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30 May 1863 SA Gas Company

 30 May 1863   SA Gas Company

The furnaces of the gas works at Brompton were fired for the first time on 30 May 1863. This followed two years of work to get the South Australian Gas Company established.

The prospectus of the company was issued in May 1861, but by July only 943 of the original 6000 shares had been sold. However, the promoters, who included some of Adelaide's leading businessmen, among them Henry Ayers, Arthur Blyth, and G.P. Harris, were confident that the venture would be a success and decided to proceed with plans. In fact Adelaide lagged behind the eastern cities in the provision of this utility, for Sydney had gas lighting as early as 1841, Melbourne turned on the lights on 1 January 1856, and Hobart in 1854.

The next step was to gain the approval of Parliament and this was achieved on 29 November, despite the opposition of George Fife Angas who apparently disliked the use of gas. Land was acquired at Brompton, and on 23 December 1862 the foundation stone of the 'great' chimney was laid by Ayers who must have changed his mind. Regular gas services to customers began on 22 June 1863 and by 20 July 209 buildings, including Parliament House, were lit by gas. The City Council was reluctant to use gas to light the streets and it was some years before agreement was reached for the Company to install 273 lamps in the city. The contract expired in December 1868 and was not renewed until early in 1871. Even then the streets were only lit from half an hour after sunset until 1 am, except on the seven nights about the full moon, when the city returned to relying on nature to provide some illumination.

Peter Donovan, Noreen Kirkman, The Unquenchable Flame,  Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 1986, pp. 12,17-40.

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