I am looking for a wick for my Davy lamp, as pictured below - can you help? I also have a question for you! If you zoom in you'll see that the top part is marked '28' and the bottom '21' - would you know the reason for this? Is it that they maybe hung up the lamps in rows in the Colliery and you just picked up any bottom and attached a top to it, or is it simply that a different bottom has been added later to replace a broken bit? BTW, it is stamped 1956 on the inside of the bottom part - that seems quite recent considering the look of it and the technology, or am I wrong?!
Thanks for any information you can come up with.
PS it was my late father who was gifted this lamp whilst being the last Provost of a place called Culross, which is in Fife, Scotland. I think it was called the Valleyfield pit? Anyway, hope you can tell me something about it.
Hi Niall, this is a Workman's Flame Lamp
The number at the bottom are just to identify the various parts of the lamp, it is possible the two parts were mixed up by the lamp man when cleaning the lamp which was done after every shift. It could also have been damaged and replaced by another piece.
Although based on and termed a Davy Lamp, it is a workman's flame proof lamp.
Top part is the hook, fastened to the bonnet. Inside the bonnet are two gauzes, inner gauze and outer gauze which are 128 apertures to one square inch (approx).
Underneath is the glass, on top and below the glass is an asbestos washer. The bars on the outside are to protect the glass. There are usually 2 bars closer together and one of them can be pushed up into the bonnet when screwing the vessel tight, it pushes the bar up into the bonnet and secures the lamp. The lamp is locked by the Lamp man and cannot be opened other than by a strong magnet. It is usually lit by the lamp man using a battery passing through terminals and igniting the vapour above the wick. If it went out it could not be relit until the miner came out of the pit. The lamp appears to be locked, if you use a very strong magnet it may be able to be opened and then unscrewed allowing all the pieces to be examined. The wick is coiled inside and absorbs the oil and the flame is burning the vapour just above the wick. When the lock is open there is a hole where the Colza oil, which burns without smoke, is poured into the vessel. There is usually a small screw in the vessel allowing a plate to be lifted to insert a new wick. Click here to see a break down of the lamp.
The wick is adjusted underneath the vessel for brightness and is turned down to a tiny speck of yellow flame, when testing for firedamp or methane gas, which burns with a pale blue flame of various triangular shapes. At 1¼% of gas electricity had to be switched off and if 2% was registered on the flame all men had to be withdrawn from the area to a safe place when told by an official. The explosive range of methane is between 5% and 15%, it is most violent explosive point being 9.4%. The gas is usually detected in the roof of the roadway or coal face as it is lighter than air.
Also if Blackdamp or Carbon dioxide gas is present, which is heavier than air is usually found near the floor, the lamp flame will be extinguished.
The official, such as a deputy or overman would continually test for gas until it was safe to return to work usually on the coal face where methane gas was given off from the coal seam.
Black damp can escape from the goaf, behind the coal face, in times of low pressure.
The brass plate, above the top number, usually stating the manufacturer’s name plate etc has more than likely been worn away due to the numerous times it has been cleaned over the years, about 300 times a year.
Trusting this explanation is not too complicated. Should you wish for any more information just ask.
--<29 Nov 2017>--
Just read this - fantastic information! Please thank him hugely for this - way more than I expected! Really interesting info - my lamp has obviously been used in real life many, many times but it now has some peculiarities!
I noticed that the glass is fitted upside down - is that normal?
I can actually open the bottom part to gain access to the wick and striker simply by turning it - the two locking pins seem to be either elevated permanently, or perhaps they were cut off so that my dad could actually light it without the need for the magnets?
It is dated 1956 - isn't that quite late for them to be using such technology? I have no idea!
My thinking is that the Miners Committee, who presented it to my dad, took a load of parts and put them together to make this one, and adapted it for domestic use without ruining the look of it. What do you guys think?
Incidentally, I have some connections to mining myself, and have met and worked with some people much like yourself! I worked on a TV show called '999' for the BBC about 25 years ago. I had to reconstruct an incredible accident where a 21 stone man fell down an old shaft near Zennor in Cornwall, breaking his back, neck, legs and arms! It took about 50 Emergency Services personnel to slowly lift him out. He was too big for the stretcher, and was stuck in a horizontal stoop below a sloping shaft. A young paramedic had to be roped to him to hold his neck absolutely still while they gradually hauled him up - any movement could have paralysed him!
I reconstructed it with a full film crew, plus stuntmen, actors and the original participants - all done repeatedly for the cameras while we swung around with just headlamps for light and rocks/water pouring down on us!
The mine was hand cut (tin) and the only access was way up a hill by the sea. I had to bring the Army in to build a base camp and access road in just to get to it. I got the local WRI to make us giant Cornish Pasties in the traditional way to keep us fed, as it would take so long to get out and back into the mine!
I have to say that this was probably the most exciting and challenging thing I ever had to do, and it was an amazing experience that I will never forget!
It was a mine enthusiast (a bit like yourself?!) who allowed us access to the mine, and everyone I met to do with this project was just brilliant. I loved their enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication to keeping these mines open so that we can see and remember just how crushingly hard it was working in these environments.
Thank you and Bob once again for taking the time to give me all this.