Local boy Joseph Swan (1828-1914) worked for his brother-in-law in the pharmaceutical firm of Mawson, Swan and Morgan in Newcastle. He can claim to be one of the architects of modern living.
ON December 28, 1881, the D’Oyly Carte Opera company presented ‘Patience’ at the Savoy, their theatre in the Strand. Words were by W. S. Gilbert, music was by Arthur Sullivan.
Lighting was by Joseph Swan, a chemist from Newcastle who had already patented a form of photographic paper that had revolutionised the camera.
Swan’s no less revolutionary incandescent lightbulbs had been used in the auditorium since the Savoy opened that year, but now they replaced flickering, smoky gaslights on the stage, allowing the audience to see the costumes in a more natural light, and breathe cleaner air.
Fears of fire or electrocution were allayed when the owner, Richard D’Oyly Carte, deliberately smashed a brightly-burning bulb wrapped in muslin, which was not even scorched.
The Savoy thus joined Swan’s own house in Gateshead, the transatlantic liner ‘City of Richmond’, and the Northumberland residence of industrialist Sir William Armstrong, as the first places anywhere in the world to have electric lighting installed throughout.