Object Title

Fighting Lamp Mk I

Fighting Lamp Mk I

Date

1897

Object Number

XXIII.269

Provenance

Purchased at Christie's, South Kensington, 21 November 1984, lot 55.

Physical Description

The lamp is of upright rectangular form, square in plan, and made entirely of copper and brass.
A truncated pyramidal copper oil reservoir supports a single-wick brass burner housing. A short stem with a milled head is fitted with three starwheels to grip and adjust the height of the wick. Adjacent to the burner is a tall bobbin-shaped brass oil filler cap. This cap and the rim of the burner housing are engraved with a broad arrow. One face of the oil reservoir is engraved with a broad arrow over 52. On the opposite face is a brass ring to allow the burner and reservoir to be easily removed from its mounting within the lamp. This consists of a rectangular plate, with edges turned over to grip a flange around the base of the reservoir, mounted on a large spiral spring.
The lamp casing has a thick bevelled-edged flat glass pane in each of three sides, and in the fourth it has a circular hatch edged by a cylindrical flange. Attached to the right side of this opening by a hinge is a domed circular hatch cover, which closes tightly over the cylindrical flange and fastens by a hasp and staple. A silvered copper reflector is fitted to the inside of this cover plate, attached by a threaded rod on its back passing through the cover and being secured by a circular milled brass nut. Immediately above this hatch is an applied brass oval disc, with the raised letters GRIFFITHS & BROWETT /M & C/ 1897. At top and bottom of the lamp body, adjacent to the flat square cap and base plates, is a band of copper sheet closely perforated with small circular holes. A flat sheet of similar material lines the base beneath the burner mounting and inside of the body beneath the cap plate. The base plate is secured by four circular milled brass nuts engaging over short lengths of threaded brass rod. Each nut is prevented from accidentally becoming unscrewed by a split-pin (attached to a length of figure 8 shaped brass link security chain soldered to the base plate) passing through a hole in the end of each threaded rod. (One security chain and pin is missing). Due to slight deformation of one corner of the base plate (due to the lamp being dropped at some time in the past, and which also caused the loss of the security chain) it has not been possible to remove the base plate to examine the interior. The base plate is engraved with the broad arrow.
The cap plate is secured by two circular brass nuts (which do not have security chains) with brass washers, and at one corner also has the head of an L shaped rod which passes down into the burner chamber, which has a flattened serrated edge which allowed the wick to be trimmed without having to open the back of the lamp. The head of this rod consists of two circular milled brass nuts, one above the other and locked together, one being larger, the other slightly smaller than those already mentioned. The cap plate is engraved with a broad arrow, and also has in the centre a strip of copper soldered on; possibly the remains of a suspension loop. Removing the securing nuts and the wick trimmer head allows one to lift off the cap plate. Sandwiched between this plate and onother inner sheet of copper is a thin layer of asbestos-type insulating material. Suspended from the inner plate is a shallow rectangular box-like construction of perforated thick copper-sheet formed of four pieces shaped to U-section. Bolted at each of the four corners to this construction is a sheet of copper, unperforated but cut with a central aperture 2.75in square. Inside this aperture is a sheet copper baffle plate, and beneath it, attached by a brass strip rivetted and soldered on, is another plate, apparently designed to operate as a shutter to prevent escape of flame from the lamp should the burner explode or flare. This construction sits inside the inner lining and outer panels of perforated copper sheet already mentioned.
A final safety feature to be mentioned is that the wick height may be adjusted from outside the lamp by using a rod projecting at a 45 degree angle from one corner of the lamp body between the left and front glass panels. This rod is spring-loaded, and by pushing it inwards a rectangular socket on its inner end engages on a corresponding projection on the head of this outer rod is constructed from two circular nuts in the same way as the head of the wick trimmer. At front and back of the lamp, adjacent to the lower edge of the upper perforated panel is a brass loop, to which is attached a handle loop of brass rod, with a large turned wooden grip.

Dimensions

Dimensions: Height of lamp body: 12.2in, Width of lamp body: 7.4in, Depth of lamp body: 7.4in Weight: 15lb.

Associations

Places Britain

Notes

All indications are that, as an oil lamp of unusual form, with sophisticated flame-control and safety features and bearing the broad arrow mark in quantity, this is in all probability a lamp for use in a military storehouse or installation containing highly combustible or explosive material. The existence of much simpler lamps, using candles and having none of the safety features found in this lamp, but of a type known to have been approved for magazine lighting in British service, makes the exact use for this lamp uncertain. It has been suggested that it may be for naval use. Research into this, and into the makers, who are not recorded under the name on the plaque, is continuing.
The list of changes of British Military equipment of 1896 shows a lamp of precisely this pattern:


8381 Lamp, Fighting. (Mk I).
Copper; with reservoir Burner and reflector.
A pattern of the above mentioned lamp has been sealed to govern supplies. '[18th Jan 1896]'.
This entry has been photocopied and placed in the inventory file and another in 'Magazine Lamps' file in Fort Nelson box files. The lamp was designed to be taken into gun positions, its construction preventing blast extinguishing the flame. The illustration was found by Nicholas Hall, 12th November, 1988.