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New Acquisitions – Lancashire Electric Power Co. Diagrams

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We recently had donated to us a collection of electrical system diagrams created by the Lancashire Electric Power Company (LEP Co.) There are 15 plans in total, which cover most years between 1930 and 1948. Each plan shows a different year, and the set therefore demonstrates the changes to the electrical infrastructure in Lancashire and Greater Manchester between those years.

LEP Co. was granted the rights to supply electrical energy in bulk to local authorities in 1900. Their first power station at Radcliffe was opened on 9 October 1905, and their first customer was the Acme Spinning Company in Pendlebury – the first cotton spinning mill in Lancashire designed to be powered by electricity. The company opened further power stations at Padiham in 1926 and Kearsley in 1929. It went on to supply electricity to most of Lancashire south of the Ribble, before being nationalised in 1948 into the North West Electricity Board (later NORWEB).

Souvenir brochure from the official opening of the extension at Kearsley Power Station, 1936.

Souvenir brochure from the official opening of the extension at Kearsley Power Station, 1936.

Page from the souvenir brochure from the official opening of the extension at Kearsley Power Station, 1936.

Page from the same brochure, 1936.

The difference between the first diagram, produced in 1930 and the last in the set, produced in 1948 can be seen here. It is a really clear illustration of how much the electricity industry advanced in those years and where the developments in the infrastructure occurred. The plans clearly show the gradual build-up of an electricity network in an area that was initially not attractive to local authorities, and demonstrate the rural electrification of remote areas, linking farms, collieries and other businesses to the system.

Lancashire Electric Power Co. system diagram 1930. [Ref. 2017-2001]

Lancashire Electric Power Co. system diagram 1930.

Lancashire Electric Power Co. system diagram 1948. [Ref. 2017-2001]

Lancashire Electric Power Co. system diagram 1948.

Interestingly, there were no new power stations built after 1929. The system developed by upgrading smaller substations into control centres. There is a lot of growth between 1932–35, following the development the National Grid, which was in operation by 1933.

Promoting electricty to rural communities, Royal Lancashire Show Burnley, 1935. [Ref.1987.838/MS0496]

Promoting electricity to rural communities, Royal Lancashire Show Burnley, 1935.

It is also interesting to note the changes that took place during World War Two. The plans show connections to Royal Ordnance Factories and Magnesium works, and also show modifications to the system, with emergency substations appearing in 1943 to protect against disruption to supply in the event of bomb damage.

The boiler room at Kearsley Power Station under construction, c.1946 [Ref.1987.838/MS0496]

The boiler room at Kearsley Power Station under construction, c.1946

The plans remained at NORWEB where they would have been bound into a volume and used for reference—some of the plans still bear the marks of binding. They were rescued from disposal by an employee of NORWEB, who later offered them to the Museum. They make a fantastic addition to the archive’s electrical collections, and nicely complement our existing holdings relating to LEP Co. and the development of the electricity industry in Britain.

Written by Ceri Forster

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