Thomson scattering (TS) experiments have been performed on high-pressure Hg discharge lamps. These lamps were filled with different amounts of Hg (15, 30, 50 and 70 mg) and were operating at different powers (150, 200 and 240 W) with a square-wave ballast. As in the previous studies (Zhu X et al 2004 J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 37 736–43) a triple grating spectrograph was used to suppress the false stray light and Rayleigh scattered photons. This set-up had to be modified for this special application. The collective TS spectra have been fitted using both a calibration using Raman scattering and a form fitting procedure. It was found that the electron temperature fluctuates around a certain value that seems rather constant in the central region. The value of electron temperature (Te) varies between 5500 and 7600 K in the central region (r = 0.3 R). The spatial-averaged Te value increases with the lamp power. The electron density was found to be of the order of 1021 m-3 which is high at the centre and decreases as r increases. The ne value also increases with the lamp power. Moreover the results of TS are compared with those from x-ray absorption measurement. The comparison shows that the plasmas in such lamps are not in local thermal equilibrium in the sense that -gas temperature and locally the rate of ionization is much larger than that of three body recombination.