Street lighting of Tarnagulla and Newbridge.

Article researched and written by Donald W. Clark

Old street light

Old street light in front of the Uniting Church, March 2000.

With all our modern conveniences, including that of being able to switch on or off lights at will, our good footpaths and roads and well-lighted streets, it is difficult for us to visualize the hardships and hazards with which the early settlers, particularly those around gold diggings, were confronted. From early 1853 when the first gold seekers rushed from Moliagul and elsewhere, until 1869, there was no street lighting at Sandy Creek (Tarnagulla). The only lighting would be from the miners' camp fires, or the hurricane lanterns suspended from the tent poles or the light from business premises or public houses. It would have been particularly hazardous in the absence of made roads and paths and the abundance of diggers' potholes and mounds of earth.

In 1868 the Borough Council made inquiries into the cost of providing street lighting in the townships of Tarnagulla and Newbridge. At the Council meeting on Thursday, 20th August, 1868, a letter was received from Hunt & Opie of Ballarat enclosing drawings of cast iron street lamp pillars costing thirty-six shillings. The Council agreed to purchase up to twenty standards, but on being advised that the correct price was forty-six shillings each, it was then decided to purchase fifteen standards from Hunt & Opie and fifteen lamps from Rowden Bros at thirty shillings each. The frames for the lamps were made and fixed by W Burton for about 12 pounds. The Courier of November l1th, 1868, reported that the standards had been received and tenders were called for the glazing and painting of the lamp frames. The tender of H. Moore at 7.5.0 was accepted, but later cancelled and that of Cherry at 6.15.0 accepted. The lamps were first lit on Wednesday, 2nd June, 1869.

Lighting was by tender for both lamplighter and the kerosene used in the lamps, and very often they were not lit at all because of the lack of Borough finances. One period of four years from 1881 to 1885 expired without the lamps being lit at all. They were lit on Tuesday, June 2nd, 1885 for the first time after this lapse.

Very often the lamps were lit during the winter months only and often only those in the business area in Commercial Road were lit.

The heads were removed and stored during the summer to prevent boys from breaking the glasses with shanghais. On one occasion, following complaints of damage to street lamps, a raid by the police at the State School produced 76 shanghais taken from the boys.

Until fairly recently publicans were required to maintain a lighted lamp outside their premises during the hours of darkness. In May 1867 Alexander Turnbull, licensee of the Tarnagulla Hotel in Commercial Rd. was fined for failing to maintain a lighted lamp outside his premises.

This method of street lighting was maintained until February, 1950, when electricity was switched on in the town.