1 JUNE 1991, Page 9

One hundred years ago

WEST London has had a striking warn- ing against the use of petroleum-lamps. On Saturday night, Lord Romilly was sitting in the drawing-room of his house in Egerton Gardens, when he accidentally tipped over a table with a paraffin-lamp on it – a duplex burner, with a metal reservoir, but without a wick-tube. The lamp, it is supposed, set fire to some papers; but, at all events, the oil spread, blazing and causing a suffocating vapour. Lord Romilly ran downstairs to call the butler, and was therefore safe, but returned to the room, it is supposed to save some papers, and in the effort was suffocated. The flames spread, and a female servant also was suffocated on the third floor. All manner of devices have been tried to make paraffin-lamps quite safe, and none of them have succeeded. Nor do we see how, if a lamp is to be set on one of the little tables now used in drawing- rooms, any plan whatever can succeed. Those tables are made to tumble. One of these days, we suppose, somebody will give us an electric accumulator small enough to go in a lamp, yet able to store electricity sufficient for a month's supply. Then we shall be rid of oil altogether, which is essentially a dirty and smelly substance, and shall send our lamps out to be fed, as they did in Biblical times.

The Spectator, 30 May 1891