Monday 1 May 2023

The Lamplighter

Every day at dusk you would see him. He would walk around the quiet streets of Campbelltown carrying his small ladder and kerosene can with its long narrow spout. It was a routine that he loved and that he had perfected through years of practice. As he approached each lamp post he would take the lamp out and clean the globe and then fill the lamp with kerosene and light it. A ritual from another time in a slower paced and less complicated world.

Edwin James Bamford, known as Ted,  was born in 1865 in Picton. He was the son of Edwin Bamford and and Elizabeth Reeves. The family came to Campbelltown when Ted was only 3 or 4 months old. Ted secured his first job aged only 13 when he began constructional work on Sydney's first water supply. His main duty was to supply horses to the surveyors, moving them between Campbelltown and Fairfield where they were stationed.

He began his lamplighting in 1902. Although there were not many lights in town, it still required some travelling by foot. There was a light outside the town hall, one on the corner of Allman Street, one on Dumaresq Street, one near the corner of Lithgow Street, one near the park and one on the corner of Broughton Street. They never showed much light according to local Frances Meredith.

As a boy, Fred Seers assisted him with the lamplighting for threepence a week. Fred grew up to be one of the town's much loved characters himself.

Lamplighting was not the only job that Ted was skilled at. Perhaps his greatest joy in life was as Verger for St Peter's Church. He followed in his father's footsteps with this. He would clean the church, ring the bell, chase pigeons and undertake rounds of the graveyard. He reputedly knew the inscription of every tombstone in St Peters. Later he worked in the tiny library in a small building at the back of the town hall. He was the librarian there and he also looked after two billiard tables in the small building. There was a fireplace and he kept the logs on the fire in winter. He later moved to the new Soldiers Memorial School of Arts on the corner of Queen and Lithgow Streets and worked as the librarian.

Ted had a keen interest in botany. He was able to give the botanical name of every tree, pine and shrub that you could find in Campbelltown!

He carried out his work as lamplighter up until the time that electricity was installed in Campbelltown in early 1924. No more would this gentle old character wander the streets lighting up the town. 

Ted married Frances Holland at St Peters, Campbelltown and they had three children. The untimely death of his daughter Fanny had a profound effect on him and was believed to have contributed to his death not long after. He had suffered from asthma throughout his life. Edwin Bamford died in 1936 and was buried in the cemetery at St Peters that he dutifully cared for. 

Can you help with finding a photograph of Edwin Bamford for us?

Written by Andrew Allen


Campbelltown News 24 July 1936

A Stroll Through St Peter's Churchyard, Campbelltown NSW by Marie Holmes

Frances Meredith oral history interview 1977 (Held at Campbelltown Library)

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