Designed by the automotive engineer George Carwardine, the ANGLEPOISE lamp is based on the ability of a new type of spring invented by Carwardine in 1932 to remain in position after being moved in every conceivable direction. Efficient and energy-saving, the Anglepoise has remained in production ever since.
Many inventors produce ingenious ideas because they set themselves a goal – such as improving the performance of a particular product or finding a new means of tackling a problem – and set their sights on achieving it. Yet one of the most successful examples of amateur British invention, the Anglepoise lamp, was invented by accident, as a by-product of an earlier invention.
The Anglepoise lamp was designed by George Carwardine (1887-1948), an automotive engineer who owned a factory in Bath which developed vehicle suspension systems. He loved to tinker in his workshop and especially enjoyed developing different types of springs. During these experiments, Carwardine designed a new type of spring which could be moved easily in every direction yet could also remain rigid when held in position. He patented his spring design on 7 July 1932 and set about finding an application for it.
Carwardine eventually found a suitable use for his spring – a lamp which, supported and balanced by a sequence of springs, could be constantly repositioned to focus the light in specific directions. Inspired by the constant tension principle of human limbs, Carwardine developed a lamp which could be both flexible and stable, like a human arm. He designed a heavy base to stabilise the lamp, and a shade which could concentrate the beam on specific points without causing dazzle. This focused beam enabled the lamp to consume less electricity than existing models. Carwardine thought it would be useful for the workmen in his factory to illuminate particular components or parts of suspension systems, but he soon realised that it would be equally suitable for illuminating the papers and books lying on office desks.
Having finalised his design, Carwardine decided to license it to Herbert Terry & Sons, a manufacturer based at Redditch in Worcestershire which supplied springs to his factory. The company was then run by Charles Terry, the eldest son of its founder Herbert. Determined to expand the business, Charles Terry was keen to diversify by applying its expertise in springs to new products. He personally signed the licensing agreement for Carwardine’s lamp.
Carwardine intended to call his lamp the Equipoise but the name was rejected by the Trade Marks Registry at the Patent Office on the grounds that equipoise was an existing word, and they settled on Anglepoise. The first version of the Anglepoise lamp, the 1208, was produced by Terry in 1934 with four springs. It proved so popular that two years later Terry introduced a domestic version, the 1227 with three springs and an Art Deco-inspired three tier base, which looked more stylish than the single tier base of the 1208.
Terry publicised the Anglepoise by emphasising both the precision with which its beam could be focused on a particular area and its energy-saving potential. One of the benefits of the 1227 is that it worked perfectly with an inexpensive 25 watt bulb which, Terry’s advertising claimed, was as efficient in the Anglepoise lamp as a 60 watt bulb would be in another light.
Three years later Terry introduced a new version of the 1227, with a two tier base and a wider shade which was capable of taking a 40 watt bulb. This model remained in production for over 30 years and is still widely regarded as the archetypal Anglepoise, even though the design has since been modified. The 1969 Anglepoise Model 75 sported a round base and a fluted shade held in place by a swivel ball. The 1989 Anglepoise Apex 90 refined the design of the Model 75 by adopting a modular jointing system for easy assembly.
In 2003 Terry commissioned the product designer Kenneth Grange (1929-) to revise the original Anglepoise 1227 into the Anglepoise Type 3, notably by adding a double skin shade that can take a 100 watt bulb. The following year Terry invited Grange to revise the design of the Model 75, which he did in the Anglepoise Type 75, a lamp which still bears a distinct resemblance to the prototype designed by George Carawardine over 70 years before.
1932 George Carwardine registers the patent for a new type of spring.
1934 After searching for a use for his new spring, Carwardine uses it to produce a lamp with a focused beam. He licenses his design to Herbert Terry Ltd, which launches the Anglepoise 1209, initially for industrial use.
1935 Terry introduces a domestic version of Carwardine’s lamp - the Anglepoise 1227 - with a three tier base and 25 watt bulb.
1938 The original Anglepoise 1227 is withdrawn and replaced by a new 1227 with a two tier base and 40 watt bulb. It remains in production for over 30 years.
1947 The word Anglepoise? is registered as a trade mark at the Patents Office.
1969 Terry replaces the 1227 with the Anglepoise Model 75 which includes a round base and fluted shade held in place by a swivel ball.
1989 The Anglepoise Apex 90 refines the design of the Model 75 by adopting a modular jointing system for easy assembly.
2003 Introduction of the Anglepoise Type 3, the contemporary version of the original 1227, designed by Kenneth Grange with a double skin shade and 100 watt bulb.
2004 Kenneth Grange updates the Anglepoise Model 75 into the Type75.
Visit the Anglepoise? website at anglepoise.co.uk
For more information on British design and architecture go to Design in Britain, the online archive run in collaboration by the Design Museum and the British Council, at designmuseum.org/designinbritain