ADAMS, Edgar Clifton 1893-1971

Edgar Clifton Adams was listed in the 1924 Victorian Census details as a 24-year old ‘leadlight worker’, but there is no indication of his employer or whether he was already working independently after a long apprenticeship.[1]  Adams’ home address was 4 Moonee Street, Ascot Vale, which he shared with his new wife Olive Stella Ann (née James) after their marriage the same year; the couple went on to have six children.

Edgar Clifton Adams was born in Flemington on 4 July 1893, the son of Mary Ann and William Adams.  In the years before the Second World War, Adams spent his whole home and working life – as ‘leadlighter’, ‘leadlight artist’ or ‘manufacturer’ –  around the same district of Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale, suburbs in Melbourne’s north-west.   By 1926 his home and business were in the same street – 5 and 8 Latrobe Street, Moonee Ponds and two years later they shared the premises at 8 Latrobe Street.

The Great Depression of 1930s hit the leadlight industry hard.  It was a ‘luxury’ those few new homes could do without, and Adams was out of work for several years.  People did not even restore their decorative domestic glass, so Edgar walked the streets looking for broken windows in need of repair.    He received the Government ‘sustenance’ benefits to support his family.

The family and business moved from Latrobe Street, Moonee Ponds to 2 Harold Street, Ascot Vale in 1934, possibly to less expensive premises, at least until the outbreak of the Second World War.

By the 1942 Census, the family lived at 22 Scotia Street, Moonee Ponds and Adams was a ‘process worker’ assisting the war effort at the Government Munitions Factory at Maribyrnong.   He did not return to the leadlighting business after 1945.

Edgar’s daughter, Berice Munro, née Adams, remembered the pattern book of his designs, which she enjoyed looking through as a child.  Sadly, this has been lost.

Adams Edgar Clifton [Poppy] cropped

Edgar Clifton Adams in retirement. He died on 13 November 1971.

Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds were growing areas of housing in the Inter-War period.  Styles such as the Californian Bungalow and Spanish Mission often had simplified Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass in double doors, double-hung sashes and ingle nook windows that gave each an individuality not seen in twenty-first century housing estates.  Many of Edgar Adams domestic leadlights may well survive among the extant housing in this part of Melbourne. [2]


[1] Details of Edgar Clifton Adams life and career were researched by his grand-daughter, Dr. Anne Black who found details of his home and business locations in the Australian census documents.   Note: Apprentices were indentured for five to seven years, starting at a very low weekly wage.

[2] This entry on Edgar Adams represents many industrious, competent leadlight designers and makers who ran small firms across suburbs of the major capital cities and in country towns throughout Australia.  It was not unusual for men to leave the leadlighting trade after the Second World War and only a few tradesmen and artists kept the sector alive.  Housing styles no longer called for leadlight and jobs in various new industries were available, as well as in the building trades.


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