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For other uses, see Lamplighter (disambiguation).
Lamplighter in Wrocław's Ostrów Tumski ("Cathedral Island") district, Poland, November 2005.
The lamplighter in Brest, Belarus (October 15, 2011).

A lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights.


Lights were lit each evening, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, they would return to put them out using a small hook on the same pole. Early street lights were generally candles, oil, and similar consumable liquid or solid lighting sources with wicks.

Other duties[edit]

Another lamplighter duty was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil, or gas mantles.

In some communities, lamplighters served in a role akin to a town watchman; in others, it may have been seen as little more than a sinecure.

In the 19th century, gas lights became the dominant form of street lighting. Early gaslights required lamplighters, but eventually systems were developed which allowed the lights to operate automatically.


Today a lamplighter is an extremely rare job. In Brest as a tourist attraction a lamplighter has been employed since 2009 to light up the kerosene lamps in the shopping street every day.[1]

A small team of lamplighters still operate in London, England where gas lights have been installed by English Heritage. [2]

In Waikiki, Hawaii, lamplighters in traditional Hawaiian costumes run along the shore and light gas torches in the evening.

There is a long history of the role of a lamplighter-as-lightbringer as a symbolic figure in literature.

Frank Serpico, an NYPD whistleblower, prefers to use the term "lamp-lighter" to describe the whistleblower's role as a watchman.[3]

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a spy novel written by John le Carré in it refers to Lamplighters as a section of British Intelligence that provided surveillance and couriers [4]


  1. ^ Юрий Рубашевский. (2009-07-29). Тепло и свет "живого" фонаря (in Russian). Vecherniy Brest. 
  2. ^ [1] Newspaper article about them
  3. ^ [2] Frank Serpico section, The Independent, U.K.
  4. ^ [3] The secret codes of John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy "The Telegraph", U.K.