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Three Richardson Candle wall-mounted lamps attached to the south side of Queens’ College, Silver Street.

A Grade II Listed Building in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.202 / 52°12'7"N

Longitude: 0.1155 / 0°6'55"E

OS Eastings: 544664

OS Northings: 258081

OS Grid: TL446580

Mapcode National: GBR L79.S0T

Mapcode Global: VHHK2.YXDB

Plus Code: 9F426428+Q5

Entry Name: Three Richardson Candle wall-mounted lamps attached to the south side of Queens’ College, Silver Street.

Listing Date: 4 April 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1414066

Location: Newnham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Cambridge

Electoral Ward/Division: Market

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Cambridge

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Cambridge St Botolph

Church of England Diocese: Ely

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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Wall-mounted street lamps, known as Richardson Candles, designed by Sir Albert Richardson in 1957.


Wall-mounted street lamps known as Richardson Candles, designed exclusively for Cambridge City by Sir Albert Richardson in 1957, and manufactured by the REVO electrical company. The street lamp comprises a vertical, tubular lantern of translucent glass, containing three or four fluorescent tubes. The lantern has a simple cast-iron capping and base, and is wall mounted via a pair of plain metal brackets at each end. The lower bracket is embossed with the word REVO.

One lamp is attached to the south elevation of the C15 south range of Queens’ College (Grade I listed). The other two are attached to the south elevation of the white brick building, designed by James Essex (1756-60), at the south-west angle of the College.


During the first half of the C20 Cambridge's street lighting was predominantly still run on gas. However, by the mid 1950s the high price meant that it was an inefficient way of lighting the City's streets, and the City Council looked towards the adoption of an electric solution to replace its pre-war stock.

A trial scheme was set up whereby manufacturers were invited to exhibit their available models in King's Parade and around the Market Square. Two manufacturers were short-listed, British Thomson Houston (BTH) and REVO Electrical Company. The lamps displayed by BTH were all carefully engineered solutions although rather intrusive, while those by REVO, which included the REVO Festival - a slim tubular, column mounted lamp, were more sympathetic to the character of the historic city. However, the trial was considered to be unsuccessful, and most of the lamps were deemed to be unsuitable for Cambridge. Rather than choosing an 'off-the-peg' design from a catalogue, the City Surveyor decided to approach the Royal Fine Art Commission for expert advice and guidance, which suggested the well-known architect, Sir Albert Richardson.

The employment of an architect or industrial designer to design street lighting was generally unheard of until the architect Grey Wornum was commissioned to redesign Parliament Square in the early 1950s, including the street lamps. The design, a modern interpretation of the existing gas lamp, was immediately successful and was adopted throughout Westminster.

As well as being an architect, Albert Richardson was also president of the Royal Academy and loathed modern street lighting. It is said that he became particularly alarmed by the installation of a concrete street lamp, one of his particular hates, outside his home in Ampthill in 1957, describing it as a monstrosity. In the same year he was commissioned to design the new street lighting for Cambridge.

Sensitive to the strong perpendicular lines of the Cambridge townscape, including the iconic King's College chapel, Richardson took the REVO Festival lamp as his inspiration to produce a simplified, more slender model with smoother lines and less embellishment. In a speech in Cambridge in 1957 he said, 'The lighting in a city should be regulated by the city itself, by the condition and formation of the streets, by the buildings and houses and certainly with regard for vistas and silhouettes.' REVO were commissioned to produce the Richardson Candle exclusively for Cambridge. Only 120 of these lamps were manufactured in total and it never appeared in REVO's catalogue.
The Candles were limited to the City's historic core. 56 of the Candles were wall mounted and installed along the narrow roads of Saint John's Street, Trinity Street, Silver Street, Market Street, Petty Curry and sections of Sidney Street. The other 64 Candles were column mounted and could be found along Bridge Street, Sidney Street, the Market Place, Peas Hill, Bene't Street and Trumpington Street.

The Candles soon became accepted as part of Cambridge's historic street scene and were a talking point for residents and visitors alike. Despite some of the columns being damaged by traffic, and pressure to replace them for a more efficient modern system of street lighting during the late C20, about half of the original installation of Richardson Candles survive in the city centre, outliving their originally intended 25 year longevity.

Reasons for Listing

The group of three Richardson Candle wall-mounted lamps attached to the south side of Queens’ College, Silver Street, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the Richardson Candle is a bespoke street lamp design, of high quality materials and elegant proportions, the streamlined form of which has been designed specifically to be in sympathy with the perpendicular lines of the historic Cambridge townscape;

* Historical association: the designer of the lamp, Sir Albert Richardson, was a well-respected architect and past president of the RIBA, as well the architect of the first post-war building (Bracken House, Canon Street, London; 1955, Grade II*) to be designated;

* Historic interest: the local cultural significance of the Richardson Candle, due in part to it being designed exclusively for Cambridge, is of special historic interest in a national context. Cambridge is the last city in the UK to retain its own custom-designed lighting stock from the post-war period;

* Group value: the lamps form a group and also have group value with several other designated buildings in the immediate vicinity.

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