Colchester’s Cast Iron Lampposts

Colchester’s Cast Iron Lampposts

A recent survey by Robert Mercer (for Colchester Civic Society) has established that Colchester currently has 300 unique cast iron lampposts. These were made for the Borough Council by a number of Colchester Foundries during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. The pattern, or wooden former used to produce these castings was owned by Colchester Borough Council and passed to the foundry which had the current contract to supply castings for the street lighting. Originally these would have all been for gas lights but in due course they were converted to electric lighting. At the time of the last survey by Ewan Russell (father of Sir Bob Russell) in the late 1970’s and early 80’s counted 555. Clearly if something isn’t done to conserve at least some of these lampposts then a part of Colchester’s industrial heritage and its Victorian/Edwardian street scene will be lost for ever.
To make matters worse the remaining lampposts have not had a coat of paint since Essex County Highways took over from Colchester Borough in 2005 and many are now in a very sorry state, as the accompanying photo clearly illustrates.
Colchester Civic Society is determined to conserve at least some of our diminishing stock of Colchester made cast iron lampposts. We regard them as a significant part of Colchester’s Heritage and as such should not be allowed to be lost through neglect. To this end the Society has pursued two courses of action.

Robert Mercer has arranged for their Local Listing, this means that they are now formally recognised by Colchester Council and Historic England as Local Heritage Assets and this may in future serve to influence Planning and Highways decisions where certain lampposts are under threat from development.

In addition to this John Salmon has organized a program of repainting. Beginning in Roman and Castle Road, where the Residents Association were already collaborating with County Highways to help maintain pavements and trees in their conservation area; this collaboration has now been extended to the maintenance of the cast iron lampposts in these streets.

County Highways have provided top coat and undercoat; and volunteers from the Association stripped and repainted all the cast iron columns in these roads in the summer of 2020, after the first Covid 19 Lockdown was eased.

During 2021 The Irvine Area Residents Association will be organizing volunteers to carry out restoration work on the cast iron posts in Athelstan, Irvine, Capel and Audley Roads. In addition volunteers in Salisbury Avenue, St. John Green area and Beverley Road will be repainting their cast Iron lampposts.

The Civic Society will be providing insurance cover, plus paint and tools and equipment for this work. County Highways have again agreed to provide the top coat and under coat necessary; and everything else, including primer, has been purchased by the Society with funds provided from locality budgets by Borough Councillors from Castle and Christchurch Wards and also by the County Councillor for Abbey.

WE hope to extend this repainting of cast iron lampposts as widely as possible. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting involved in this work, then please get in touch. You can contact John Salmon on this address johnsalmon@colchestercivicsociety.co.uk

The survey below details the location and type of the remaining cast iron street lamps, including information on the Colchester Foundries who made the castings for Colchester Council.

Before and after images of a cast iron lamppost in Castle Road.