Carried along on the euphoria of discovering yet more stench pipes, we offer our solution to global warming, using only a long pole and some excess sewer gas

FOR the second week running, the slag brick and stink pipe desk is in a state of high excitement.

We are taking big strides forward. Not only are we answering the questions that would otherwise burn for a lifetime, but now we are on the verge of solving global warming and so safeguarding man’s entire future on the planet.

We are doing all this with the help of the wonderfullynamed Webb’s Patent Sewer Gas Destructor.

A fortnight ago we were looking at sewer ventilation pipes.

They are ornate, cast-iron, late-Victorian erections which are 20ft or 30ft high.

They were invented after the Great Stink of June 1858, when London’s sewers emitted such a foul stench that even the House of Commons was aware of the problem.

The Commons’ curtains were soaked in chloride of lime in a futile attempt to keep the Great Stink out, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Benjamin Disraeli was seen running from the chamber, greenfaced, with a handkerchief pressed over his mouth.

Within days, MPs had found the millions to build a proper sewer system and to vent it sufficiently.

Such innovations spread to the North-East, and even today, there are about 100 historic vent pipes in the care of Northumbrian Water.

For data protection reasons, it is unable to reveal their precise locations, so we are groping for stench poles in the dark.

“I believe the item I have often wondered about in Barton may be one of your stink poles,” says Peter Ford, setting us off in search.

“If it proves to be one, my curiosity will at last be satisfied.”

It is at the south-western edge of the North Yorkshire village beside the lane which, before the motorway, led over the Merrybent branchline, across Dere Street and onto Melsonby.

Beneath the pole’s ivycladding, there is Victorian fluting, and sticking up above the foliage is an attractive crown. It looks like a stench pipe and it is located in the flatish habitat favoured by a stench pipe.

But is it not too remote?

Then Len Teasdale emails a picture of a stink pole that was removed many moons ago from the Gaunless Valley village of Woodland.

It was opposite the former Temperance Hall and was clearly in the middle of nowhere. If they put one up there, they’d put one in Barton.

Martin Snape has been on the stink pole trail in Durham City, but was disappointed to discover that the one he remembered in South Street has disappeared. “I am glad, however, to report the continued existence of a most interesting variant in South Bailey, near the access doorway to the cathedral masons’ yard,” he says.

This is not just an interesting variant. It is a fascinating triumph of late Victorian ingenuity. It is “Webb’s Patent Sewer Gas Destructor” – it says so on the side.

JOSEPH Edmund Webb, of Birmingham, patented his destructor on March 2, 1895. At its top, behind a glass, burned a small flame from the town’s gas supply.

This acted as a chimney, drawing the sewer gas up to the flame, where it was ignited, thus illuminating the street.

The cleverness of Mr Webb’s patent was the way it regulated the supply of sewer gas. Even if all the residents of Durham were having a particularly windy day, his device meant there was a constant uniform supply of gas to the light and not a nasty gust.

The patent destructor made Mr Webb wealthy enough to open a London office – the Durham pole gives his address as 11 Poultry EC – Poultry being a street near the Bank of England in the heart of Westminster.

“I can remember when the lamp cage was still present at the top of the pole,” says Martin.

“When I arrived in Durham in 1952, I was told that the lamp had functioned until the wartime blackout had made it necessary to extinguish it, whereupon it produced a vile smell.”

In truth, Durham’s destructor is dishevelled.

However, North Tyneside council has restored ten in Whitley Bay and Monkseaton. Blyth council has restored five.

Sheffield, though, is the capital of the destructor. It was built on seven hills, so there were lots of folds and u-bends in its sewer system in which to trap gas.

From 1914 to 1935, it installed 84 destructors, of which 22 remain with three still at work, casting a sewery orange glow on the Sheffield streets.

Webb’s Patent Sewer Gas Destructor must be the most eco-friendly streetlamp ever devised.

It doesn’t rely on electricity generated by fossil-fuel burning power stations. Instead it takes methane, which would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, and turns it into carbon dioxide.

Although carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, it is 21 times less damaging than methane.

Everyone talks about wind power, solar power, nuclear power, wave power or hydroelectric power being the answer to global warming.

Shouldn’t we go back to old-fashioned fart power?