Ballarat’s Sugg Lamp

In May 1882 the City of Ballarat was considering options to change the city’s Sugg gas powered lamps to electricity this was due to the Sugg system failing to solve the problem of adequatly lighting the streets of the city.

Henry Sutton gave this problem much thought and painstakingly calculated how much it costs, first by gas and then by a number of different systems of electricity. This he recorded in great detail taking into account such things as candle power, gas used per hour and horse power generated by a dynamo.

Henry confirmed Councillor Claxton’s statement that a twelve horse power gas engine would light up Sturt st. An engine of this power would power enough electric lamps on a circuit in Sturt st placing a lamp at every cross street from Grenville to Lyons streets and would only need a relativly thin conductor. The consumption of the gas by the engine would be about 250 cubic feet per hour, the same quanity that should be burned in the Glenville and Armstrong st Suggs combined.

Of the various systems of electric lighting Henry considered that the either the Gramme, Siemens or Weston would be suitable. He went on to state that the Siemens system was too expensive for Ballarat and went on to state the pros and cons of the Australian Electric Companies system and the Gramme system.

Henry thought that the Weston system of electric lighting would be the best one to consider employing to change the Sugg lamps to electricity. After Henry calculated the cost of the dynamo, five lamps and apputenances complete, being about £350. There was also available a ten light machine available if required.

He went on to say that Sturt st is especially suitable to the electric light and if the City Council were to adopt it they would enable to light the City Hall internally by aid of incandescent lamps. The electricity being supplied from the machine lighting the streets.

Unfortunately the Council did not take Henry’s information and advice and continued to dally on the problem of the Sugg lamps and electricity. The years rolled by in 1890 Henry left for England and still Ballarat had no electric lights in the streets. Henry returned to Ballarat in 1893 and Ballarat still did not have electric lights.

Finally the Ballarat Electric Light Company was formed in 1894 and in January 1895 the streets of Ballarat were finally illuminated by electricity.

One could only imagine the long frustration Henry and the citizens of Ballarat must have endured, the wheels of politics turned slowly at a time when the city was trying hard to move forward. Needless to say Henry and the citizens of Ballarat must have given a great sigh of relief the day the electric lights were finally switched on.

Today there are now approximately 10,000 street lights in the City of Ballarat but the memory of the Sugg lamps still remains as the replicas of those beautiful lamps still adorn the heart of the city of Ballarat.