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Old 16th Dec 2019, 10:20 pm   #1
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Default Coughtrie light

Hi folks,

I took down this manky old light some years ago and replaced it with a modern stainless look-a-like from B&Q. About to chuck it out but I gave it a clean and it looks repairable, and a good quality thing. Unfortunately I broke one of the screws holding the glass securing ring when dismantling and I think it will need to be drilled out. Iíll try a stud extractor and some heat first but Iím not hopeful.

A few questions, iím interested in knowing itís age. My house was built in the 1920s could it be as old as the house? Also how do you say Coughtrie, is it coff-tree or something more Scottish perhaps?

It is layers thick in peeling gloss paint the same colour as my woodwork! What was the finish originally?

Finally it doesnít have an earth connection, the old cable was twin core. Is it best to add one?

The light model is a SW6. I just replaced the rubber gasket and itís looking pretty good now. About to remove the old paint next.

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Old 17th Dec 2019, 12:30 am   #2
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Coughtrie were very high quality external light fittings, certainly made from at least the 1940s right up to the present day I believe.

Their heyday was the 1950s up to the 1980s, before all the foreign made cheaper stuff came to the market.

Their range consisted of wall mounted bulkheads, corner bracket fittings, swan necks, etc.

Although somewhat utilitarian in design, they were very well made and designed to last a lifetime.
All of course in the era of tungsten filament lamps - and invariably bayonet capped holders as UK designed and made.

When I stated my electrical apprenticeship in 1983, if our company had a top spec job, even domestic it was always coughtrie fittings used. A cheap job then used Appleby external lights!

The coughtrie stuff was characterised by aluminium alloy construction, finished when new in a light grey paint or powder coat. Typically they had stainless steel screws, hard wellglass fronts, and cork gaskets.

Usually they were earthed by means of metal conduit entry or mineral insulated cable - both often used for external cabling in quality jobs.

Later fittings definitely has an earth terminal - usually a 2BA /
Later M4 tapped screw.

You will need to earth it if intending re-use. Remember that before the October 1966 14th edition IEE regulations, lighting circuits did not have to include an earth wire throughout - which may explain why your light was unearthed from the house lighting circuit. It should have been earthed though, even then. A lazy or unexperienced electrician even then me thinks......

If it were me I would earth it by means of a lug crimp around a suitable screw or bolt.

I believe the company may still make lights, but if used, tended to be relegated to the specification type jobs that could afford them. Think MOD, hospitals, and the like.

The fittings are definitely worth keeping and restoring - they will outlast you!!

It would be sacrilege to throw it away - indeed I have rescued several from my jobs over the years, for use in my own garden, (after being totally disillusioned by the modern day plastic crap that now proliferates the market) after full scale refurb such as you are contemplating.

Correct pronounciation is ‘cough tree’ !

Hope this helps.


Last edited by Rhgbristol; 17th Dec 2019 at 12:45 am.
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 12:51 am   #3
Lloyd 1985
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Default Re: Coughtrie light


I have a few Coughtrie lights about the house, there’s an FS10 hanging on the corner, which I refurbished a few years back, and an SW10 above my shed door, also refurbished by me, which is actually using a low voltage LED bulb powered by solar! Not sure on the age, but they have been around for years.

The original paint finish would have been a light grey colour, or possibly black. The original screws were probably made of aluminium, and they do tend to suffer after years outside in the elements, on the one I put on the shed I had to repair it where someone had drilled all the way through and then used oversized metric bolts jammed in to hold the glass on, I used Milliput to repair it, then painted over it and used some brass 2BA cheese head bolts.

Well worth repairing, as they are way better than the modern tin plate stuff that rusts after 1 winter! Also have a look at them on eBay, see some of the prices they fetch! I’m also unsure of the pronunciation of ‘Coughtrie’, would be great if someone could clarify that one.


Ah, so it is say it how you see it then! Thanks for clarifying that one
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 12:59 am   #4
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Coughtrie fittings are extremely well made, and they're still going strong today.

Definitely worth cleaning up and putting back into service.

Probably wouldn't have originally had an earth connection as most lighting circuits didn't have an earth conductor until relatively recently, and a lot of these fittings would be situated where they're unlikely to be somewhere that the user would touch the fitting in normal use. Easy enough too add though, and a sensible safety precaution.

I was lucky enough to rescue a half dozen of these little twin 8W fluorescent fittings when my old workplace was demolished. They're beautifully well made and cleaned up like new, despite having been running 24/7 for 43 years. The only sign of their age is that the bowls have yellowed somewhat. Despite these fittings dating from 1967 though, you can still buy new bowls from Coughtrie. The fittings in fact are still available too, albeit in LED form now.

Most Coughtrie fittings are powder coated with a very hard wearing mid grey finish, though there are a few examples out there in different colours which were always available to order.
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Last edited by Zelandeth; 17th Dec 2019 at 1:03 am. Reason: added comment about the finish
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 1:28 am   #5
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

pretty much the best, even the plain bulkhead lights look like something they'd use on a WW2 battleship
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 2:00 am   #6
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Is mine one too, it looks similar LLoyd's.

It was fitted by my late FiL who was an electrician. He liked the acrylic shade, the lenticular grooves make it look like they are multiple bulbs inside.

I'd never have thought about it in terms of a vintage item.
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 12:00 pm   #7
Mr Moose
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

To Hello,
The later SW10 fitting is still available.

According to their website Coughtrie was founded in 1941.
The SW10 came out in the 1960s so your SW6 probably dates between 1941 and then.
Yours, Richard
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Old 17th Dec 2019, 10:15 pm   #8
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Thanks for the info, mine is now looking clean and ready for a repaint and a rewire but it should be ready to go back into service this weekend.
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 12:07 am   #9
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

We used to install quite a few of these fittings in and outside farm buildings during the late 70s often connecting to metal conduit. Ideal as they were fireproof,animal and vermin proof.
We used to stick a bit of grease on the screws to help stop them shearing off next time.
They are often used by the national trust these days with a black coat of paint.
Interesting fact or not interesting, in The Battle Of Britain Film In one shot of the outside of a house my father always used to point out. That Coughtrie light fitting (and a friedland bell push for that matter )were not about in the 1940s as the film was supposed to be
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 12:17 am   #10
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

I often see this style of light on the exterior of houses when & out & about.

The Battle Of Britain uses a house with an illuminated doorbell and an up & over garage door, when even when I was watching it age 11 thought was too early for 1940.
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 1:09 am   #11
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

I got a couple of corner mounting fittings off one of my brothers old houses that he was having renovated about thirty odd years ago. I restored and fitted one of them to my house a few years ago. They're not earthed as standard and were wired with the old black rubber cable. I obviously re-wired and earthed the fitting that I put up, even though it's far too high to be touched by anyone.

The screws holding the glass retaining rim can be tight with corrosion, but with care, time and easing backwards and forwards a bit at a time with plenty of penetrating oil, they can be released without snapping - a dab of ordinary grease on the threads when re-assembling stops any future problems. There isn't any ventilation within the globe other than through the swan neck, so they're not very friendly to energy saving lamps, but they last a fair time if they're not left on continuously.

Below is a picture of mine taken a couple of hours ago, up on the corner of the house surrounded by the creeper that covers that wall. It's got a white candle type filament lamp fitted at the moment. The other fitting that I've still got buried away in the shed has a shorter globe if I remember rightly, so 'long' type bulbs/lamps won't fit, or rather the glass/globe won't fit over them.
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 1:58 pm   #12
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Many of these outside light fitting made by Coughtrie and others are made of alloy/aluminium, the screws are brass or steel and are notorious for twisting off. Sometimes the remaining piece can be removed after a liberal dose of plus gas, using 'Mole' grips. When refitting again a smear of copper grease on each screw, will ensure the screws doesn't break a second time round. Drilling out and re tapping isn't easy up a ladder.
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 2:05 pm   #13
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Originally Posted by bionicmerlin View Post
... a friedland bell push...
One of those ruined The Remains of the Day for me. My friends couldn't see what the fuss was about
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 2:56 pm   #14
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

(This thread promted me to have a look online for a glass for a Coughtrie bulkhead fitting which has been hanging around my shed forever. Well, I found 2 )
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 3:35 pm   #15
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

My old house (built in the 1700s, electrified some time in the late-1930s) had a *very* large Coughtrie light - one of the swan-neck type, but the metal shade-part was about as big as a dustbin-lid, the glass dome was about 12 inches diameter and it contained two horizontally-mounted 150-Watt ES bulbs fitted to glazed ceramic holders.

It was about 20 feet up, above the big doors to the barn/workshop. Never having been enthusiastic about 'woking at-height' I always waited until *both* bulbs had failed before summoning the courage/effort to get the scaffold-tower out and do a bulb-replacement!
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 4:03 pm   #16
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

My late father installed three of these 'swan neck' exterior lights in the Sixties, including one inside a shed! When, years later I asked why he'd used these rather than more modern items he replied that as the job was for himself, he chose to use the best. Needless to say, many bulbs later, they're still going strong.
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Old 18th Dec 2019, 4:37 pm   #17
dave walsh
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

I'd no idea that these fittings were so highly valued. I'm looking at one now [through the garage workshop/office window] that has been on the corner of the Bexhill house since we bought it 20 years ago and [I suspect] will date to the fifties. It's an exact clone of the one Lloyd illustrated and is still in very good condition. For a number of reasons, it will probably come down in the summer but primarily because, I'm quite conscious of light pollution here under the [relatively] very clear Sussex skies. It's currently quite high up and intrusive for the purpose when the "focus" is now on lighting steps down at deck level [my night vision isn't brilliant these days]. I intend to service and retain it but in a much more sheltered and discreet location with minimal "over spill"!

Dave W
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Old 19th Dec 2019, 2:40 am   #18
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Originally Posted by ex 2 Base View Post
a smear of copper grease on each screw
No! Sorry, definitely not copper grease. That's why I particularly said a dab of 'ordinary' grease.

The use of copper grease (or copper slip) is a bit like the use of WD-40, in that you have to know where to use it and where NOT to use it. Keep the copper grease well away from that alloy, the copper content will react with it, particularly when the grease content dries out with the heat from the lamp. It should be used on 'ferrous' metals ONLY, ie, iron and steel.

I expect that a few people will disagree with the above, but ordinary standard grease is the way to go on this one.
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Old 19th Dec 2019, 11:11 am   #19
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

I have a light similar to the pictures. The scew-in glass cover would not unscew to change the bulb so I smashed it. All that is needed is a tube to shield the bulb, it does not need a base to catch spiders and thrips.

To enable scews to be free to undo in the future I use Waxoyl which is sold for undersealing vehicles. It is based on white spirit and is a thin penetrating liquid if warm. It then sets to a soft wax.
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Old 19th Dec 2019, 2:13 pm   #20
Lancs Lad
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Default Re: Coughtrie light

Never, ever, throw away a Coughtrie light fitting!!

They are stylishly designed, beautifully well made, and, if looked after, will last forever. I have several in current use that are at least fifty-five or sixty years old, and still going strong.

It always makes me smile everytime I spot one when I'm out and about

Yes, I know I'm daft, but I just love these lamps. It's probably nostalgia for a gentler world, and slower pace of life, but that's how they make me feel.
Best Regards,

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