Electricity

First supply meter in 1884

Reproduced with permission from the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder, 1990

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

a) The HAMMOND COMPANY: In 1881 Robert Hammond demonstrated the brush arc-lighting system in the town, and was employed by shopkeepers to light their premises along a 1.75 mile ring in Queen's Road and Western Road . The Hammond Electric Light and Power Company started supplying power on 21 January 1882 with sixteen arc-lamps in the series circuit at 800 volts d.c.; a permanent system was inaugurated on 27 February 1882. The generator, which was sited at the Regent Iron Foundry in North Road (a site now occupied by the Post Office sorting office), was initially regulated by a boy operating a variable shunt resistance, but it soon changed to automatic operation. It was in the charge of Arthur Wright, who designed the first supply meter in 1884. With an unbroken supply since January 1882, Brighton can probably claim the oldest continuous public electricity supply in the world.

b) BRIGHTON ELECTRIC LIGHT COMPANY: In January 1885, Hammond sold out to the newly formed Brighton Electric Light Company. As demand grew, a new power-house was erected in the Regent Foundry yard with three generators which, by 1886, were supplying 1,000 lamps on an eight-mile circuit. The new company became the Brighton and Hove Electric Light Company in 1888, and then established a continuous supply at 100 volts a.c., transformed locally from a 2,000 volt distribution.

c) CORPORATION SUPPLY and NORTH ROAD : In 1883 Brighton Corporation was sanctioned to supply the OldTown, but no action was taken until 1890 when, prompted by the Electric Light Company's expansion plans, the corporation built a power station in North Road almost opposite the foundry. Opened on 14 September 1891 by the mayoress, Mrs Soper, it produced a supply of 115 volts d.c. The municipal system was extended in 1893 when a three-wire 115 and 230 volt system was introduced. In April 1894 the corporation acquired the rival Electric Light Company and appointed Arthur Wright as engineer-in-charge. A rapid increase in demand led to further extensions at North Road, and by 1904 there were fifteen generating units with supplies at 115, 230, 460 and 550 volts, a total capacity of 5.935 MW. (A d.c. supply was in fact retained until 14 September 1965 and was latterly used by the Post Office Sorting Office and Telephone Exchange {123}.)
The North Road building, which stood to the east of SpringGardens, had a red-brick facade with the borough arms in a pediment, but was demolished in September 1986 to be replaced by the Y.M.C.A.'s William Collier House.

d) SOUTHWICK POWER STATION: It was soon obvious that a larger station was required to meet future demand, and in May 1902 construction of the Southwick power station was begun. Opened on 16 June 1906 by R.Burns, President of the Local Government Board, at a cost of £350,000, Southwick initially operated with three turbines producing 4.895 MW; another was added in 1907, and, as capacity increased, North Road was run down and ceased generating in 1908 to become the principal substation for the town. In 1911 a single generator of 5.25 MW was installed at Southwick, and a large plant extension opened in September 1924. In 1924 also, large substations were opened at Roedean Road, Hollingdean Road and behind the Rookery in Preston Road, all of which still stand. Southwick was connected to the new national grid in 1926 when the supply was made standard, and had further plant extensions in the following years. The corporation's first collier, the Arthur Wright, made its maiden voyage in 1936, and was soon followed by the Henry Moon which was sunk in the war. By 1946 Southwick's capacity had increased to 190 MW.

e) ELECTRIC HOUSE, Castle Square : New offices and showrooms for the corporation's undertaking, which covered the parishes of Falmer, Hangleton, Portslade-by-Sea, Southwick, Telscombe and West Blatchington in addition to the county borough, were opened in Castle Square on 20 January 1933 by Sir John Reeve Brooker. Known as Electric House, the building is decorated with the borough arms and regularly hosted exhibitions of the latest electrical appliances. Electric House was later used by the South-Eastern Electricity Board, and since 1989 has been the Royal Bank of Scotland.

f) NATIONALISATION and BRIGHTON 'B': In 1946 the C.E.G.B. authorised the corporation to construct a second power station at Southwick. The first pile was driven on 25 November 1947, but the corporation's undertaking was transferred to the South-Eastern Electricity Board on 1 April 1948 when electricity supplies were nationalised. The new station, known as Brighton 'B', opened in 1952 in a massive building with 360-foot chimneys to the west of Brighton 'A', the older Southwick station. In March 1969 however, the aging 'A' station was run down with a partial plant closure, and with a further closure in July 1973, generation ceased completely on 15 March 1976; the building was demolished in May 1980. By June 1987 Brighton 'B' itself had also come to the end of its useful life and had ceased production. The eastern chimney was blown up before a large crowd on 16 July 1988 at the start of the demolition of the building.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: {115,123,153,154,155}

Photo:Formerly 'Electricity House': now the Royal Bank of Scotland

Formerly 'Electricity House': now the Royal Bank of Scotland

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Shoreham Power Station, c. 1980: Shoreham Power Station prior to its demolition. Photograph Copyright Evening Argus.

Shoreham Power Station, c. 1980: Shoreham Power Station prior to its demolition. Photograph Copyright Evening Argus.

Image reproduced with kind permission from Brighton and Hove in Pictures by Brighton and Hove City Council

This page was added on 23/03/2007.
Comments about this page

The one abiding memory I have of Electricity House in Castle Square is that it was a favourite meeting place as most of the buses in and around the town stopped in the Square. So if you made a date you would often arrange to meet on the corner outside the building.

By Kenneth Ross (29/03/2007)

Round about 1934 I can remember the heavy electricity cables being installed in trenches from their large yoyo type drums along Newick Road, North Moulsecoomb. We all played in the trench during the evenings at one end whilst the night watchman with his coke brazier would be at the other. To us, it was fascinating, watching the workmen manually heaving the cable along the trench when it was ready. We'd had electricity for lighting but not for power and cooking. Gas ruled the roost and a gas cooker could be found in all the sculleries of the houses on the estate. For quite some time afterwards, only very few people could afford a change to an electric cooker!

By Ron Spicer (04/07/2008)

I remember that as late on in the 1950s Grant Street was still on DC (direct current) mains power supply. The electricity board staff visited houses to change, or replace, domestic equipment for the changeover to the AC supply. In fact Fawcett School was on DC supply when I was there (1951) as we used to charge the science lab batteries straight from the supply through domestic light bulbs connected in series...very dodgy.

By Barrie Searle (15/02/2011)

My dad used to work at this power station before it was demolished. xxx

By Sharon (23/06/2011)

I'm sure I remember being on DC in Brunswick Place, Hove during some of the 1950s. I seem to remember my father having to buy an invertor (he called it a 'convertor', supplied in a wooden box, it used to hum!) in order to be able to plug in the new Decca TV. I wonder when the supply was converted to AC?

By Tony Hagon (07/06/2017)

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