Streets of darkness
When wandering along town or city streets, you can often spot objects that are leftovers from a previous way of life, including the strange-looking ‘link extinguishers’ outside a few houses in London and elsewhere. Before gas street lighting became widespread in the early decades of the 19th century, urban streets were extremely dark. Even on moonlit nights, the moon might be darkened by clouds, while the buildings on either side would cast deep shadows. For anyone out in the streets at night, there was not just the obvious hazard of being attacked by thieves, but a constant risk of accidents through not being able to see the way.
A link extinguisher in London on an entrance pillar (left) and in a close-up view (right)
The solution for many people was to hire a link boy – a boy or young man who carried a flaming torch called a ‘link’ to light the way for the traveller. Continue reading