British Electricity History


Public electricity supplies began in Britain during the 1880s. By 1900 most urban places with over 50,000 population had some form of service, at least in the town centre. Gradually the isolated points on the national map began to coalesce especially when the national grid helped local organizations to connect small towns, villages and eventually farms.

In the process of electrification, hundreds of municipal and company organizations developed local and sometimes regional systems. Before nationalization in 1948, however, there was little consolidation of areas.

The study of British electricity systems is a remarkably daunting task. While there is a rich legacy of detailed annual surveys, these publications have to be tracked down. The user is then faced with immense alphabetical listings of all sorts of enterprise, often in places which no longer have much meaning except to local residents. Since there are few contemporary maps, listing and grouping the electricity organizations geographically is difficult and often time-consuming.

These notes are offered as an outline guide to the pre-1948 local authorities and companies which developed electricity supplies in the British Isles.

Pdf copies of chapters

  1. Introduction
  2. London: Electricity Hub of Britain
  3. The South Eastern Electricity Board Area
  4. The Southern Electricity Board Area
  5. The South Western Electricity Board Area
  6. The South Wales Electricity Board Area
  7. The Merseyside and North Wales Electricity Board Area
  8. The North Western Electricity Board Area
  9. The South West Scotland Electricity Board Area
  10. The North of Scotland Hydro Electricity Board Area
  11. The South East Scotland Electricity Board Area
  12. The North Eastern Electricity Board Area
  13. The Yorkshire Electricity Board Area
  14. The Midlands Electricity Board
  15. The East Midlands Electricity Board Area
  16. The Eastern Electricity Board Area
  17. The London Electricity Board Area
  18. Electricity in Ireland
  19. Electricity in the Isle of Man
  20. Electricity in the Channel Islands


Dr. Gerald Bloomfield
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Geography, Environment & Geomatics