Durley Park Archives
At long last we have had a chance to explore the box of archive material from the old Grid Control Centre at Durley Park. The box was collected together by Tony Dilworth from material from the old Costing, later Statistics Section - a lot was used for lecture material.
It proved to be a veritable Pandora's Box with material dating back to the original control room in Oakfield Road. There are several glass 3 1/4" slides of the construction of the SWE & S. Wales Area office in the 1930's and some of the Control Room interior from that time. One is a very good shot of LB Law as the then Senior Control Engineer. A gem from the early days is the "milk book" recording the contributions to the Control Room tea fund. This starts from about 1941 and runs up the mid 50's when the move to Durley Park took place. There are quite a few names to savour - John Bird as an Assistant in the late 1940's and myself as a new boy in 1954! There is also a fine set of glass slides of power stations in the early part of the last century.
Regrettably there is no record of the establishment of Durley Park, either when the Emergency Control Room was established in the basement of the old house, or when the new Control Room as built in the mid 1950's. There is however an excellent set of photographs of the construction of the new Area and Severn Control Rooms in the 1960s (so called three tier) and the subsequent modifications following the transfer of 132kV system control to the Area Boards (two tier).
We now have a set of slides of the installation of the 400kV cables under the River Severn and a tantalising set of colour slides of the 132/33kV substations inherited from the CEB. Unfortunately they are neither identified nor dated! Probably Bridgwater Main and Dorchester in the 1950s. John Gale and I are in the process of indexing the material we have inherited - come and have a look yourselves.
Bath SWEB Offices
A picture of the demolition of the old Bath Offices, reported in the last issue, has come to us via Australia,
our Foreign correspondent,
One bright May morning last year, my elder son and I set off to walk from Broadwindsor in west Dorset, over the hills and down through the Marshwood Vale to the sea. Our intent was lunch at the Royal Oak in Charmouth, a coastal village between Bridport and Lyme Regis.
Along the way we met an old farmer, Farmer Dare, who told us how he remembered when mains electricity first came to the Marshwood Vale. “That was in the fifties," he said. “We would stand in the field under the power lines holding a fluorescent tube, and it would light up," he claimed. “What did you do before then?" - “Come and have a look at this."
He took us to an outbuilding and, behold, there was this machine. I think he called it a ‘Startomatic'. “And it still works." They must have been very common, at least on farms. At nationalisation in 1948, according to a speech by Frank Forrest CBE, the South Western Electricity Board estimated that within their area there were 35,000 farms and small holdings. Yet of these only 20% had mains electricity and only 8% were using it for any purpose other than lighting.
Later I found out that Farmer Dare bought the Startomatic in 1958, five years before the mains reached Great Bluntsea Farm in 1963. It was a diesel-powered generator producing standard AC240v current, with an output of 1.75kW. It started up as soon as you switched a light on. The only electrical appliances in the house apart from lights were the TV,
radio and an electric iron, but to use the latter they also had to have a light turned on to produce a constant demand for current. Otherwise the thermostat in the iron would be constantly starting and stopping the diesel generator. Farmer Dare had a dairy herd of 20 cows and continued to milk them by hand twice a day until he bought a second-hand electric milking machine in 1969. The arrival of the Startomatic's electricity at Great Bluntsea roughly coincided with the end of Farmer Dare's use of a heavy horse for hauling and ploughing!
Martin Roundell Greene
Watson On Transport
I read with interest in the August 2007 edition, the article by John Perkin on tramways in Germany and Peter Lamb's comments on the proposed trolley bus network for Leeds writes Derek Watson, member from Bury.
Having used both systems extensively as a child, a worker and in retirement, both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. In my view, the most successful tramway system is at Blackpool in Lancashire. It has its own dedicated rail network and doesn't interfere with other forms of traffic. I spent many happy holidays during World War II using the “electric system" as fuel was in short supply.
The great advantage of tram and trolley bus systems was that they carried a large number of passengers compared with buses. As a Meter & Protection Engineer working in Glasgow during the 1960's, SSEB staff used trams and trolley buses on a regular basis. This was due to the fact that no one was allowed to drive on business, chauffeurs being used to drive SSEB vehicles in Glasgow. Transporting a voltage recorder full of ink on these systems was a sight to be seen.
Like many other cities, Glasgow dispensed with its tram and trolley bus systems simply because no one could design a very thin motorcar to travel between the electric vehicles. Passing on the inside was prohibited due to passengers entering or leaving the vehicles.
Today I use the Metro-Link between Bury (Lancs) and Altricham (Cheshire). After an extensive overhaul of the original rail line between Bury and Manchester (Victoria), the system is in full operation again. Full car parks at each station shows the great benefit of them. After Manchester (Victoria) the system leaves the total rural area to an urban one sharing the roads with other vehicles until the rural area is reached again.
Summarising - providing there are no breakdowns everything is fine. My longest wait was 55 minutes before we were moving again. The Glasgow engineers nicknamed the trolley buses “Godess of Death" due to its silent running and many people were injured or killed by these silent giants. The trolley bus reserve battery was just about sufficient to get it to the side of the road until it was towed away. No doubt battery technology has improved during the last 40 years, but I hope the Leeds personnel, when ordering the trolley buses, ensure that they have a large battery and most importantly, a very loud horn!!
People may not know that besides controls and meters, Horstmann's of Bath made some interesting things, mainly to satisfy the whims of various family directors. In the thirties they made a novel mouse trap sold through Woolworth's, but have never found one. Freddie Horstmann (Chairman in the 1970's) was a keen bee keeper and designed a cage (9"x1"x1/4") for transporting queen bees through the post. These were a real hit with the apiarist world and many thousands were made during the thirties.
My cousin Bevan Horstmann (Chairman in the 80's) was an uninhibited inventor. Whilst farming he had trouble tattooing his cattle, which would often run off before he could release the instrument from the ear, so he designed a spring loaded ear marker which automatically tattooed and released the needles from the ear in one action. It became the brand leader, and was made until ear tags replaced the tattoo. We also made them for greyhounds. Another was a bloodless emasculator – a remedy I felt should be used on various members of my sales force.
Newbridge Mantle Clock
Bevan never stopped trying to get us to make things he had ideas about, such as a cultivator (later adopted by Ferguson), a gripper stick for the disabled, medical equipment (made by the Horstmann Gauge company), and many others. Another cousin, Colin, designed a small garden tool, called the Dandy Dibber which we also sold in the 30's. I have one, which is the best tool I know for removing dandelion roots
Another product range was the Newbridge Mantle Clock, also made in the 20's/30's – reasonable quality at an affordable price. Many were sold through the retail business in Union Street, Bath.
Having started in 1904, making controllers for gas lights, we invented and made many products for gas control – the solar dial – a domestic long distance gas light switch (this comprised a wall switch containing a battery, a Bowden cable, and an igniter on the lamp) - a tariff switch for gas – cooker lighters – cooker timers – and many others. One interesting product was the ‘Lunar Time Switch', cycling according to the moon. This was used for controlling sewage outlets ensuring that effluent went out with the tide. Rumour has it that Aberdeen used them on street lights to keep the lights off at full moon.