Lighting up the streets of Sydney

The first gas streetlight that lit up Sydney marked the birth of the Australian Gas Light Company, or as we’re known today, AGL.

3 min read
The first gas streetlight signalled a new era for Sydney – turning a dark city at night, to a light and thriving town. This marked the birth of the Australian Gas Light Company, or as we’re known today, AGL.

Bringing energy to the people of Australia is what we do best, and it all started way back in 1837. That’s when legislation was passed to bring gas light to the town of Sydney. This would make the city home to the first streetlight network outside Europe. It was the start of the town’s transformation from a distant colony to a prosperous city of the world. 

And who was charged with bringing the safety and security of illuminated streets to Sydney? The responsibility was given to the newly established Australian Gas Light Company, which would evolve into the AGL as we know it today.  

Let there be light

Following almost three years of intense infrastructure and engineering works, the first gas streetlight was lit in Sydney on 24 May 1841. This coincided with Queen Victoria’s 22nd birthday. Over the next two years, 165 gas lamps were installed around the harbour city.  

According to City of Sydney archives, you’d have found most of them outside the local pub in an effort to ‘deter riotous hordes of villains’. We hope it did the trick! 

Over the next decade, gas lighting lit up the rapidly growing metropolis after dark. This meant not only were the streets safer, but stores could stay open later, giving Sydneysiders their first taste of late-night shopping.  

Sydney’s history in gas

Now the home of Barangaroo, Sydney’s gas supply was produced and stored at Millers Point Gasworks, which operated for close to a century. It provided light and employment to millions before the era of electricity.  

Initially, the fuel was made by gasifying coal through distillation, or heating coal and steam to produce coal gas. In the 1850s, AGL would introduce purification, allowing the gas to be more safely used in private residences. 

While most visible signs of the gasworks are gone, the location and its importance are celebrated by Gas Lane, nestled between Darling Harbour, suburbs of Millers Point, Barangaroo – and a stone’s throw from AGL’s Sydney headquarters on George Street.  

Mother Working At Laptop With Children In Background

The future of AGL

Just like Australia’s energy journey, we’ve come a long way. More than 180 years later, we not only supply gas to Australians all over the country where we operate, but now also electricity, solar solutions, internet and mobile. 

Learn more