Design Classics: Anglepoise Lamp

From its beginnings in the early 1930s, the Anglepoise lamp has become an iconic classic used in homes and offices all over the world.  Originally intended for industrial use, it soon became apparent that this uniquely constructed lamp could be successfully marketed in home lighting as well as business lighting too.angelpoise-1

The inventor and the early days

Between 1931 and 1934, George Carwardine designed a work lamp whose arm could be moved into different positions, very much like the action of the human arm. He thought it would be used by his engineers, but soon realised that it had great potential for business and home use. When his patent application for the ‘Equipoise’ lamp was rejected because equipoise was an existing word, he changed the name to ‘Anglepoise’.

The Anglepoise was first released in 1935 and soon became hugely popular. It was a simple but very effective articulating lamp not found in the home in those days. In addition, the lamp’s unique tulip-shaped shade had the same effectiveness with a 25 watt bulb as other lamps did with a 60 watt.

Carwardine soon found demand so great that he needed someone to handle the manufacture and distribution. He signed a licensing agreement with the Terry Spring Company in Redditch, England and they manufactured and marketed the lamp, while he continued to develop and produce other versions and applications. Carwardine’s original four-spring design was made for working environments such as workshops and the surgeries of doctors and dentists.

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World War Two

During the Second World War, Anglepoise lamps were produced not for the domestic market, but for bomber aircraft. The design was ideal for navigators’ chart tables and was produced for the air ministry. Due to post war materials shortages, the arm of the lamp was produced in aluminium instead of steel from around 1952 onwards; it was only redesigned again in 1969.

The Luxo phenomenon

The commercial potential of the way the arm of the lamp worked was noticed by the Norwegian Jac Jacobsen Company, importers of textile equipment since 1934. Jacobsen negotiated a license to manufacture and distribute a version of the Anglepoise lamp under the name Luxo. The Luxo L1 was launched in 1938. It was a slightly revised version of the early four-spring design.

When the Luxo L1 became a huge success, Jacobsen obtained the license to produce and market it worldwide (apart from the British Commonwealth). This left the Terry Spring Company and Anglepoise, increasingly isolated.

While Luxo went from strength to strength, becoming an international household name with an annual turnover of over £50 million, the Terry Spring Company started to struggle. With only a small market and ever cheaper imports from outside the UK, competition from Luxo and others forced it to a point in 2001, when it was making only around 50,000 lamps a year, and was staring closure in the face.

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Anglepoise today

But close they did not … John and Simon Terry, the current directors of the Terry Spring Company and grandsons of company founder Herbert Terry, turned the business around when they relocated from the midlands to Portsmouth – a more suitable location for supply and machining. They then followed up with a relaunch of Anglepoise as a premium and fully international brand.

Collaborations with designers such as Kenneth Grange, who was brought in as Consultant Design Director, have helped position Anglepoise lamps as a must-stock brand for design and lifestyle-oriented stores globally.

Several new models have been released, and these include the Anglepoise Type 3. This state-of-the-art version is handmade and uses brass arms to create a fluid movement. For extra stability, the base is turned out of a solid piece of steel. The shade is double skinned, which helps to increase the light output and makes the shade cooler to the touch.

Some of the other changes that have been introduced are remarkable. Anglepoise no longer refers to itself as a lighting company. No, they are now known as a Personal Mechanical Motion company, and in all their advertising, class, quality and the advantages of a genuine Anglepoise product is heavily promoted.

Most of the articulating lamp products produced by competitors around the world have a tendency to droop at certain angles, or after a certain period of use, but a Carwardine’s Anglepoise lamp always performs at its best – the springs used are key and no other lamp manufacturing company has been able to match the quality of these.

No matter that there are a host of similar lamps and copies manufactured and sold around the world, there is only one Anglepoise. The versions based on George Carwardine’s original design and produced and bought in huge numbers today, are destined to continue for many, many years to come.

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