A history of the Anglepoise lamp
Based on engineering principles, the early 1930s design of the Anglepoise lamp by George Carwardine was a stroke of genius that revolutionised task lighting. More than eight decades later, his iconic masterpiece continues to inspire the company whose name is revered around the world
We all recognise them. With thousands of knock-off versions the world over, the Anglepoise lamp is one of the most iconic pieces of furniture created in the last century.
What is an Anglepoise lamp?
The Anglepoise lamp is known as a balanced arm lamp or a floating arm lamp. Is has a folding arm that can be easily adjusted thanks to the spring mechanisms used. The springs used in the Anglepoise lamp prevents gravity from causing the lamp to fold in on itself, a revolutionary design when it was first invented.
Who invented the Anglepoise lamp?
Automotive engineer George Carwardine first patented his idea for an infinitely flexible task light in 1932. With springs at the heart of his design, he went into partnership with industrial spring manufacturer Herbert Terry & Sons, and Anglepoise was born.
When was the Anglepoise lamp invented?
The first model, the 1208, was made for industrial use, but Carwardine realised the potential for homes and offices too, and came up with the Original 1227 desk lamp, launched in 1935.
Over the years, the design has been carefully refined and updated with new models added, especially since the arrival of Sir Kenneth Grange as Design Director of Anglepoise in the early 2000s. It has since appeared in mini and giant forms; as collaborations with Paul Smith and Margaret Howell; as floor and wall lamps; and as pendant shades. This October sees the latest launch – the 90 Mini Mini, around half the scale of a standard lamp.
As the British automotive industry expanded in the 1920s, automotive engineer George Carwardine was experimenting with car suspension systems from the company he had set up in his home town of Bath. During this time, he developed an innovative mechanism based on the principles of spring tension that could be manoeuvred with the lightest touch and would hold in virtually any position, offering a possibility of movement similar to that of the human arm.
More like this
He realised that the mechanism was perfect for a task lamp for workshops and factories. Carwardine filed patents for a number of brilliant inventions during his lifetime, but it is the Anglepoise that is his legacy, a development described by revered product designer and Design Director of Anglepoise since 2003, Sir Kenneth Grange, as ‘a minor miracle of balance’.
Want to learn more about the history of art but not sure where to start? We've made a list of the best art history and appreciation courses and lectures available online.
How to identify a vintage Anglepoise lamp
While Anglepoise still produces an evolved version of Model 1227, original vintage Anglepoise lamps, which differ subtly from the ones we see today, are also highly desirable. If in good shape, there is no reason why a vintage Anglepoise lamp can’t be adapted by an electrician to provide you with a working version.
There are a few signs to look out for to help you identify the different models: the original Model 1227 had a three-tiered base, while in the 1938 update the base has two tiers. The 1968 Model 75 has a different look, fitting with the times, notably a round base and a fluted shade. This design morphed into Model 90, first launched in 1973 to meet British standards of electrical safety and was updated again in 1985 to the Apex 90, which has a larger circular base.
How to style an Anglepoise lamp at home
Illuminate a minimalist desk
The perfectly designed object in the environment it was made for doesn’t need a lot of embellishment. Let your Original 1227 desk lamp take centre stage at your work station. Pair with an equally elegant Harry Bertoia side chair to complete the look. A match made in minimalist heaven.
Put the spotlight on art
The Original 1227 design is also available with a clamp or wall bracket base, perfect for adding to a wall unit or bookcase. Put some of your favourite pieces in the Anglepoise spotlight, while incorporating the lamps, with their stylish silhouettes, into your overall scheme.
Create a gentle glow
From the living room to the bedroom, the Anglepoise is at home in every room of your house. As versatile as they are stylish, the Type 1228 desk lamp and floor lamp in Ocean Blue bring a sophisticated pop of colour to this monochrome bedroom. The gentle pools of light they create also soften the concrete wall, making the space more enticing.
Set the mood
It might have been designed as a task light, but the Anglepoise works equally well for mood lighting. Used as a table lamp, this Paul Smith Edition Two of the Type 75 creates a warm glow for evening ambience, while also providing a super-stylish feature.
£10 M&S Gift card when you subscribe
Treat yourself to Homes & Antiques magazine and receive a BONUS £10 M&S Gift Card when you subscribe. Sign up for just £17.95, saving 40% on the magazine shop price. Be inspired and find the best antiques fairs near you, plus practical guides to updating rooms and more.