The Anglepoise: a History

It all started with a spring…

In 1932 George Carwardine (above), an automotive engineer who worked with suspension, patented a new kind of helical spring. unlike ordinary springs this one was able to extend, contract and remain in a fixed position without damage.he also developed a mechanism by which opposed springs combined could effect  a “unidirectional constant force” on a pivoted lever “counteracting the pull of gravitation”. (In other words move the lever and it stays exactly in place).

This spring however was not destined to find a place in a car, and Carwardine developed a work-lamp based on the anatomy of the human arm, which he envisioned as being used by his engineers. However he realised that it would also be useful in the home, being more adaptable than your average industrial lamp. He applied for the patent for the ‘Equipoise’ lamp  but the Trade Marks Registry at the Patent Office rejected this as equipoise was an existing word, and so the Anglepoise was born.

This first Anglepoise was not the famous 1227. In fact it looked rather different having four springs and a different construction.  It would be the first Anglepoise to be produced. From 1931-1934 Carwardine initially produced the lamp himself in Bath, with the name Cardine Accessories Ltd, stamped on the base, this is probably the rarest of all Anglepoise’s. 

He later licensed the design to Herbert Terry & Sons, a manufacturer based at Redditch, who were perfectly placed to produce the lamp as they already supplied springs to Carwardine’s factory. The design was slightly adapted and improved and renamed the 1208.

In 1934 the four spring 1208/9 Anglepoise was released.

It was very popular but was a little industrial for the domestic market so Carwardine developed a more elegant simpler version for the home: the 1227.

(image from 30 something)

In 1935 the 1227 Anglepoise was released. This revolutionary design was hugely popular and quickly became an iconic design classic. While there were other posable lamps in existence, they were mostly based on counterweights and were usually impractical or at least awkward and expensive. It might seem strange today, but something as simple as an effective posable lamp was something that you didn’t find in the home. It is perhaps a testament to how well the Anglepoise (and its descendants) works that we take it for granted that we can angle light into any position we want. The design went further still; the lamps unique tulip shaped shade made better use of light, allowing it  (according to Terry and sons) to have the same effectiveness with a 25watt bulb as other lamps did with a 60 watt.

This had a huge range of applications which Terry and Sons were keen, exploit. And they did so in a huge range of advertisements, proclaiming the benefits of the lamp capable ‘one thousand and one angles’ at ‘the lightest finger touch’. They also sang its benefits as energy and cost saving due to being able to make effective use of cheaper and 20watt bulbs that used less electricity. As well as this it was even claimed to be healthier, but preventing you from straining your eyes due to its focused beam.

The same day the war was announced in 1939, and advert appeared in the Telegraph describing the 1227 as the “ideal blackout lamp”.

During the Second World War production of the 1227 was hugely reduced. Like all U.K. manufacturers Terry and Sons switched mainly over to ‘war work’. Anglepoise’s were still produced though not for the domestic market…but for bombers. The design was ideal for Navigators chart tables, so a modified version of the 1227 was produced for the air ministry.

So well made were these lamps that when, in 1986, a WW II Wellington bomber was  raised from the waters of Loch Ness, not only was the lamp intact but when fitted with a new battery the Anglepoise still worked.

This was not the only favour the Anglepoise found in the R.A.F, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris; head of Bomber Command was often photographed at his desk with his 1227.

Even before the war the 1227 had been updated slightly, though the design changed little there were a few adaptations over the years. The main differences being the introduction in 1938 of a two tier as opposed to three tier base, and larger shade a few years later to accommodate a higher wattage bulb. As well as this due to the post war shortage of materials the arm of the lamp was produced in aluminium instead of steel from 1952* onwards. There was a range of other changes, I’m always noticing for more detail on these, go to the Dating your Anglepoise page of this site for more information.

The 1227 was made no stop with few changes for over 30 years, until the model 75 in 1969 eventually replaced it.

Anglepoise abroad

If you go to America, or in fact many places around the world few people know the word Anglepoise. This is largely because Terry and sons licensed the production of versions of Carwardine’s design to several different companies Between 1938 and 1939 Terry’s signed several agreements allowing production and of the lamp abroad including Hella in Holland.


The commercial potential of the articulated task light was also noticed early on by the Norwegian Jac Jacobsen Company, importers of textile equipment since 1934. After two  four-spring 1208/1209 Anglepoise lamps were included in a 1936 shipment of sewing machines, Jacobsen approached Herbert Terry and Sons and negotiated a license to manufacture and distribute a version of the lamp from Oslo, under the name Luxo. The Luxo L1 was launched in 1938. It was a slightly revised version of the early four-spring 1208 design that the Terry’s had felt too industrial for the home.

(above: modern Luxo L1. image from Luxo website)

Luxo saw huge success and Jacobsen got the license to produce and market the L1 in every country outside the British Commonwealth. This left Terry and sons, and Anglepoise, increasingly isolated. While LUXO went from strength to strength becoming an international household name that’s annual turnover is now in excess of £50 million Terry and sons was began to struggle. With only a small market and ever cheaper imports from outside, competition from Luxo and others forced the company to a point in 2001 it was making only 50,000 lamps a year, and faced closure.

Anglepoise now:

But close they did not. John and Simon Terry, the current incarnation of the Terry company and grandsons of company founder Herbert Terry, turned the company around by relocated from the midlands to Portsmouth, a location better suited for supply and machining. This allowed them to prelaunch Anglepoise as a premium and this time international brand.

Though collaborations with designers such as Kenneth Grange (who was brought in as Consultant Design Director). Anglepoise has become a must-stock brand for  design and lifestyle-oriented stores the world over.

Several new models have been released including  the Anglepoise Type3.  “The Type3 is hand built and uses Brass arms to create a fluid movement. It has a base that has been turned out of a solid piece of steel for extra stability. The shade is double skinned, increasing the light output and making the shade cooler to the touch,” (from Anglepoise website).

Type 75


and even a reissue of the original 1227:

No longer marketed in dusty office supply catalogs Anglepoise now defines itself as a Personal Mechanical Motion company, not a lighting company. The Terry’s also refer to the advantages of the quality of a genuine Anglepoise product; Competitors’ products  have a tendency to droop at certain angles, or after a certain period of use,  a Carwardine-calculated articulated light will never be prone to this. “Its all to do with the springs”, so it all started with a spring and thats where it ends, with the same one,

there many incarnations and copies across the globe versions based on George Carwardine’s Original design and they continue to be produced an huge numbers, but there is only one Anglepoise, and for me at least that means the 1227.

* Theres conflicting source information on this, some say 1952 other’s 1948. It seems likely that there were a few of this model from mid 1948 onwards but that manufacture didn’t scale up for this model until 1952.

(All information is based on online research from various sources, and may have inaccuracies. If you have a problem with the above text please contact me and I’l do my best to rectify the problem.)

10 thoughts on “The Anglepoise: a History

  1. Just found this, great article, of particular interest as I’m lucky enough to own one of original cardine accessories lamps and often look for others on the net, would love to know if many still exist

  2. Thanks for intersting article.
    I’m trying to find out about the high-quality 1227 reissue that was around – in VERY expensive lamp shops and also for sale in the shop of then new Design Museum in London – in the late 1980s/early 1990s. As I recall, it cost even then around £200, and was a more authentic reissue than the one Anglepoise brought out about five years ago (though even that was a LOT better than the travesty they’ve now ‘reissued’, devoid of the Crabtree-like switch).
    The high-end reissue I’m on about had the perforated shade, something that looked very like a Crabtree switch, and almost certainly braided cable. Black I certainly saw; other colours there may have been. I don’t even know if Anglepoise themselves produced it or farmed it out to a specialist firm (isn’t there someone in Italy . . .?)
    Any info would be gratefully received, as I’d love to know what it is I should search for online to narrow things down would love to get hold of one.

  3. I enjoyed your history of the Anglepoise.
    I have had many over the years – the first I bought at jumble sales and used in my jewelry/silversmithing workshop. One was a 1208/9, really heavy cast iron base! I chucked a couple away when I had no room to store them.
    Now I’ve found they are quite desirable and people will pay good money for a nice example!
    Here’s one on my Flickr account I got a couple of weeks ago. –
    I also got a Hadrill and Horstmann lamp which I was not familiar with.
    Two great lamps!!

  4. Recently I was suprised to learn that ‘Anglepoise’ have now moved the production of all their lamps to China. It must be true! It says so here:

    29th Jan 2014
    “The giant is the only lamp built in Portsmouth, as the rest of the lamps are made in China, shipped into Southampton, and trucked to Farlington where they are then sent out to customers.”

    I guess they saw no alternative way to compete without upping their prices. It’s a shame though, and in my view marks the end of a long era in the firm’s history. Like so many things, a British design but really no longer a British product.

  5. Pingback: Beating The Blackout | The Art Deco Magpie

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