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Description

A classic example of a police bulls-eye lamp/lantern which would have been used by all police forces throughout Wales. This one came from Cardiff and is likely one of the former Cardiff Borough Police. This type was used for many decades. The centre of the lamp could be rotated to cut off the light given off from the flame, in effect ‘turning out the light', but without having to extinguish the flame. This allowed officers to hide themselves in the shadows and watch quietly from dark vantage points on their 'beat'. When light was needed, it was a simple matter of rotating the chimney top to expose the flame again.
The design was effective but not without some major faults. The lamp would get so hot, that it could easily burn the officer. Also, the glass 'bulls eye' was easy to chip or break during the rigours of police work. Perhaps the biggest flaw though, was that if an officer tripped, in the gloom of the old Victorian alleys or perhaps when in pursuit of an offender, the oil in the lamp risked spilling and onto the officers uniform, whereupon the naked flame could ignite it. Many officers’ trousers – and worse – were set alight in this way.
When mounted on the belt underneath a uniform cape, the cape would act like a chimney by funneling the oily fumes and smoke upwards. Officers would often return to the police station after a long night, with black oily / sooty deposits covering their neck and face. The lamp did throw out a considerable amount of heat. During cold winter night patrols, the heat must have been a source of some comfort to those olden days policemen..
Used generally from the 1820’s up until the 1920's. Eventually they were phased out, and replaced by battery powered electric torches. This one is about 8 inches in height and known as a 'three-stack chimney' lantern. Fitted makers plate - 'Hiatt & Co. Birmingham'. In full working order and even today, probably after a century or more - it still has a length of its original wick.

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