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The Old Electricity Showrooms Shoreditch

10-January-2013
10-January-2013 0:00
in Curiosities
by Peter Berthoud

The Electricity Showrooms in Shoreditch is now a bar but it was once part of a far-sighted Borough Council initiative.

Electricity Showrooms Shoreditch
The Electricity Showrooms Shoreditch today

Eighty years ago it looked very similar, the new bar has even kept most of the original signage.

Electricity Showrooms Shoreditch 1933
Electricity Showrooms Shoreditch - 1933

The Electricity Showrooms, in Hoxton Street, were opened by Shoreditch Borough Council in 1929 and yes, they sold and demonstrated all sorts of domestic electrical items here. But the showrooms were also an important part of a far more ambitious and egalitarian civic plan, to bring the benefits of electricity to all.

For it was here that local residents could sign up for the council's innovative "Rental Wiring Scheme" which was launched in 1926. The aim of the scheme was to:

Make it possible for every householder in the Council's area of supply to have electricity for lighting purposes. Under the scheme the consumer does not incur any expense whatever for the necessary wiring and fittings. A first-class installation, complete with lamps and shades is fixed in each house by the Department's own staff, and where there are several tenants, separate slot meters are fixed for each tenant, if desired. The installations are kept in good order by the Electricity Department.

For this service consumers paid 1 1/2 d above the normal rate for electricity. The scheme was a huge success, by 1933, nearly 14,000 installations had been completed.

Of course today a local council wouldn't be involved in supplying electricity to residents, let alone wiring their houses and allowing them to choose their own lampshades. But Shoreditch Borough Council and its predecessor local authority, the Vestry of St Leonard's, took particular pride in their electrical innovation.

In 1897 Shoreditch was the first borough in England, if not the world, to build an electrical generator powered by burning rubbish. It was named The Dust Destructor.

Dust Destructor Shoreditch
The Dust Destructor Shoreditch 1902

The original green power station stood in Coronet Street, the building is still there today and marked by a plaque. The borough was also one of the first to light and lay electrical mains in almost every street.

Until its 1965 amalgamation into the London Borough of Hackney, even Shoreditch Borough Council's motto reflected its pride in civic technological innovation.

More Light More Power Shoreditch motto
More Light, More Power - Shoreditch Borough Council's Motto

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