Electricity Comes to Oakridge
Information available on coming of domestic electricity to Stroud.
The UDC was empowered to supply electricity in 1903 but it was not until c. 1916 that a supply was laid to the town and it was carried out by a private company. The Stroud Electricity company agreed to buy electricity in bulk from the West Gloucestershire Power Co. set up in the 1920s and at last in 1924 Stroud had a satisfactory and adequate public electricity supply. Countrywide, the installation of domestic electric lighting made progress when the Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926 was passed.
The West Gloucestershire Power Co. was taken over by British Energy Authority (SEA) at nationalisation in 1948. At the same time the local distribution side of the industry became the responsibility of the Midlands Electricity Board.
For many villagers in the early 20th century, electricity would have been normal at work in factories and mills which generated their own private electricity supply long before it came to homes in Stroud or rural areas like Oakridge.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Electrical Association for Women (EAW) campaigned to get domestic electricity installed across the country to make the lives of women in the home less arduous.
Before electricity was available in the village, Bob Gardiner(BG) recalls being given 1 /2 p to go and fetch the paraffin for the family lamps and heaters. Peaceys sold paraffin in Oakridge Lynch and Alison Gardiner's father sold it in Waterlane. Hobbs sold paraffin before going into developing the business into the supply of central heating oil.
No precise details have been found to date the arrival of electricity to homes in Oakridge. Alison Gardiner (AG) and Bob Gardiner (BG) agreed that it was just before WW2 - 1938/9. A photograph in Stanley Gardiner's Archive Photographs series "Chalford to Sapperton" shows the Broadway with electricity poles and it is captioned "late 1930s". All connection work stopped during the war and was resumed after.
However, the Hornby family at lies Farm had its own oil powered generator which charged batteries to provide a DC electricity suppy to lies Farm much earlier. BG's dad looked after the generator.
Initially AG remembers getting 4 electric lights at her home connected when the local power company brought an electricity supply into Waterlane. The connection fee was £7 a quarter for 7 years and consumption was paid for in addition. (The connection charges came to an end in 1948 when the electricity industry was nationalised.) They didn't have any power sockets until after the war and then had to pay for the wiring themselves. Electricity was expensive and several people remembered parents complaining when lights were left on when the room wasn't in use - "What's that light on for?" Light bulbs were produced in 15, 40, 60 and 80 watt rating.
The Farm Survey of 1941 records that Solomon's Court and Rookwood Farm had public electric light and power, and Lillyhorn Farm and Wear Farm both had electric lighting but not power. Frith Farm, Oakridge Farm and Waterlane House had private supply for light.
It is believed that both the church and the chapel in Oakridge changed from oil lamps to electric lighting after WW2 - possible not until the 1950s
BG remembers that there was no electricity at the Taut until 1950s, tho' from the house they could see the electricity pole at the top of Whiteway. Eventually electricity was brought up to the Taut through Drivers Wood.
Records suggest that all council houses were rewired in the 1950s
Bizzie White recalled the early fuse boxes with ceramic re-wirable fuses. This type of fuse box was still common until 1990s. Hillside had them then.
Several people recalled radios run by batteries with glass accumulators that one took to the garage or Fitzwaters in Stroud for recharging. These would have been pre-war radios which would over some time have been replaced by mains powered radios.
The group discussed tasks that they remembered changing dramatically with the supply of electricity to the home
+ Water heating, previously done using a copper, became much easier when electricity became available. First of all people had a freestanding boiler ( eg baby Burco type) and later electric immersion heaters when piped water supplies were the norm in most houses.
+ BG and AG and others agreed that electricity provided a noticeably better light for working than Tilley lamps.
+ Cooking by electricity was only possible later when more power became available and was much easier than using primus stoves or coal
ranges. Smarts in Chalford and Webbs on Sisley Old Road in Stroud supplied coal for fires, boilers and kitchen ranges. AG still has a coal fired boiler and Smarts still supply her with coal.