Ballarat street lights Lydiard St Sth

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What does this roundabout have in common with Buckingham Palace? They both share the same kind of lighting - although Ballarat's need for large street lamps was more about safety than ornate decoration. One of the constant risks in a mining settlement like Ballarat was of falling down a mineshaft - particularly at night. For those wanting to walk in search of entertainment in the evening, the practice of walking around the blocks in street light became a form of social entertainment itself. There were deep mines in most of these blocks at one time or another; Ballarat’s central blocks could be just as treacherous underfoot as the more heavily mined areas.

In 1881 the City of Ballarat introduced 20 gas lamps - this is one of two 'original' Sugg lamps in Ballarat (the other one is at the junction of Sturt and Grenville Streets), the oldest of their kind in the world. It is particularly rare because these English 12 sided lamps were built large enough to house candles, pre-dating piped gas systems when street lights became much smaller. In 1807 William Sugg became the first person to make and lay a gas pipeline for lighting, and the Sugg company which designed and manufactured gas lighting was for a time one of the biggest such companies in the world. Sadly there is very little photographic evidence of Ballarat's gas lights from the 1880s; the 'before' picture you see is of a workman about to install the gas mantle in a Sugg Lambeth lamp. The City of Ballarat replaced the Sugg lamps with the intoduction of electric lighting in 1904, but in the 1980s ordered the restoration of its street lamps and had these recreations installed. Meanwhile the tradition of a roll around the block as a form of social entertainment continues to this day - both on foot and via horseless carriage...

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