ELECTRIC STREET LIGHTING IN EASTBOURNE (PART 4)

 

-THE 1970s-

 

Following the experiment with new colour schemes, by the end of the 1960s green was definitely a colour of the past as far as lamp posts were concerned. New colours to reflect and blend in with the changing urban landscape had been selected and most main town centre and seafront area columns were now painted in a light grey colour, with the parade lamposts having a light blue base section and off white shafts. All other columns within the main Eastbourne boundaries were painted a buff colour. Lamposts in the rural areas however remained the traditional mid green to blend with the countryside.

By the beginning of the 1970s the budget for the improvement schemes had been severely reduced on a number of occasions and many of the planned conversions to MBF lamps were delayed or cancelled. Those roads that were converted now used exclusively the 6m (18') hockey stick columns and Beta 7 lanterns and were mainly the areas around Meads and either side of Victoria drive in Old Town, the council housing areas around Royal Sussex Crescent being noticeably left out. In the Seaside area as well a large number of roads remained tungsten lit with the old Revo open lanterns.

Major roads earmarked for upgrading in 1972 were Priory Rd which now served as a feeder road to the housing estates off Langney Rise and Parkfield Avenue and Freeman Rd in Hampden Park which was now a bus route.

Multi lamp fittings on 10m octagonal steel poles similiar to the Congress Theatre and Devonshire Place installations were proposed for Howard Square, Wilmington Square and the Jevington Gardens area between Compton St and Grand Parade and whereas these were to come to fruition a similiar plan for King Edwards Parade was abandoned. About this time the use of High Pressure Sodium lighting was being considered for the more prestigous schemes in the seafront area.

The High Pressure Sodium lamp (HPS) is an elliptical or tubular lamp of similiar physical size to the MBF lamps but much more efficient, 70W, 250W and 400W sizes being the most common sizes used in streetlighting at the time. The 70W size would replace the 125W MBF lamp and the 250W HPS lamp replaced the 400W MBF lamp. The 400W HPS lamp could be used to double the light output of an existing 400W MBF installation. The light was a quite pleasing golden yellow, much more acceptable than the low pressure sodium lighting and a warmer colour than the MBF mercury lamps. The first roads to use HPS lamps were Compton St and Wilmington Square the existing Alpha 3s or multi lamp fittings being re-used.

From 1973 onwards the combined effects of the Middle East war and oil embargo followed by the industrial unrest and action by the coal miners and power workers culminating in the 'three day working week' had clearly focussed the attention of everyone of the reliance Western Society had on energy and the need to conserve fuel resources. Power cuts had been selectively applied, with sections of Eastbourne and all other towns losing all electricity supplies on a rota system. This caused havoc with the streetlighting time switches leading to lights burning through the day and being extinguished at night! To prevent this happening large numbers of lights had their fuses removed during the winter of 1973 and the ensuing power cut periods.

The Council were well aware that it was unnaceptable to still have large numbers of innefficient tungsten lit srteets, especially at times of need to conserve power and within the budget constraints new sodium and mercury schemes were steadily being installed. Alarmed at the loss of Eastbourne's 'heritage' in Jan 1974 a petition was sent to the Council by R.N.Crook and 43 residents of Saffrons Rd complaining of the removal of the short cast iron Every and Morriss columns in their road and their replacement by 8m steel columns and their Alpha 9 lanterns, which were said to be out of character with the street. As a conciliation gesture the Council and Seeboard agreed that a number of the cast iron columns would be retained for erection in appropriate parts of the town at a future date. Refurbished Morris columns were eventually to be sited in Trinity Trees, outside the Devonshire Park theatre, in the centre of the Redoubt fortress, around the Wish Tower, the path between York Rd and South St and outside the Heritage centre in Carlisle Rd.

The ability of the Borough Council to make this and any other streetlighting decisions was to be short lived because under the Local Government Act of 1972 many of the powers of the Local Councils were soon to be handed over to the newly reorganised, larger and supposedly more efficient County Councils. Thus on April 1st 1974 the control of Eastbournes street lighting along with its Police, Fire and Ambulance services among others was handed over to the care of East Sussex County Council.

A major decision by the East Sussex Council was soon to effect Eastbournes street lighting. The search for fuel economies was still an important factor for Government and industries alike and the Department of the Environment took on board a change of policy giving much greater emphasis on energy conservation in street lighting. The most efficient light source available was still the low pressure SOX sodium lamp, closely followed by the SON high pressure sodium lamps and then the MBF mercury lamps. Tungsten lighting was a poor last with a 300W tungsten lamp producing less light than a 35W SOX lamp, 70W SON lamp or 125w MBF lamp. In April of 1976 East Sussex County Council (E.S.C.C.) announced that as part of a six year energy conservation programme it had allowed a budget of 100,000 for converting existing mercury lighting on Group A roads to either high or low pressure sodium throughout the county. It was expected that 15,000 would be spent in Eastbourne in the first year,enough to convert 500 lamps.

The high pressure lamps gave out a much more appealing light than their low pressure counterparts and it was agreed that these lamps would be used on the Seafront and the adjoining conservation area's roads around and adjoining Compton St, high pressure sodium lighting already having been installed in this road. Low pressure sodium lighting would be applied to main roads not in these areas and not within the town centre, such as Priory Rd and Meads Rd which were to be relit with 90W SOX lamps in GEC lanterns. In the residential roads all the MBF lighting and all the remaining tungsten lighting was to be changed to low pressure sodium installations.

Over the ensuing years anyone looking down on Eastbourne from the A259 coast road over the South Downs would have noticed the mixture of white and yellow dots of light steadily merging into a yellowy/ golden mass of sodium lighting. Generally in the high pressure sodium conversions the lamps were the same size as the mercury lamps they replaced and hence the existing lanterns were reused, the Alpha 3s, seafront lanterns and multi lamp fittings used in the squares off the seafront simply having new lamps and control gear fitted.

The residential roads needed new lanterns to accomodate the longer SOX lamps and the first to appear were the Thorn Beta 8s and Beta 5s. The Beta 8s were usually fitted with 55W SOX lamps but could use a 35W lamp as well, whereas the Beta 5s could only take the smaller lamps. Although some Beta 5s were supplied as top entry lanterns, generally where the existing cast iron columns and swan neck brackets were converted the finial adaptors were cut off and side entry lanterns fitted.

Beta 8 SOX conversion of cast iron column

 

 

Although a few of the smaller125W MBF town centre lanterns in Bolton Rd. Hyde Gardens and Lushington Rd were relamped with 70W SON high pressure sodium lamps, the great majority were scrapped and a large pile of redundant lanterns began to build up at the Seeboard depot at Cavendish Bridge.

Towards the end of the 1970s and early 80s GEC lanterns were used in place of the Beta 8s and in a change in manufacturing technique the bodies of these were now being produced in Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) instead of the traditional aluminium alloy casting.

Although a few roads that had been lit with 125W MBF lamps were fitted with 35W SOX lamps which produced slightly less light, overall where 35W SOX replaced the old 150W tungsten lamps, where 55W SOX replaced the 125W MBF lamps and where high pressure SON lamps were installed on the main roads and in the town, the increase in lighting levels was very noticeable and by the end of the conversion programme all the roads in Eastbourne were lit to a high standard.

SOX conversion using GEC lantern on the extended bracket fitted for the MBF lamp.

 

 

Had the Borough Council improvement schemes been allowed to continue it is probable that by the the end of the 1980s all the short cast iron columns would have disappeared as they were progressively replaced with the new steel hockey stick columns, however the fitting of all these old columns with SOX lamps and new lanterns now meant that they were to continue in service for many more years, albeit with new swan necks and replacement aluminium doors where necessary.

The change in Eastbournes lighting seemed to be accepted by the residents and a by product of dispensing with the mercury lamps (according to a newspaper report anyway) was that the weeds in the joins in the paving slabs would not grow so quickly! Presumably it was thought the ultra violet output from the mercury lamps equated to 24hr sunlight as far as the weeds were concerned.

 

 

-THE 1980s-

 

Whilst the takeover by E.S.C.C of Eastbournes street lighting had produced the eventual upgrading of all the towns lighting, it was also to lead to a gradual loss of individuality of the street lighting. Lanterns were now to be procured in bulk and fitted wherever needed across the county, less attention was paid to matching individual replacement lanterns in a street than before and on the seafront in particular as the custom built Revo lanterns became life expired they were patch replaced throughout the 80s with a number of different lanterns by various manufacturers, including those of a German manufacturer supplied through Suggs of Crawley. Exact replicas of the Revo lanterns were also manufactured in cast aluminium, but the plastic glazing panels were so opaque that they severely restricted the light output. Some of their unique cast iron columns were also lost, being replaced with steel equivalents as they were occasionally demolished by road vehicles. Philips lighting appeared to be very succesful in winning contracts and large numbers of MA 90 lanterns were used as spot replacements for GEC, Revo or Thorn main road low pressure sodium lanterns as these failed. Smaller numbers of MA 50 lanterns appeared replacing the Relite and 135W SOX GEC lanterns, although identical replacements (for the GEC type) now made by Siemens were also often used. As the old 1930s swan necks rusted away they were again replaced with a variety of different swan necks, sometimes new, sometimes salvaged from other parts of the county. One particular large type looked quite out of place and at the other extreme a smaller '7' type bracket looked equally stupid. More and more hockey sticks started appearing in streets amongst cast iron columns as the latter succumbed to corrosion, not really surprising as some were now probably 100 or so years old.

The last remaining Paisley lamps on King Edwards Parade were replaced with the GEC pattern bronze coloured, hexagonal lanterns which were one of the more pleasing lantern types used on the seafront, completing the high pressure sodium lighting of the seafront (excepting the lighting on the sea side of the pavement on Royal. Marine and Grand Parades which although having had its Paisleys replaced with proprietry post top lanterns was still tungsten lit, having remained under the control of the Town Council).

In 1982 a new Lighting Engineer was appointed by E.S.C.C. and one of his first tasks was to oversee the preperation of a new maintenance contract for the road lighting. This new contract was finally awarded to a firm called Riamas who were a small firm who had been involved in traffic signal control and maintenance but were looking to expand in the highway electrical field. They set up a site at Hailsham from where the streetlighting contract was to be run.The outcome of this was that Seeboard lost the contract that they had held for some 30 years or so. A number of County Council staff found employment with Riamas and this led to some understaffing in the County Council lighting section until mid 1983. For a while the contract ran fairly smoothly ,but in December 1984 Riamas went into receivership and no maintenance on the Counties lighting was carried out until March 1985 when Seeboard were re-appointed as the maintenance contractor. They were to continue as the maintainer and the main player in new schemes until the year 2000.

The great hurricane hit Eastbourne in 1987 and although numerous old trees were brought down and substantial damage occured to the town, Eastbourne's street lighting escaped with relatively little loss compared to some areas It was noted however that one of the long outreach arms on a steel post in The Avenue had its lantern pointing at some 30 degrees to the road until it was replaced some 10 years later!.

During 1989 the long established idea of all night lighting was to finally come to fruition. Hailed in the press as a move to improve road safety and security the E.S.C.C. initiative was to see many lanterns being fitted with individual photocells over the coming few years, initially of the 2 part variety but later with the miniature single piece units so that the lights became truly independant of time switch control and lit and extinguished themselves as the lighting conditions warrented. Most new lanterns that were installed were ordered fitted with NEMA style photocell sockets so that photocells or shorting plugs ( where group control still existed) could be fitted as required.

 

 

-THE 1990s-

 

1993 had seen the opening of Cross Levels Way an important link road joining Lottbridge Drove and Kings Drive without the need to traverse the busy railway level crossing in Hampden Park This road crossed the railway via a new bridge and cut across the central farmland area of Eastbourne, just south of the early industrial estates in Hampden Park. As part of the funding of this road a new Sainsburys superstore and other retail outlets were built adjacent to the road.

From a streetlighting aspect this road was a first for Eastbourne with the installation of 'cut off' GEC/Siemens/Whitecroft ( the same lanterns made by successive manufacturers) MRL6 flat glass 250W SON fittings, pole top mounted on 10m steel columns. In cut off lanterns the light source is generally shielded from the drivers view and not visible until you are practically underneath the lantern. Although this has traditionally meant closer spacings of columns to produce an even road surface illumination, with modern lantern designs this is mitigated and the benefits of less glare to drivers and no 'spill' light to the night sky meant that there was less of a night time visual impact on the traditional dark central area of Eastbourne. Cross Levels Way also saw the first purpose constructed cycleway to be built and this ran parallel to, but at times a short distance from the road. The cycle path had its own lighting installation consisting of GEC/Siemens/ Whitecroft SRL8 lanterns, again with a flat glass cut off light distribution. However these lanterns were on 5m columns and many of the lanterns in the more vulnerable sections of the path attracted the attentions of vandals who found the cover glass an irresistable target. This problem was eventually solved by replacing all the glass with conventional semi cut off polycarbonate bowls.

During 1995 Lottbridge Drove was upgraded to a dual carriageway and a new link road built from where Cross Levels Way joined Lottbridge Drove to a new roundabout at Willingdon Drove. The original 1964 lighting was removed and a new scheme of Philips MA 50 135W SOX lanterns using double bracket arms on centrally mounted 10 columns was installed by Rovas Light and Power. Whereas in the 1964 installation where the 132KV power lines crossed the road shorter columns were used, in the newer scheme the spacing of the columns was increased under the power lines and more powerful MA60 lanterns with 180W SOX lamps were fitted either side.

Although the Philips MA lanterns are adjustable for cut off and semi cut off light distribution, the light source is never really shielded and the same low light pollution effect as Cross Levels Way was not obtained. Moreover at the new roundabouts on the road, full cut off SON fittings were installed and this led to the roundabouts appearing quite dark in comparison to the lighting of the approach roads. The roundabout lanterns were not reliable either, a number had been replaced within a few years until in May 2000 nearly all the the original lanterns were replaced with Urbis ZX3 lanterns with deep bowl semi cut off distribution and this visibly improved the illumination of these busy roundabouts.

The E.S.C.C. Lighting Engineer was mindful of conservation issues and to keep the old cast iron columns in service during the early 90s a new style of swan neck became the standard for replacing the side street 1930s brackets as they became life expired. The first deliveries were a simple plain swan neck , this giving a slightly lower mounting height to the lanterns as there was no compensation for the iron fluted casting that had existed on the old swan necks. Some deliveries did have a longer stem to allow for this although the bulk of those supplied in the later deliveries went back to the shorter version, but with decorative scroll work attached. Where these new swan necks were replacing the old swan necks there was little difference to the lighting of the road ,but in areas where they were used to replace the taller mercury lamp 'hockey stick conversions' they were definitely detrimental to the lighting of the street. Although in Roselands Avenue wholesale replacement of the hockey stick extensions occured, in others, to this day the height of the lanterns in roads such as Northbourne Ave and St Johns Rd can vary by 2m depending on whether replacement brackets have been fitted or not. At the same time some replacement doors were cast for the Every and Morris columns to replace those that had been damaged.

1990s replacement swan neck with new Philips MI55 lantern

 

The new hockey stick columns fitted during the 90s now often had an extended arm approx 1m long so that the column could be installed further back from the kerb in an effort to reduce the amount of collisions and damage. The Philips MI55 had become the standard for where 55W SOX lamps were installed although the smaller GEC/Siemens/ Whitecroft SRL35 was more usual if a 35W lamp was fitted. At important zebra crossings such as Upperton Rd, Seaside Rd, Victoria Drive and Princes Rd additional SON lanterns and columns were fitted amongst the existing SOX installation to improve illumination levels and pedestrian safety. Between the two Hospital roundabouts in Kings Drive a complete section of lighting was changed from SOX to SON for the above reasons.

Other changes to the towns lighting during the mid to late 90s were to see the almost complete removal of any concrete columns that remained and the replacement of the multi lamp 'flying saucer' fittings around the seafront squares and Junctions such as the Avenue/Upperton Rd, Grove Rd/ Meads Rd and Seaside/ Langney Rd with more functional and cheaper ( the only replacement multi lamp fittings- the Urbis Sistellar- available were now in the region of 2000), but less attractive Whitecroft MRL6 fittings on steel posts. With the replacement of the Devonshire Place multi lamp installation in July 2000, the only lanterns of that type to remain were those outside the Congress Theatre.

With the removal of these decorative lanterns and their replacement by the standard poles and columns, Eastbourne seems to be losing out to its neighbours of Hastings and Brighton, both of whom have seen extensive installations of 'heritage' type lighting and in particular expensive and elaborate copies of their early arc lighting installations installed. As far as Eastbourne was concerned, new prestige installations seem to be limited to the installation in the pedestrianised precinct area of Terminus Rd of some round Victorian Globe type lanterns fitted on barley sugar columns that were re-cast from some early examples fitted in Devonshire Park, these being installed in 1999. At the entrance to the precinct, reproduction Sugg Rochester type lanterns were fitted onto normal 8m steel columns fitted with cast aluminium embelishments and scroll work to the outreach arm..

During the 90s a decision was made to paint the lighting columns in the Ocklynge area black instead of the standard buff/beige colour and this concept spread to the older cast iron columns in the Meads consevation area also, although strangely any newer steel hockey sticks installed in the same road were left the old buff colour.Late in the 90s black was decided on to be the standard colour for all Eastbourne's streetlights as the now 10 year painting cycle cane arround.

On the seafront a major reconstruction of the sea wall and its defences occured over several years and in the Royal Parade area this led to the resiting/ removal of many of the 1920s Hardy and Padmore octagonal cast iron columns between the Redoubt and the Pier. A number of new columns were re-cast to the original design and additional lamps and columns installed at a number of locations. All new Candela light 'Campden' lanterns were fitted replacing the old Revo types and their later replacements. The Campden lanterns were a rework of the earlier GEC hexagonal lanterns used as spot replacements and apart from clear instead of stippled acrylic glazing looked identical. 150W SON lamps were used in these fittings the improved optics producing a better light output than the older 250W SON GEC lanterns. As a combined effect of the seafront reconstruction and spot replacing of damaged lanterns, by the year 2000 approx 80% of the seafront lanterns were of this type, with perhaps 20 or so of the 1950s Revo lanterns still remaining, the rest being mainly earlier GEC replacements. As these lamps were installed the new Eastbourne seafront co-ordinated colour scheme was adopted and all the seafront columns were repainted from a light blue base and off white shaft to dark blue base and cream shaft respectively.

 

1990s seafront Campden Lantern with older GEC and Revo types in background.

In 1997 it was decided that to promote a more 'upmarket' appearance to the seafront and to match in with the Pier that had recently been picked out with an installation of some five thousand Lumisphere low voltage white bulbs, the festoon lighting strung between the seafront lighting columns, would have its coloured bulbs removed and 'white' pearl bulbs installed.

In conjunction with the building of the Marina and the new Sewage outlet station on what was the shingle area known as the Crumbles to the eastern end of the seafront, a new promenade was constructed between the old fishing station and the entrance to the new Marina.The new promenade was divided into a walking area and cycle- cum skating path and proved immensely popular. The lighting for this section of the promenade consisted of 54 Frogner SON lanterns made by Urbis mounted on semi- ornate double bracket arms on 10m columns. These columns were painted an all over mid blue.

Lighting of the new Promenade.

 

On the marina development itself the waterfront areas were lit by Victorian style Urbis Albany lanterns on Blenheim columns incorporated into some of the railings. Away from the waterfront areas standard columns and fittings are used.

Apart from the above schemes, as usual E.S.C.C. budgets are restricted as far as street lighting renewals are concerned and many of the towns roads contain lighting installations that are well past their replacement date. Large numbers of cast iron side street columns still exist incuding a few of the pre 1910 Morris examples.

The problem of lamp posts corroding at street level, particularly in the steel columns installed before galvanising became widespread, is a national problem and Eastbourne's answer was to decide on a course of spot replacement for those columns found to be most at risk and additionally, where lamp posts were installed in grass roadside verges a concrete ring was cast around the base of the post to shed water and try to prevent any future deterioration. In 1997 E.S.C.C adopted a system of installing sacrificial anodes to all new columns and also to older columns in some areas to prolong their life. However the pace of renewals does not match that required and large backlogue of required renewals is building up.

Towards the end of 1998 E.S.C.C decided to externalise the management of the highways and road lighting maintenance the contract being awarded to Owen Williams Consultants of Lewes for a 5 year term.

In late 1999 E.S.C.C adopted a new style of contract based on a supply and fit as opposed to labour only style. This led to the closure of the E.S.C.C materials store which had been in existance for some 30 years.

In April of 2000 Seeboard lost the new style maintenance contract for Eastbourne and most of the lighting staff from the Polegate depot were transferred to succesful tenderers for the 3 year contract, David Webster who by July 2000 had won contracts to maintain over 750,000 lights throughout the U.K. Seeboard were still responsible for lights belonging to the outlying Parish Councils however and a small number of staff remained with Seeboard to maintain these lights.

The new contract means that the contractor recieves a set monthly payment provided that 98% of the lighting is operational, this being overseen by the consultants on behalf of E.S.C.C. Lighting availability of less than 98% wil see the contractors monthly payments reduced.Under this contract the contractor only needs to supply lamps,control gear,lampholders and fuses all other equipment such as bowls and lanterns having to be authorised by Owen Williams as the consultants for E.S.C.C.

The repair times for lamps from reported failure is now 5 days and shorter for road signs but because the contractor himself decides on the frequency of night inspections it could be possible for a lamp to be out of service for 2 or more weeks.

In 1983 Eastbourne had some 8000 street lamps and illuminated road signs but by 2000 with the development of the harbour area and new housing estates and roads this had exceeded 12000 units. Low pressure sodium being the predominate light source with high pressue lamps being used in large numbers in the town centre and at the Marina developments.

The start of the 21st century see's Eastbourne's lighting looking quite bland and functional with the emphasis solely being on keeping things working as there is little money for anything else. Although it has to be said that Eastbourne's lighting is still far better than many other towns and cities even if it does lack its individuality and panache that was evident throughout the days of Brydges and Boydells leadership. An example is the appearance of the CDMT Metal Halide lamp. This is a new type of Metal Halide lamp that is of a compact design has very high efficiencies approaching that of SON lamps and produces an excellent white light. Apart from the lighting of the Pigs Lane cycle route from Willingdon drove to Hampden Park, this type of lamp has so far found no use in Eastbourne.You can be sure that if the likes of Brydges and Boydell had been around today funds would have been found, to, at the very least change the SON lamps along the seafront and town centre to this much more pleasing light source.The act of decentralising control to the County Council, the need to keep expenditure down and the fact that due to staff rationalisation no one person is now solely concerned with Eastbournes streetlighting, combined with the way maintenance contracts are now run and let, can only ensure this state continues.

 

- ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS-

 

Most of the information for this article was extracted from the very detailed minutes produced for the various committees of the Eastbourne Town Council, all held at the Central Library. These were cross checked against papers written for the Association of Public Lighting Engineers by J.K.Brydges and Norman Boydell during the 1930s and 40s, against various photographic and postacrd collections and from various other documents held in the electrical section of the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum, where the Seeboard archives are now held. The main people who actively helped in sourcing information were John Norris and John Narborough of the Amberley museum and Barry Quaiffe of Owen Williams who checked the whole document and added up to date information from the 1970's onwards to compliment my own records of the later years.

 

 

 

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