Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
On My Wish List
I’ve always fancied a streetlamp in our garden. Ever since we started hard landscaping our back garden many years ago, I could visualise it as a practical design feature.
Although I could have bought an imitation one at any time for about £70, it seemed rather frivolous for the price and therefore low on my wish list. Finding a gas streetlamp from the Victorian or Edwardian era and converting it to electricity would be ideal, but the odds of such a gem find at an affordable price are negligible.
A Chance Find
On return to England from our two weeks holiday in sunny southern France, and before returning home to Bristol, my wife treated me to a day in Margate (as a birthday treat) to visit the famous Shell Grotto.
Opposite the Shell Grotto was RG Scotts Antique Emporium, a reclamation yard of the likes we’ve never seen before; and right in their entrance, which immediately caught our eye, was the street lamp. Also in the entrance was a cast iron bell that took our fancy; another item on my wish list for garden landscaping.
We enquired on the price of the streetlamp and bell, and then spent the next hour exploring just part of the emporium. We didn’t get to see the whole premises because it was such a vast place with lots of rooms and floors; but if we had the money, and space in the car, we could have spent a small fortune with all the goodies we’d seen.
Having satisfied ourselves with a wander around the premises we’d set our hearts on the streetlamp, which was a bargain price; but we had no means of transport e.g. apart from being too small, our car was still packed full with our holiday luggage.
Therefore we gave our friend (Rev. Adrian) from Portsmouth who regularly visits Bristol to see us and his family, and asked if on one of his visits to Bristol he would be so kind as to make a detour via Margate. He has a much bigger car, and obviously we offered to cover the petrol costs. He was more than delighted to help, and on his visit to pick up the streetlamp bought himself a cast iron bell from the reclamation yard for his newly built chapel.
Bargain Price in Any Currency
The Antique Emporium had a big sign by the till stating they accepted euros so we made both purchases in euros, taking the cast iron bell with us and leaving the street lamp for our friend to pick up at a later date. We paid 60 euros ($70) for the streetlamp, and well pleased with it because with the curved glass and glass top dome it’s far superior to anything I’ve seen on line; and significantly cheaper.
We opted to pay in euros because when on our two weeks holiday we stayed in a remote rural part of southern France where there was little opportunity to spend. Even on our way back to England, when we spent our last day on the continent shopping in Belgium, we used predominantly pound sterling because the Belgium shops we visited accepted our currency at a favourable exchange rate. So it was cheaper to spend British pounds in Belgium than euros, meaning that when we returned to England, and spent the day in Margate, we had loads of euros leftover.
Reclamation Yard Bargains
Renovation of the Streetlamp
Testing the Electrics
The streetlamp, although only a replica, was quite old and showing signs of wear; one of the lamps was loose, some of the bolts that hold the glass domes in place were corroded, as was the earthing cable connected to the base.
So the first thing I wanted to know before starting on any restoration work was whether I would need to rewire the whole lamp.
- On visual inspection, the cabling and electrical lamp holders were modern enough to meet current regulations and appeared to be in good condition,
- Visually, the all the cabling look in good condition, with no damage or corrosion, and
- On testing with a voltmeter, the circuits were all intact.
The lamp holders are Edison screw, with each being rated to take up to 100w; but for our purposes I felt that 60w bulbs would be more than sufficient. Therefore as a final test:
- I removed the two existing 100w bulbs and replaced them with three 60w bulbs,
- Fitted a plug to the end of the cable, and
- Plugged the lamp into the mains for testing.
Not surprisingly, given the visual checks above, when I switched the streetlamp on it worked perfectly. Therefore, having satisfied myself that the electrics were ok I could then concentrate on renovating, cleaning and polishing the lamppost and installing it in my back garden.
Repairing the Loose Lamp
Having satisfied myself the electrics were fine I then concentrated on fixing the wobbly lamp. On inspection, and comparing it with the other two lamps, it was obvious that a compound or welding that fixed the lamps to the lamppost was missing, leaving a 2mm (16th of an inch) gap.
To fill the gap, and make good the repair, I decided to first wedge something into it on either side of the lamp and then fill the gap with car body filler. As a washer happened to be the correct thickness (to act as a wedge) I broke one into several pieces by using a pair of pliers to bend it back and forth in a metal vice until it snapped; I then repeated the process several times to make the pieces smaller.
In packing the car body filler into the gap I invariably filled the 5mm (1/4 inch) drain hole. So once the compound had begun to harden but before it went rock hard (about 10 minutes), I re-drilled the drain hole; vital in that if water gets inside the lamp it drains away without getting into the electrics.
Once I’d fixed the wobbly lamp, I then replaced all the corroded fixing bolts, drilling new holes in the top of the domes where necessary for new bolts.
Cleaning and Polishing
Once all the repairs had been made I cleaned and polished the whole lamppost to bring it back to its former glory by:-
- Washing it all down with soapy water and wiping dry with an old tea towel, and then
- Polishing the glass to a clean shine by spraying it with window cleaner and wiping dry with a clean cloth.
I decided the best place to locate the streetlamp in our back garden was on the outside far corner of the decking leading out from our conservatory. In this position it would be in the middle of the grassed area; and at night would light up most of the garden near the house, the garden path and the whole of the conservatory decking.
With the lamppost renovated and ready for installation the next step was to prepare the decking for fixing it in place; which required me to:-
- Ensure there were suitable anchoring points where required in the decking for the coach screws,
- Make an access point through the decking for the cabling, and
- Getting the mains professionally laid from the house to where needed under the decking,
So I lifted a couple of the decking planks to mark where the coach screws would go and then add a couple of noggins there to provide a solid fixing for the lamppost once it’s bolted in place.
I then drilled a large hole in the middle of the decking underneath where the lamppost would be sited for the cabling.
In the UK all mains electrical circuits have to be wired by a qualified electrician; or at the very least independently checked and certified by a qualified election before being connected to the mains power supply,
As with the rest of Europe, in the UK the electrical power supply in all domestic and commercial properties is 240 volts.
While the decking was still up ducting was laid underneath from the conservatory, through which the mains cable was fed; the cable being wired into a fused switch in the conservatory, protected by an RCD circuit.
The base of the lamppost was re-earthed, replacing the old corroded earthing, and this was wired into a suitably rated caravan exterior coupler socket; with the corresponding plug being fitted to the wiring for the three lamps.
This cable arrangement allows for the lamppost to be dismantled anytime in the future for maintenance, or removed entirely, safely; simply by unplugging the electrics. With the added bonus that should the lamppost be permanently removed in the future the electrical circuit could be safely repurposed.
Final Fit and Test
Once the decking was screwed back in place, the lamppost bolted to the decking, wired up and re-assembled, it was time to admire our new streetlamp taking pride of place on our decking; and come dark, test it out.
The verdict: Spectacular, just as I’d visualised when I first saw the streetlamp in reclamation yard in Margate; and for the back garden 60w bulbs in each lamp is definitely more than sufficient to strike a harmonious balance between a pleasantly subdued lighting that’s also bright enough to be practical. Using 100w bulbs, for our purposed, would make it too bright.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Arthur Russ (author) from England on December 12, 2016:
I know; that’s what I love about reclamation yards. The leaded glass windows in our conservatory (photo above) was another gem find at just £5 ($7) dollars each, so we bought all seven that they had; which fits just nicely along the full length of the rear (left-hand side) wall in the conservatory.
Springboard from Wisconsin on December 12, 2016:
Wow. Looks like an incredible find. Adds a lot of character. Much better than anything ordinary that might be found at any typical hardware store.