The sudden postponement of the final day of the Love Lambton 150 event in June due to Covid-19 restrictions, meant that Lambton was unable to fully celebrate the anniversary in the correct month. One hundred years ago the anniversary also slipped, but for a different reason.
In 1921 there was an optimistic mood. The great war of 1914-18 was over and the troops had returned. The influenza pandemic of 1919 that claimed 494 lives in Newcastle had subsided, and Lambton Municipality was ready to celebrate 50 years since its incorporation in June 1871.
But it was not just a metaphorical darkness the town was emerging from. For 22 years after the financial failure of the council’s first electric lighting scheme, Lambton’s streets were to be lit again. Council decided to delay the jubilee festivities to coincide with switching on the new electric lights.
A week of events was held in the beginning of August 1921 under the banner “Darkness into Light”, with concerts, banquets and sporting competitions. The highlight was on Thursday night in the park, with the ceremonial switching on of the electric lights, followed by an impressive display of fireworks liberally supplied by the Chinese residents of Jesmond.
The abundance of enthusiastic donations from the community meant that when the partying was over the Jubilee organising committee was left with a considerable surplus of funds. In recognition of the past, they donated £30 for a bed at Wallsend Hospital where many influenza patients were cared for. For the present health of the community they spent £36 installing a drinking fountain at the corner of Lambton Park. Looking to the future, they gave the remainder to Lambton and Jesmond school libraries for the education of students.
We don’t know when the darkness of our Covid-19 pandemic will recede, but when it does and we are in a festive mood again, we would do well to emulate the thankfulness and generosity of Lambton’s jubilee committee 100 years ago.
The article above was first published in the August 2021 edition of The Local.
The date of “August 6th” on the inscribed plaque of the jubilee drinking fountain is a bit of a conundrum. For this isn’t the date Lambton’s incorporation (26 June) nor can it be the date the fountain was installed, as the location of the fountain wasn’t even voted on until three weeks later in September, and nor is it the day of the main ceremonial event of the jubilee celebrations, which was the switching on of the electric lights on Thursday 4th August.
A Jubilee Poem
LET THERE BE LIGHT. Thirty years ago Lambton streets were lit by electricity. Since then they have not been lit even with candles. But Lambton will soon see the light, for the Newcastle Council will in July supply the dark suburb with electricity.— News Item.
To wander through your dismal streets, your dark highways to plod,
Your gutters, drains and rutted roads give many hearts a prod.
I stumble over sleeping forms— the crocks long strayed from home.
And make a solemn kind of oath, “I never more will roam.”
In Lambton, darkest Lambton.”
But now farewell, ye laneways black; farewell each winding street.
Those stones that bruised my tired shins and jarred my aching feet,
Shall of their power yet be robbed, and night shall be as day,
In July next the new light comes, when jubilee holds sway.
Oh, Lambton, brightest Lambton!
Published in The Newcastle Sun, 28 May 1921.
Newspaper articles – Jubilee
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|16 Oct 1919||Influenza pandemic report from Dr. R. Dick. "In the whole district there were 494 deaths registered as due to influenza or its complications during the period from March 2nd to September 10th, 1919.|
|10 Feb 1921||"Alderman E. J. Thomas referred to the Jubilee of the municipality, the incorporation of hich took place in June, 1871. He hoped that the council would not allow the occasion to pass without some form of celebration. Other aldermen endorsed the remarks of Alderman Thomas, and, stated that it would be a good idea to couple the celebration of the Jubilee and the installation of the lighting of the town at the same time. There would be no harm in delaying the jubilee celebration until the switching on of the lights, which the council were assured would be ready about July or August."|
|27 May 1921||"The jubilee of Lambton's establishment as a municipality falls on June 26, and a celebration in honor of the occasion has been arranged to take place on the first Thursday following the switching on of the electric light. It has not been possible to put forward the lighting of the municipality so that it could synchronise with the date of tho Jubilee, so it has been necessary to defer the celebrations till the light is available. The city electrician has promised that the installation will be complete by July 30." "To finance the undertaking, a dozen collectors were appointed to canvass the town for subscriptions."|
|20 Jun 1921||"The lighting of Lambton's streets and business houses by electricity is proceeding so well that there is every hope of the job being completed before August 4, the day selected for the Jubilee celebrations, and for the switching on of the current. Altogether 110 street lights are to be provided, but the council thinks that this number will not be nearly enough when people begin to observe what a boon the electric light is."|
|16 Jul 1921||Offer of donation from a vaudeville show is refused. "The canvass of the town for funds for the children's treat will be completed in the next fortnight. For the fireworks display, fixed for the opening night, a liberal supply of fireworks has been assured by the Chinese residents of Jesmond."|
|5 Aug 1921|
4 Aug 1921
|Lambton Municipality Jubilee Celebrations - electric light switching on ceremony.|
|8 Aug 1921|
6 Aug 1921
|Lambton Municipality Jubilee Celebrations - children's day in Lambton Park on Saturday, and a combined religious service in the Coronation Hall on Sunday.|
|19 Aug 1921||"LAMBTON JUBILEE DISPOSAL OF FUNDS. With the balance of the funds, it was agreed to erect a drinking fountain near the park, at a cost of £30, and to make the gift of a cot, costing the same amount, to the Wallsend Hospital. The remainder will be evenly divided between the Lambton and Jesmond public schools, to be used preferably for the upkeep of their respective libraries."|
|24 Aug 1921|
23 Aug 1921
|Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was read from the jubilee committee, asking the council to accept the sum of £30 from the surplus for the erection of a public drinking fountain, The offer was accepted with thanks."|
|12 Sep 1921|
9 Sep 1921
|At Lambton Council meeting, Alderman A. Hardy moved, "That the Jubilee Memorial fountain be erected out side the entrance gates of the park in Howe-street." The motion was carried.|
|28 Sep 1921||Water Board meeting: "The town clerk, Lambton, wrote making application for free supply of water to a public drinking fountain to be erected on the footpath at the intersection of Howe and Morehead streets as a jubilee memorial. The engineer's and assessor's reports were read, and the board decided to grant a free supply of water under the usual conditions, provided that approved fittings are used."|
|16 Dec 1921||"At the last meeting of Lambton Council the town clerk submitted a statement showing the disposal of the funds in hand from the jubilee celebrations. The balance was £68 12s 7d, and the main disbursements were: Purchase and erection of drinking fountain £36 11s 4d, donation of cot to the Wallsend Hospital £30."|
|19 Dec 1921|
16 Dec 1921
|"Prior to the breaking up for the Christmas vacation at the Lambton and Jesmond Schools, on Friday. Alderman G. Bell attended each school, and handed over the surplus from the jubilee celebrations which was given as a donation to the school libraries or to be utilised for the benefit of the school as may be decided upon by the teachers."|
|19 Dec 1921|
17 Dec 1921
|Presentation of donated cot (bed) to Wallsend Hospital, funded from the surplus from the Lambton Jubilee celebrations.|
The return of electric light to Lambton
Lambton’s first electric light scheme that commenced in 1890 was a financial disaster that sent the council broke. From December 1899 the council ceased to exist as a functioning entity, as no-one was willing to nominate to serve on a financially crippled council. In July 1903 a scheme was adopted to settle the debts over a period of 20 years, and an election for nine new aldermen was held in September 1903.
With the prospect of 20 years debt ahead of them, even as the new council formed there was still a desire to light the streets again one day.
The old debt is to be wiped off, less the accumulated interest; so it will be some time ere the streets and park are again illuminated, but the sooner the better.Bowral Free Press, 12 September 1903.
But in the ensuing years any enthusiasm for bringing back the lighting was quickly curbed by the memory of the previous failed scheme and its legacy of debt. By 1914 there was sufficient interest in a proposal to illuminate Lambton’s streets by gaslight, that it was put to a municipal vote in August 1914, but the referendum was soundly defeated with 84 votes for and 199 votes against.
A key moment in the return of lighting to Lambton municipality occurred just a few months later, in a decision of another municipality. Newcastle Council, which at that time only covered the area east of National Park, had been operating an electric light system since January 1891. The council obtained electricity from two sources – by bulk purchase from the Zaara St power station owned by the Railway Commissioners, and from their own power station in Sydney Street.
With this power station Newcastle Council had been primarily supplying electricity to consumers within its municipal boundary, but occasionally to users and businesses in neighbouring areas. By 1914 there was a need to increase the generating capacity of the power station, and at the Newcastle Council meeting of 9 November 1914, aldermen voted to accept the tender of the Australian General Electric Light Company at £5219 for the supply and installation of a new 500kw turbo-alternator and associated pipe work.
The installation was completed in 1915, and with the investment cost to pay off and considerable spare generating capacity, it was argued that “no opportunity should be lost for obtaining new clients, and every chance availed of for extending the service into the suburban municipalities.” At their meeting on 16 August 1915, Newcastle Council voted on the terms on which they would supply electricity to other councils.
“It was decided, on the recommendation of the city electrician, that in future all agreements with municipalities must provide for 21 years, sole rights with right of renewal … or an agreement for ten years, with sole rights of supply, terminable also by purchase of the council’s property within any such area …”
Negotiations were immediately begun to supply Wickham and Adamstown Councils with electricity. Supply to New Lambton was switched on in September 1916, and other council areas followed in quick succession.
While other suburbs queued up to sign on to an electrical supply from Newcastle Council, Lambton’s reticence continued. At a public meeting held in the council chambers on 8 June 1917, discussion on the question of a new electric lighting schemes was amiable, but views were divided. Aldermen Hardy and Polak were supportive, stating that “The borough would advance if lighting were installed.” Mr J Jones in opposing the motion said “Any man bringing up the scheme should be examined by a medical man.” When put to the vote, the motion was rejected.
However by 1918 the tide of opinion towards another go at street lighting was in the balance. At a council meeting in August 1918 the aldermen were evenly divided on the matter. Eighteen months later, when Louis Polak was elected as Mayor on 3 February 1920, he immediately declared his intention “to advocate a street lighting system.” He wasted no time in writing to Newcastle Council, who replied on 24 February 1920 that they
“would be pleased to confer and assist the council, with a view of expediting the proposal to instal street lighting in the municipality.”
At their meeting on 4 May 1920, Lambton Council voted to approve the proposal from Newcastle Council for the supply of electric street lighting.
“The agreement with the Newcastle Council specified £3 15s per lamp of 60 candle-power, with an increase of 2s 6d per lamp for every 1s increase in the selling price of coal over 11s per ton, the terms of the agreement to be for 10 years, and the minimum number of lamps to be 100.”
Being late to the party, Lambton had to wait until other councils had been connected. In July 1920 it was reported that …
“Preparations are being made for the erection of the poles for the electric lighting of the municipality. The council has been assured that there will be no undue delay so far as the Newcastle Council is concerned, and upon completion of the Waratah service, which is now well advanced, the electrical construction staff will be transferred to Lambton.”
Despite the assurance of “no undue delay”, six months later Lambton Mayor, Louis Polak, was complaining to Newcastle Council that …
“Although an agreement had been signed, nothing had been done. The [Newcastle Council] electrical engineer stated that the delay was due to the impossibility of getting poles and the plant necessary.”
Installation eventually commenced on 7 February 1921, with erection of poles in the section of Lambton east of Karoola Rd, followed by De Vitre and Elder Streets in March 1921. But progress was slowed again with the Newcastle City electrical engineer reporting delays …
“… owing to the difficulty in getting large quantities of bare copper cable for quick delivery, and of having received no advices of the transformer for the street lighting. The position was that 150 poles had been erected in six weeks, and as there were 391 poles to be erected they would take at the same rate of progress a further ten weeks to complete. The work had been slower than anticipated owing to a large number of poles being erected in rock, necessitating drilling and blasting.”Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 22 March 1921.
Construction progressed in the following months and was finally completed on 1 August 1921.
“The finishing touches in connection with the installation of the electric light will be completed to-day. The workmen were engaged on Saturday fixing the globes, and the remaining few will receive attention, and will be ready for the trial lighting which will take place to-morrow.”Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 August 1921.
The official switching on ceremony took place a few days later in Lambton Park on Thursday 4 August 1921.
“Punctually at seven o’clock in the evening Mrs. Polak, the Mayoress, switched on the electric light from the rotunda, in the vicinity of which a large gathering of citizens had assembled. Alderman Polak, the Mayor expressed his pleasure at the manner in which all the arrangements had been carried out. He hoped that the town would go ahead. It was a healthy suburb, and he saw no reason why it should not progress under the new conditions. Following the Mayor’s remarks, a display of fireworks was given.”Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 5 August 1921.
The inscription on the facade of the building in the photo above reads
M. J. Moroney Mayor * Electric Light Station * Erected 1905
Although a generating station had been on the site since 1891, an enlargement of the building and generating capacity, was instigated in August 1905 when Michael Joseph Moroney was Mayor of Newcastle. The extensions were nearing completion in May 1906.
“Material additions and improvements are being made to the electric lighting station of the borough of Newcastle, and the prospects for the future are highly promising. In the front of the station there has been erected a brick structure, with a frontage of 60ft x 18ft, which contains an entrance hall, an electrical engineer’s office, fitting and testing room, and storeroom. An addition has also been made alongside of the original building, running the full length, and 37ft wide, which will give room for future extensions, in addition to those already decided upon.”Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 4 May 1906
Newspaper articles – electric light
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|2 Jan 1891|
1 Jan 1891
|Official opening of the Newcastle Council electric light scheme.|
|12 Sep 1903||"Nine aldermen (out of 15 candidates) are being elected to-day. The old debt is to be wiped off, less the accumulated interest; so it will be some time ere the streets and park are again illuminated, but the sooner the better."|
|29 Jul 1914||Letter from a resident urging the community to vote in favour of the gas powered lighting scheme. "Lambton is naturally so situated that if only reasonable conveniences prevail, it will take its place in the future as one of the most desirable suburbs in the district to reside in, and I hope that the ratepayers will be alive to their own interests, and help the council in their efforts to bring about this much needed improvement."|
|24 Aug 1914|
22 Aug 1914
|"A poll of the ratepayers on the street-lighting question was taken on Saturday, and the number of ratepayers that voted was much larger than for some years, and very keen interest taken in the matter. The result was as follows :--For gas, 84 ; against, 199 ; informal, 3."|
|1 Oct 1914||"During the last two or three years there has been a largely increased demand for electric current from the Newcastle City Council's plant … The council has been informed by its expert advisers that it is now urgently necessary that another generating unit should be installed."|
|10 Nov 1914||Newcastle Council meeting: "On the recommendation of the finance committee it was decided to accept the tender of the Australian General Electric Light Company, at £4007 10s, for one 500 k.w. turbo-alternator, of British manufacture. The company's tender at £1212 was also accepted for the supply of pipework, making a total of £5219 10s."|
|4 Aug 1915|
3 Aug 1915
|At a Newcastle Council meeting, the aldermen discuss proposed extensions of the electric lighting into Wickham and Adamstown municipalities.|
|7 Aug 1915||Letter regarding Newcastle Council electricity generation: "The actual units in commission now total about 950 kilowatts, with a new Turbo set erected, and which will be ready for work by the end of September. This will give 1450 k.w. The peak load is about 700 k.w., which occurs on Friday evenings, and this therefore shows a margin of about 700 k.w. No opportunity should be lost for obtaining new clients, and every chance availed of for extending the service into the suburban municipalities."|
|17 Aug 1915|
16 Aug 1915
|Newcastle Council decide on the terms under which they will suplply elecrtricity to other municipalities.|
|20 Sep 1916|
18 Sep 1916
|Formal switching on ceremony of New Lambton electric lighting.|
|9 Jun 1917|
8 Jun 1917
|"In response to a requisition of ratepayers Alderman E. Charlton, the Mayor of Lambton, convened a meeting, which was held at the council chambers last evening, to discuss the proposed lighting of the municipality." Views for and against the proposed electric light scheme were put forward, but when put to the vote the motion was rejected.|
|2 Sep 1918||"During the discussion which took place at the last municipal meeting upon the lighting of the municipality, the aldermen appear to be evenly divided. [Those] supporting the motion, contended that until some move was made in the direction indicated that the municipality would not make progress in keeping with adjoining centres, where a lighting system was installed. [Those] opposing the motion, argued that the council should first consider some scheme with a view of reducing the present indebtedness which they contended was the reason of keeping the town from progressing."|
|4 Feb 1920|
3 Feb 1920
|Newly elected Mayor of Lambton, Louis Polak, states his intention to advocate a street lighting system.|
|25 Feb 1920|
24 Feb 1920
|At Lambton Council meeting, correspondence received from "The Newcastle electrical engineer, intimating that the Newcastle Council would be pleased to confer and assist the council, with a view of expediting the proposal to instal street lighting in the municipality."|
|5 May 1920|
4 May 1920
|Lambton council votes to approve an agreement with Newcastle Council for the installation and supply of electric light.|
|26 Jul 1920||"Preparations are being made for the erection of the poles for the electric lighting of the municipality. The council has been assured that there will be no undue delay so far as the Newcastle Council is concerned, and upon completion of the Waratah service, which is now well advanced, the electrical construction staff will be transferred to Lambton. It is expected that the lighting of the muni icipality will be installed by February or March of next year. With the switching on of the light the council will also have an opportunity of making the combined celebration of the jubilee, as the municipality will have been 50 years incorporated on the 26th June, 1921."|
|11 Jan 1921||At the Newcastle Council meeting, the electricity committee reports on the delays to Lambton's electtic light installation.|
|8 Feb 1921|
7 Feb 1921
|"Employees of the electrical department of the Newcastle Council commenced yesterday the erection of the poles for the street lighting of the municipality. The first section to be undertaken is from Karoola-road to the eastern boundary."|
|23 Jul 1921||Newcastle Electricity, conference of councils. Contains a short history of the supply of electricity from Newcastle Council.|
|1 Aug 1921||"The finishing touches in connection with the installation of the electric light will be completed to-day."|