An old miners’ lamp found in a box of old metal was recently sold at a Cotswold auction after being spotted by an expert.
Auctioneer Philip Allwood saw the Georgian lamp and decided to sell it separately from the rest of the items in the box, knowing it could be rare. The lamp had the manufacturer’s mark ‘Robert Watson’, and was estimated to be worth between £100 and £150. Although Allwood realised that the brass lamp could sell for a few hundred pounds, he had no idea how much it would eventually sell for.
Following some research, Allwood discovered that a lamp similar to the one found, had been sold in Sheffield in 2014, for £2,600. The first miners’ safety lamp was produced over 200 years ago, and three engineers have claimed credit for its invention.
Safety lamps were produced in 1812 following a tragedy at Felling Colliery. One lamp was designed in 1813, by Dr William Reid Clanny, and one in 1815 by Sir Humphry Davy and George Stephenson. Davy accused Stephenson of plagiarism when he presented his safety lamp to the Philosophical and Literary Society of Newcastle in 1815.
Stephenson was eventually exonerated in 1833, by a House of Commons committee, which found that he had a genuine claim to inventing the safety lamp. However, the lamps are popularly recognised as Davy lamps. The lamp eventually sold to a private collector for £15,000.
A lamp like this would be an attractive addition to a country cottage, perhaps displayed on an antique dining table or dresser.
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