On 2nd June 1896 a Committee was formed to "consider the best and cheapest way to light the village of Sherington for the coming winter" Messrs Gardner, Harding, Watts and Hickson were appointed to make up the Lighting Committee. This committee moved quite swiftly for it was only 14 days later on the 16th June 1896 that they reported that it would cost £45 to set up the lamps and £10 per annum to light them. A parish meeting was called for 17th July 1896.
Unfortunately it is not known what transpired at this parish meeting but it was not until 21st February 1898 that any further reference was made in the minutes to the subject. Then it was to note that a lighting rate was to be levied on the urban part of the village. On 15th April 1898 it was noted that the lamps were to be taken down by Mr H West and were to be stored during the summer months with J J Field Esq.
The job of lamplighter would appear to have been one worth having for both Mr Edwin Smith and Mr Arthur Petts submitted applications to light and clean the lamps for 2/6d per week. Mr Petts was appointed to the job with effect from 1st October 1898. No doubt nepotism did not enter into the deliberations of the Council but it is interesting to note that Mr J Petts was appointed a parish councillor at the same meeting.
The first bill for gasoline oil, bought from J & W G Sowman, Olney for the quarter to Christmas Day was for £2.8.2d. The bill for the first quarter of 1899 was for £1.2.8d.
Every year the Council met to determine when the lamps should be lit for the winter months, until 4th October 1901 when it was decided that "the lamps to be lit at the same time as vehicles are required by law". The Council also had to decide every year how much should be paid to the lamplighter for cleaning the lamps. It was normally one weeks wages. At this same meeting the Clerk was instructed to purchase a bucket, sponge, leather and one dozen boxes of flaming lights for the use of the lamplighter
It is not clear from the minutes where the lamps were originally sited, although individual minutes do record some of the locations as being "in the centre of the village". It is believed that the "centre" was at a place known as the "Arch". This was where an arch bridge stood at one time over the confluence of the three brooks that met in the High Street opposite what is now Virginia House Stores. Here the brooks coming in from the Olney Road, Church Road and from the direction of the Manor met before going down Water Lane. This lamp-post was taken down and stored in April 1920.
The minutes for 14th December 1899 indicate that the managers of the National School, (opposite the wall of the current "Old Rectory" in School Lane), raised funds for a new lamp to be placed opposite the school. As the lamplighter was to be paid an additional sixpence a week to light this it would seem possible that this made the sixth lamp in the village. In November 1901 the Reverend R F Mallam complained of the damage done to the Rectory wall by the ladder of the lamplighter. It was resolved that "Mr Wm. Groom be asked to fix an iron rest for the ladder to be placed against and that Mr F Line repair the damage complained of".
Other locations mentioned in the minutes were at "Church End", "near the Manor House" and "Crofts End" This latter location stemmed from October 1923 when Messrs Field and Hickson were charged with choosing the site. By 1928 the number of lamps had risen to eight, but nothing is noted about the extra two positions.
The lamps had, of course, to be cleaned and checked every year when they were taken down around the middle of April. The standards also had to be painted. In May 1901 Sowman's of Olney were asked to tender for the painting of the standards in two coats of the same colour. Later in the year the Clerk was instructed to write to Sowman's "stating that the lamps in the centre of the village and Church End are defective owing to having a screw loose and asking them to remedy the defect at their earliest convenience". It would seem from the tenor of the letter that the Council considered Sowman's to have caused the problem when repainting the standards.
In 1908 the Council could have remembered the problems with Sowman's painting the lamps for they considered that they needed doing again and accepted the offer of the lamplighter to give hem two coats of paint for the sum of 6/0d
The lamps were lit at sunset and extinguished at 9.30pm, except when there was a social event at the school when, upon payment of one shilling, the lamp opposite would be kept alight until 11pm. In 1922 the times of lighting were amended to "from lighting-up time to 9.30pm, except on moonlight nights". Normally the lamps were lit from October to the end of March or April but in 1912 they were taken down for the season on 2nd March "owing to the low state of funds".
The lamps were lit with gas oil, normally purchased under tender from Sowman's of Olney. (Sowman's was on the Market Square on the same side as the Cowper Museum. It is now a saddlers and equine accessories shop). The price was 1/11d per gallon in 1912, with 40 gallons being the usual annual supply. When the lighting was considered for the winter of 1913/14 the supply of gas oil was again put out to tender. Odell's of Newport Pagnell quoted 2/9d per gallon whilst Sowmans quoted 2/- per gallon. The Council were told that the oil supplied for the last year was "not altogether satisfactory" and after discussion Mr Petts and Mr Field were given full powers to complete the purchase. The next meeting of the Council, in February 1914, was told that the negotiators had bought the oil at 2/1d a gallon (a 1d per gallon increase !) but that it was still not altogether satisfactory and because of this the lamps would be taken down on 21st February. They were also told that the lamps were inadequate and unfit for use in their present state and that "new lamps will be necessary another season".
Later that year, in September, the Council decided that the lamps were to be converted to burn paraffin and the standards be painted in two coats of red paint by either Odell's or Sowman's whoever won the tender. Odell's were given the job after quoting £5/2/3d - the actual cost coming to £6/15/5d.
In 1915 the Zeppelins and Gotha bombers of the German Air Force had bombed places in England and it was decided that the lamps would not be lit for the 1915/16 winter. This decision continued until the end of that war. In September 1919 this matter came once again on the agenda and the first thing to be received was the resignation of Arthur Petts as lamplighter. Nobody could be found to undertake the job and the lamps remained unlit. The lamps were lit, eventually, but the name of the lamplighter is not noted from 1919 to 1922.
In 1924 the Council felt that they should insure the lamplighter, as an employee, under the Workmens Compensation Act and the sum of 5/- was paid as the annual premium.
The lamp in Crofts End was "to be moved to a more effective position" in October 1925.
At the same meeting it was reported that the post of lamplighter was again vacant and the Council decided to advertise the post but not to state a salary. Details are then not recorded until October 1926 when William Watts was appointed. He did not last in the job for long for in February 1927 Messrs Haynes & Co tendered for the job, and to be the supplier of the oil for the lamps as well.
Modern times nearly came to Sherington in April 1929 when the Clerk was instructed to "write to Northampton Electric Light & Power Co Ltd and enquire if there was any prospect of the electric light being available for street lighting during the next winter". Evidently things moved slowly for the minutes of October 1929 said that the Clerk had "written to Northampton and Captain Sir George Bowyer MC MP, and it appeared that everything had been done to expedite the matter". It was not until another year later that the minutes mention that lighting by electricity might be expected in time for the 1931 winter. This was not to be for in April 1931 the Council received notification that the Company would supply power for eight lamps with 60w lamps on existing poles to light half an hour after sunset to 10.30pm from 1st Saturday in October to 3rd Saturday in April for £28 per annum, under a seven year contract.
The Council, again mindful of the public purse, decided to see if a reduction in price could be obtained, pointing out that lamps are not required during moonlight nights. It is probable that the Council did not realise that the lamps would be mechanically set and that a lamplighter would not come round to put the lamps on and off, and therefore moonlight nights would not give a saving. The Council sent a delegation in July 1931 to interview the Company, who promptly withdrew the offer! Oil lamps continued to be used for the following winter.
By the Spring of 1932 the Lighting Committee had arranged that tenants or owners of 10 suitable houses were prepared to allow electric lamps to be affixed to their premises, and to switch the lights on and off at the proper times, and to allow the current consumed to be charged to their meter. Eight persons were to be paid 12/6d each, with Messrs White and Haynes being paid £1, per season for the inconvenience and electricity used. Two new lamps were to be put in place. One of these was on the Manor Cottages and one on a Council House.
The total cost of the provision of lamps and the connection to the mains was £10/13/0d, with the old lamp posts being sold for £1 less 5/- for removal! Whilst the electricity was still to be connected in Water Lane this road continued to be lit by oil, at a cost of £1.10.0d per season.
A lamp bracket is still in place on the wall of the 24 Crofts End, which is opposite to the entrance of the narrow passage, known in the village as Corn Close.
Negotiations continued with the Northampton company and in October 1932 the Council received a further quote with the costs shown as £24/10/0 for 7 lamps or £28 for 8 lamps, provided a seven year contract for the supply of electricity was agreed. It should be remembered that electricity was then provided by individual companies. However it was not to be until March of 1933 that a Parish Meeting agreed to accept that street lighting should be provided by the Northampton Electric Light Co.
With the change to a contractor to supply the lighting the Street Lighting Committee was disbanded. The members of this had been:
From To Members 02.06.1896 16.09.1898 Gardner, Harding, Watts, Hickson 16.09.1898 29.09.1899 Jefferson, Petts (J), Field 29.09.1899 21.09.1900 Harding, Line, Petts (J) 21.09.1900 25.09.1902 C E Line, G Watts 25.09.1902 27.09.1904 Harding, Jefferson 27.09.1904 22.09.1905 Slayter, Oldham, Hickson 22.09.1905 07.10.1925 Hickson, Field 07.10.1925 11.10.1926 F Hickson, Major W Taylor 11.10.1926 at least Apr 1931 G.J.Hine, F A Hickson 00.04.1931 02.09.1931 G.J.Hine, F A Hickson, Field.
October 1933 saw the Company submit an estimate for the provision of eight lamps, poles, brackets and fittings for new sites for £16.7s.0d and an annual charge of £3.15s 9d. The charge for actual electricity was estimated to be £9.00.0 per annum. The locations of the lamps were:
- On shop occupied by Geo. West (1/- per annum way leave needed)
- By tree in spinney near the Manor (1/- per annum way leave needed)
- By Council House occupied by Mr Stanley
- Outside Col. Allfrey's house (later moved to opposite side at charge of £3.00.0)
- In Crofts End opposite the house of Lemuel Moore
- In Church Road opposite Mr Line's wood yard
- Outside Mr Nursaws (later moved to opposite his house, at a charge of £2.17.6)
- By cottage opposite Fred Robinson's
Later locations were
- Near Yew Tree Farm on home of Mr Ivester Lloyd, at a charge of £2.18.10 plus 5/7d p.a. This was on 13th February 1935. At this time the company was requested to paint white bands around the poles so that they could be seen in the dark!
- By the Council Houses at a cost of £4.17.3. This was requested on 11th November 1936.
- Water Lane
- By new houses in Olney Road. Numbers 11 and 12 cost £6.7.6 for the pair. plus 15/9 p.a
During the Second World War the lights were extinguished as a black-out was in force. It would have been possible to relight them, in a reduced form, in October 1944 but it was decided that the cost of changing the lamps made it preferable to remain in darkness. In April 1945 however the Northampton Electric light Co were requested to overhaul the whole of the street lighting (at a cost of £15) and to erect two additional poles, one in the Olney Road and the other in Water Lane, as had been agreed in 1939.
The existing lamp that showed along the Olney Road, which was affixed to George West's house, was being obscured by a Wills Tobacco advertisement and the Council said that it "would feel very grateful if this (advertisement) could be removed or placed in a different position to prevent this".
In April 1946, with a new Council and the war behind them, the members decided once again to review the street light locations and that the lights would remain on until 11pm. To this end they agreed in March 1947 to purchase 10 new poles 'at a cost not exceeding 30/- each' but restrictions after the War were still in force and the Northampton Electricity Co said that because of these restrictions they would not be able to amend the scheme but only overhaul it. Nothing else happened by January 1948 when the Council received a reply from the Company stating that the number of street lights was up to the limit allowed by the Ministry of Fuel Economy. Despite this the Council asked for a further lamp to be installed at the top of the Olney Road. In April the Council asked the newly nationalised East Midlands Electricity Board to provide a lighting system in place of that owned by the Council and that this should be in place by 1st October 1948. The EMEB quoted for the provision of a lamp, with reflector, at £2.12s.6d each, or a superior style at £3.7s.6d. To light the system from the 1st Saturday in October to the 3rd Saturday in April from ½hr after sunset to 10.30pm the Board quoted £2.11s.9d per lamp per annum. The Council ordered 18 superior lamps, even though this was over the limit allowed by the Ministry of Transport (the Ministry of Fuel Economy having been disbanded). The system came into effect but at the meeting on the first of March 1949 the Council minuted that that they were not satisfied with the installation requiring the lamps to be higher with the necks turned outwards rather than downwards.
The old poles belonging to the Council were to be sold for 30/- each.
Later locations were:
- Chicheley Road (November 1950)
- Hillview or Perry Lane, described as the New Housing Estate (November 1950)
- Crofts End (2) in September 1951 at a cost of £19/12/6d
It seems strange that eight years after the end of the War it was necessary to get a licence from the Ministry of Transport to maintain the street lighting installations, but the Council were advised of this when they requested the Electricity Board to do this for them. The cost of lighting the village went up, in November 1953, to £3 per lamp per annum for a 100w tungsten lamp - there being 19 lights then in use. Twenty-two places had been identified for lights but restrictions on supply had kept the number down to nineteen.
The actual close within the new housing estate did not have a light until October 1961 when it was agreed to purchase "1 off Stanton7A concrete lighting column complete with Welwyn fitting, initial 100w lamp, underground wiring, internal wiring in agreed position in Crofts End for £20.5.0". Another lamp was positioned at the same time on The Knoll to light the bus-stop, for £9.5.0
In February 1966 another four lamps were needed. These were to be at: School Lane outside the Rectory; Bedford Road outside the District Nurse's house; half way down Corn Close and Church End at the Lych gate.
In October 1966 Bucks CC said that they would take on roadway lighting, but not footpaths. A roadway was where the lamps were mounted at least 13' from the ground and at intervals of not less than 50 yards. The Parish Council were asked to advise the height of the lamps. This was a pointless exercise as not even the High Street boasted lights at less than 50 yard intervals. In June 1967 another 12 light fittings were ordered which began to bring the village up to its current number.
Not all villagers were happy however for October 1968 saw the residents of Perry Lane complain to their MP, Robert Maxwell, that the lights did not work and the councillors did nothing. The Parish Council recorded that 'they were indignant at this suggestion. The lights did work'. This did not placate the residents as next year in February more complaints were received about the lack of lights to the council houses and Hill View.