flame safety lamp was invented by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1815, to address the problem of explosions caused by naked flames coming in contact with flammable gases in mines. The Davy lamp was fuelled by oil or naptha (lighter fluid), and the wick was contained in a metal gauze cylinder. The underlying principle of the safety lamp is that the gauze cools any flame passing through it, so that the temperature outside the lamp is lower than the temperature required to ignite any surrounding flammable gas. If the lamp is placed in an explosive atmosphere, such as a mixture of air and methane gas as commonly found in a coal mine, the explosion that takes place when the flame contacts the gas is contained within the gauze mesh and does not cause a danger to the miners.

There were many manufacturers of Davy lamps, and many variations in the detail of their construction. The lamps normally had a cylindrical glass screen around the gauze, and a protective steel bonnet with air inlet holes. Early versions gave out less light than a naked flame candle, but designs improved so that by the 1930's some types were several times brighter than a standard candle flame.

The lamp provided a crude test for the existence of gases, as the flame changed shape or burned with a blue tinge in the presence of flammable gases. In addition, the lamp could be used to check for low oxygen levels or concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide, as in these conditions the lamp flame would be extinguished. The lamp succeeded in reducing the incidence of explosions, but accidents still happened, such as when a lamp was dropped or broken.

Patterson GTL9 Davy lamp Patterson lamp dis-assembled

The lamp shown above is a Patterson type GTL9, manufactured by Patterson Lamps of Gateshead-on-Tyne. The lamp has two gauzes and an internal steel chimney. It is slightly unusual in that it includes a nipple on the bonnet to which a rubber tube and ball could be connected for gas testing.

A picture of a Davy lamp is incorporated in the Lindal and Marton Primary School LAMPS logo, in recognition of the school's mining heritage.

Carbide Lamp

Carbide lamps were developed in the 1890's. They were first used for carriage lamps, and were quickly adapted for mining. The lamp has a removable base which would be unscrewed and filled with marble-sized pellets of calcium carbide. A small amount of water was poured into a reservoir in the top part of the lamp. A tap controlled the amount of water which would slowly flow from the reservoir into the carbide chamber below. The water reacted with the carbide to form acetylene gas, which rose to the top of the carbide chamber into a small tube, which led out of the chamber to a burner tip. This could be lit with a flint, and the flame produced was focused by a shiny reflector to give a bright white light, between four and six times brighter than an oil lamp or flame safety lamp.

The rate of water flow could be adjusted with the tap to vary the amount of gas produced and hence the amount of light, which would last for several hours. A miner would carry spare water and carbide pellets so that he could refuel the lamp whilst underground. Carbide lamps were easy to use and to maintain, and were very popular in mines, such as iron-ore mines, where there was minimal risk of explosion.

Carbide lamp Carbide lamp (rear) Crestella carbide lamp owl logo

The "Crestella" carbide lamp shown above was manufactured by the Premier Lamp Engineering Co Ltd of Leeds.

This type of lamp is modelled in the "Miners" sculpture at Red Man's Way in Barrow-in-Furness.

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