All things bright and beautiful: Stunning collection of colourful light bulbs is Britain's biggestCollection of 500 bulbs belonged to lighting engineer Bill CarltonIncludes bulbs made with rare metals and others from 19th CenturyHaul sold at auction to a European buyer for 1,750 today
20:42 GMT, 6 December 2012
Britain’s biggest collection of light bulbs went under the hammer for 1,750 at auction today.
The set of more than 500 bulbs was bought as a single lot by a European buyer after the electrician who spent years collecting them died.
It was described by auctioneer David Lay as 'probably the finest collection of light bulbs that has ever gone up for auction.'
They date back to 1890 and were amassed by Bill Carlton – a lighting and engineering specialist who travelled the world for his work.
Bill Carlton's 500 lightbulbs are expected to fetch more than 3,000 when they are auctioned
The late electrician collected the bulbs over an illustrious career which saw him light Westminster Abbey
Bill spent 30 years with Philips Electrical and was responsible for the interior lighting and floodlighting at Salisbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Bath Abbey.
In 1988 even appeared on the scientific TV quiz show Brainstorm hosted by Kenny Everett to explain the development of lighting through the decades.
He collected light bulbs during his career which featured in exhibitions at the Science Museum and the Institute for Engineering and Technology.
The collection had originally been
donated to the science museum but is believed to have been put up for
auction because the bulbs would have been too awkward to display and
Bright: Despite most of the light bulbs coming from Britain, these orange and blue bulbs hail from France. They also have a decorative patterned glass and, as is typical of many bulbs which we use today, they have a standard bayonet connection
Classic: These double-filament bulbs show the intricate, fragile filaments inside which provide the bulb's light. The bulbs are classically designed and are likely to have come from Britain
Most of the light bulbs are British, although the coloured bulbs with decorative glass come from France.
is unknown exactly how Mr Collins came by the bulbs, although he is
said to have been part of a collectors circle who traded the rare
Mr Lay said
the rarest bulb up for auction dated from 1900 and had four special
'tier' filaments made from platinum and an unusual metal called
This enabled it to glow for much longer than its predecessors and makes it 'extraordinarily rare' today.
Inventive: Auctioneer David Lay described the large collection of light bulbs as 'rare and unusual'. The double filaments inside these two bulbs are extremely elaborate compared to a standard bulb. The filaments on the bulb on the left extend virtually the length of the bulb. The bulb on the right has a unique chocolate colour
Bold: The auctioneer said the collection gives a 'fascinating glimpse' of early lighting technology . This French bulb on the left is likely to give off a dim glow and was made for decorative purposes. Unlike many of these bulbs, the one on the right has a screw fitting and resembles a snow globe with its decorative flecks
He said:'I think it probably is the finest collection of antique light bulbs that has ever gone up for auction
'It's a worldwide collection but the bulbs are mostly British. We had some bulbs on sale which look as if they have four tiers of support – these are very sought after.
'They have got platinum and another metal called tantalum – they were the next stage on from a carbon filament.
'That gave a long-life bulb, but they are extraordinarily rare – they date from about 1900.
'The coloured bulbs are French and were made for decorative purposes.
Mr Lay added: 'Bill Carlton was just steeped in this world – light bulbs were just his working life and private life it seems.
'He bequeathed them to the
science museum, but they didn't want it because it was too much hassle.
Most of them use a standard bayonet connection that we have today.
'Collectors who buy the bulbs want their filaments to work. They aren't interested in a bulb whose filament doesn't.
'They pass a low voltage through it, and you get a very dull glow.'
Asked how the buyer would be able to collect their fragile purchase intact, Mr Lay said: 'The buyer is going to come and get them himself.
'I think they're going to be packed carefully in a lot of smaller boxes.'
Auctioneer David Lay inspects some of the 500 lightbulbs set to go under the hammer this week
The fragile bulbs have been carefully packed in bubble wrap to avoid breakages prior to the sale