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A Guide to Heritage Lighting

August 2022, by Paul Murphy


A Guide to Heritage Lighting

From choosing authentic product designs to selecting the most appropriate light source and mounting option, several crucial decisions must be made when specifying lighting for heritage applications. Here, Paul Murphy, Key Account Director and resident Heritage Lighting expert at DW Windsor, examines the key points specifiers should consider. 

Today's period-style solutions boast classic aesthetics to protect the look and feel of heritage areas while also delivering the performance and energy efficiency benefits required of modern lighting applications. Here are my five recommendations for selecting the right Heritage Lighting solution for your next scheme. 

Consider the location

Heritage lighting covers a wide range of design eras, from traditional Victorian lanterns to more contemporary mid-century luminaires, so choosing an authentically designed product that is sympathetic to a location's aesthetics is key. For example, our signature luminaire, Windsor, is a true reflection of an original gas lantern, making it ideally suited to Georgian or Victorian architecture. Conversely, Ely, which can be pendant or U bracket mounted, features a more contemporary profile and sits comfortably within a broad range of architectural locations. And if you’re struggling to choose, historical imagery can often provide direction on the most appropriate lantern for a particular area.

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Paul Murphy, Key Account Director

With over 30 years experience within the lighting industry, most of which has been spent with DW Windsor, Paul is one of our most knowledgeable team members. As Key Account Director, Paul has an extensive understanding of our traditional luminaires and has supported a wide range of heritage lighting schemes across the UK. 

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Understanding the history of a location can be crucial to selecting the best lantern and mounting option to fit the space

But while accurate styling and attention to detail are incredibly important to preserve charm and character, care must be paid not just to the design of the lantern but also to its mounting height and method. Columns and brackets play a crucial role in creating a desirable daytime appearance, with column height and bracket projection significant factors in establishing scale. Period embellishments, such as ladder bars, can also enhance the appearance of traditional lighting columns.

At DW Windsor, we offer a number of our lanterns in multiple sizes to accommodate different mounting heights. In addition, we have a broad range of column and bracket options designed to complement heritage luminaires perfectly. Our expert team is also on hand to offer advice and provide column designs to meet individual project requirements. 

Choose the best light source

The right exterior lighting can make an environment feel safer and more welcoming, so selecting an appropriate LED light source is crucial. Light engines determine the brightness, efficiency, distribution and visual comfort of the lighting; therefore, the light source must be considered carefully.

Of course, the required features will differ depending on where and how the light will be used. At DW Windsor, we offer a range of LED light engines to suit the requirements of different applications:

Select an appropriate colour temperature

Traditionally, gas lighting and, more recently, sodium lamps – both of which provide a very warm light – would have been used to illuminate period settings and are often associated with these locations. But as we transitioned to LED technology, cooler colour temperatures were typically needed to generate enough light to satisfy lighting requirements. However, as LED technology has become more efficient, there is now a general trend in the lighting industry moving back towards warmer colour temperatures.

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Tunable white lighting technology can further enhance heritage locations by delivering a range of colour temperatures

While cooler colour temperatures can improve visual comfort and offer a sense of security, they can look out of place in heritage applications. There is also mounting evidence that cooler colour temperatures can negatively impact wildlife. Because of this, DW Windsor typically advocates for warmer colour temperatures of at least 3000K where possible. It's also why we now offer our Heritage Lighting range in warmer colour temperatures down to 2200K as standard.

However, we also recognise that in certain situations, both warm and cooler colour temperatures may be needed, which is why we now offer tunable white lighting in our heritage luminaires. Tunable white technology provides a flexible, dynamic solution to night-time illumination by varying colour temperature and intensity throughout the hours of darkness. So, for example, our Strand lantern can begin illuminating at 3000K to provide better visibility during peak hours before transitioning to 2200K overnight when fewer road users and pedestrians are present.

Invest in controls

Lighting controls can significantly enhance any environment in which they are installed, offering many benefits, from increased flexibility to helping to lower energy usage. Not only do they provide more security, ensuring that areas are lit at the right times, but they also save energy and minimise the effect on wildlife when less light is required.

Stand-alone controls such as pre-setting dimming, daylight sensors or motion detectors are reliable and straightforward and are recommended for basic energy saving. In addition, they can control individual lanterns or a group, ideal for small schemes. However, for larger projects, a wireless control solution should be considered.

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Lighting controls can substantially reduce the amount of energy used across a scheme by only providing illumination when required

For example, Bluetooth-enabled local network solutions are becoming popular for applications, such as heritage hotspots, that require full control without the need for specialist equipment. Enabling one-to-one control, or the opportunity for luminaires to communicate together in a closed wireless network, these systems enable customers to fine tune their luminaires to offer further energy-saving optimisation through features such as dimming schedules and dusk to dawn switching.

Finally, a wide network solution may be considered if a fully scalable solution is required across a large area such as a historic town or city. Offering real-time control, asset monitoring, metering and dynamic management of lighting infrastructure through a Central Management System (CMS), these systems are robust and intelligent and will require a node for connectivity.

Consider luminaire maintenance

Heritage lighting is an essential part of our nation's architectural legacy. It provides a snapshot from a by-gone era, which is why it must be protected as much as possible. Many existing luminaires can be easily converted to LED using retrofit top trays and kept in service through simple refurbishment work. DW Windsor also has a long history of restoration work, helping to preserve original lanterns and columns.

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Keeping products in service for as long as possible is key to building a more sustainable future

However, if a new lantern is required for a scheme, build quality, material selection and ease of maintenance are critical factors to consider to ensure reliability. Our heritage lanterns are handmade from high-quality materials, including copper, using a blend of traditional and modern construction techniques to ensure robustness and longevity. We also use single-piece injection-moulded polycarbonate glazing on many of our lanterns for glass-like clarity and added durability. Additionally, our luminaires are designed with toolless entry, meaning that if maintenance is required, it will be quick, simple and inexpensive. Essentially, specifiers should opt for products that are made to last, and this is measured in decades, not years.

Ultimately, selecting the right heritage lighting solution will depend on several factors determined by location and how the light needs to perform. Many decisions will be subjective, but the key is providing the right light, in the right place, at the right time and to light responsibly.


At DW Windsor, we've been delivering heritage lighting solutions for over 45 years and are ready to assist you with your next heritage scheme. To find out more about our Heritage Lighting range, talk to us today.

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