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  • Writer's picturePaul Dobraszczyk

A Victorian collaboration: two London lamps

1. Lamp in Southwark Street, London, The Builder, 1865

This extraordinary cast iron lamp, one of a pair unveiled in Southwark Street in London in January 1865, was designed by an architect, Charles Henry Driver for Joseph Bazalgette, the chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and was manufactured by the ironfounder Walter Macfarlane, based in Glasgow. It was this collaboration that formed the focus of the illustration of the lamp provided in The Builder published a week before the lamp was unveiled (1). Although not specified in the text accompanying the image, the identity of one of these figures is revealed by this photograph below, which undoubtedly formed the basis for the engraving (2).

2. Photograph of the lamp and Walter Macfarlane

3. Detail of the figures around the lamp

In the photograph Walter Macfarlane himself stands in front of one of the lamps, erected in the grounds of his Glasgow foundry before being transported and re-erected in Southwark Street. The features of both lamp and Macfarlane in the engraving correspond almost exactly with the photograph, although reversed as one would expect with a printed image. However, more figures are introduced into the engraving (3), including the recognisable figure of Bazalgette behind Macfarlane, who has presumably brought his wife to admire the quality of the lamp. The figure on horseback on the right and the related female figure are probably Charles Driver and his wife, although his name isn’t mentioned in the accompanying text. Driver definitely did appear in another Builder illustration in 1868 (4), showing another Macfarlane-produced lamp that is explicitly stated in the text as designed by Driver – to the left of lamp, he appears, with his wife, opposite Bazalgette, although this time minus Macfarlane. Driver’s features are replicated in the 1865 image, including his riding crop, which appears in the 1868 image, despite the absence of an accompanying horse (5).

4. Another lamp depicted in The Builder, 1868

5. Detail of the figures around the lamp

Even without this close observation, it’s clear that the 1865 image shows both an architectural object and the key players in its coming-into-being – namely, patron, designer and manufacturer. Indeed the collaboration depicted is very like that which produced the image in the first place, that is between an artist and wood engraver, represented in the image itself as the two signed names at the bottom left and right of both prints (1 & 4) – W G Smith and Walmsley.

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