Saturday 28 January 2012

The Lamplighter

It was on this day in 1807 that London streets were first illuminated with gas lights.  My great-great-grandfather, William Powell, held the job of lamplighter (he moonlighted as a journeyman and house decorator) in the latter half of the 1800's.  Lamplighters were generally trustworthy fellows who were warmly greeted by their neighbours as they made their way down the street, a ladder under their arm, and stopped at each lamp post, leaned the ladder against it, climbed up, and lit the lantern.  Acting as unofficial watchmen, they made the streets safer in London (and other Victorian cities) for young and old.  Here is a poem I discovered written by Robert Louis Stevenson about a young child's reaction to the nightly visit from the lamplighter.


The Lamplighter

by Robert Louis Stevenson

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

Photo courtesy


  1. I was in a barbershop quartet for years in Regina, and we used to sing "When It's Lamp Lighting Time in the Valley". Your post brought back old memories. Thanks!

  2. And LOVE the photo, btw.