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Richardson Candle Group in Trinity Street Including Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Description: Richardson Candle Group in Trinity Street Including Gonville and Caius College

Grade: II
Date Listed: 6 May 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1400896

OS Grid Reference: TL4483358539
OS Grid Coordinates: 544833, 258539
Latitude/Longitude: 52.2060, 0.1181

Locality: Cambridge
Local Authority: Cambridge City Council
County: Cambridgeshire
Country: England
Postcode: CB2 3NJ

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Listing Text


Street lamp known as the Richardson Candle, designed exclusively for Cambridge City by Sir Albert Richardson in 1957.

Reason for Listing

The Richardson Candles group in Trinity Street including Gonville and Caius College are recommended for designation 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.


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, Benet 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 twenty-five year longevity.


Street lamps known as the 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 fluorescent tubes. The lantern has a simple cast-iron capping and base, and is mounted on a slim, fluted column of bronze coloured, cast-iron. The wall-mounted version is attached to the building via a pair of plain metal brackets at each end. The lower bracket is embossed with the word REVO.


This List entry is represented on the map by the lamp post outside Michaelhouse.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.