Until the 1800s households relied on candles or gas lamps for lighting. Often people just went to bed when it got dark.
During the Victorian period, experiments in the production of electricity and the means of capturing this energy source in usable form, were taking place both in America and the UK. The arc lamp was invented but proved too bright and too hot to be of practical use in the home. Initially electricity was very expensive and could only be afforded by the wealthy.
Experiments continued but it was not until American Thomas Edison and Englishman Joseph Swan both discovered that a tungsten filament contained within a glass bulb gave the result they had been looking for. This discovery resulted in electric lighting becoming both affordable and suitable for household and general use.
In 1882 the Electricity Lighting Act allowed individuals, companies and local authorities to set up their own supply networks, but it was not until 1913 that the Rushden and District Electricity Supply Co Ltd. was formed. The works, in Shirley Road, were formally opened on 27 November 1913. In the Rushden Museum you can see a small brass plaque which mentions this company and which was recently recovered from a meter installed in a house in Purvis Road in 1932. Electricity was first brought to Rushden around 1912 or 1913.
Cable laying in Rushden High Street in 1913
The Electricity Supply Act of 1926 created the Central Electricity Board and the National Grid. The National Grid regulates the supply from power stations and organises distribution throughout the UK.
In 1947 the Electricity Act merged 625 local supply companies, including the Rushden and District Electricity Supply Co Ltd, into 12 area electricity boards. Our own area became part of the East Midlands Electricity Board.
The only remaining known records of the Rushden and District Electricity Supply Co Ltd are housed in the manuscript section of Nottingham University.