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One of the lights on Dutoitspan Road


UPDATED: 02/09/2022

2 September 1882, The southern hemisphere’s first street lights switched on in Kimberley.

First electric street lights in the southern hemisphere

Electric streetlights made their appearance in 1882, with 16 electric streetlights, four of them outside the City Hall.

Kimberley was the first town in South Africa to have electric street lights and quite possibly the first in the southern hemisphere. Swan lamps were used.

Mosley Street, Newcastle upon Tyne in England, was the first town in the world to have electric street lights, using Joseph Swan’s incandescent lamps on 3 February 1879. Second in the world was Cleveland, Ohio in the USA on 29 April 1879, followed by New York in 1880.

Both the American cities used Thomas Edison’s experimental lamps.

Swan then set up a partnership with Edison in 1883, their company being called Ediswan.

In Latin America: San Jose, Costa Rica on 9 August 1884 using Ediswan lamps.

In mainland Europe: Milan in 1883

In Australia: Tamworth, New South Wales: on 15 May 1888

In Cape Town, an arc-lighting installation was commissioned for the harbour in 1882, while the railway station had four lamps burning by 1881.

Interestingly, Charles Rudd was the first person to install electricity in his home – in Newlands, Cape Town, this happening in 1891.

In Johannesburg the first electric street lamp was erected on the corner of Rissik and President Streets in October 1895.

The French Mining Company experimented with a 300 candle power “Lontin” arc lamp at the Kimberley Mine in August 1881. The Daily Independent of 15 and 18 August 1881 described it as “magnificently brilliant, somewhat resembling the light of the sun.” The Government Inspector of Diamond Mines, WCC Erskine, stated that in 1881 “the electric light was introduced for mining operations in the Kimberley Mine, where it was used in the claims and on the margin at the delivery boxes. It was found to be an immense improvement on the old style of lighting by night, viz. paraffin tins filled with waste saturated with paraffin oil”.

2 September 1882, The southern hemisphere’s first street lights switched on in Kimberley.
Pictured is one of the lights on Dutoitspan Road.


Kimberley can proudly boast that the diamond city was the first town in Africa, and indeed the southern hemisphere, to have street lights installed. Sixteen lights were officially “switched on” on 2 September 1882. The first test had been done as early as 15 February, but only four lights had burned brightly for a short while before fading. Four of the sixteen lights were on the corners of Market square.

The first electric street lights in the world were in Mosley Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, in England, this being on 3 February 1879. Second in the world, and first in the United States, was Cleveland, Ohio, on 29 April 1879. Wabash, Indiana, also in the USA, holds the title of being the third electrically lit city, this happening on 2 February 1880. Chicago and New York followed shortly thereafter.

Today In Kimberley's History 02-09-2015

Replica of the First Street Light outside the City Hall

Kimberley was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere. In Latin America, San Jose, Costa Rica was the first city, being launched on 9 August 1884. Timisoara, in present-day Romania, was the first city in mainland Europe to have electric public lighting, this on the 12 November 1884. In 1888 Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia became the first location in Australia to have electric street lighting.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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