THE discovery of a batch of old newspapers brought back memories of the days when gas lamps lit Oxford streets.

The newspapers had been carefully laid under flooring in a house and were found as a new carpet was being laid.

They were handed to Roger Thomas, of Ripley Avenue, Minster Lovell, near Witney.

One article, under the headlines, ‘Gas lighting bill rises, changeover to electricity?’, in a copy of our sister paper, The Oxford Times, in 1955, caught his eye.

The Southern Gas Board had told the council that it was putting up the charge for providing gas lighting by £2,639 a year, blaming higher costs of labour, materials and freight.

A report to the highways, sewers and lighting committee said the switch to electric power was again being considered.

Gas lamps first appeared in Oxford streets in 1819, courtesy of the Oxford Gas Light & Coke Company, which ran the gasworks by the River Thames in St Ebbe’s.

Lamplighters had to tour the city to light the lamps at sunset and extinguish them at sunrise.

The debate over whether gas lamps should remain went on for many years, but it was not until the early 1960s that the changeover began.

At that time, there were 2,000 gas lights in the city.

Over the next 10 years, they were gradually replaced until in 1973, they remained only in Old Headington and the city centre.

The final gas light was ceremonially switched off in New College Lane in April 1979 by Fred Kane, the chairman of the city highways committee.

Most people agreed that modern lights in the historic areas of Oxford would be out of place, so special electric lamps were designed to look like the old gas lamps.

The historic character of Oxford remained, but at a considerable saving to the council – electric lighting was said to be 20 times more efficient than gas.