How Electricity and Tramways came to Glossop.

This article is based on research in newspapers of the time.

The Glossop council meeting of 12 January 1898 received a letter from the Municipal Electric Supply Company offering to build an electricity generating plant in the town for both lighting the streets and general supply. At the time there were private electrical plants in some larger premises but no public electrical supply. The company would invest the necessary funds and the council could decide at a later date whether it wanted to take the enterprise over, on giving 12 months notice and paying an amount to be agreed. After some discussion the council formed a sub-committee to meet with a representative of the company in Glossop. It turned out that the company was too busy with other business to take the time to meet in Glossop. In discussing the matter again, members decided that the risk of running a plant themselves was low compared with the expense of having to buy electricity from a private company at a high price, citing the cost of gas in the town as an example. The council decided to contact the Board of Trade regarding powers to supply electricity in the borough and subsequently appointed consulting engineers to work up a scheme.

The engineers reported to a special meeting on 15 June 1898 with a proposal for a generating works adjacent to Glossop Iron Foundry on Surrey Street and power for lighting initially to be supplied along Hadfield Road, Woolley Bridge Road, High Street to Rose Green with Victoria Street to Whitfield House, Henry Street, Norfolk Street, Fauvel Road (Technical School and Free Library), North Road (to Holmdale), Woods Hospital & Baths also included. More cover for Hadfield would come later. After a series of meetings and canvassing of ratepayers as to potential take up of electric power the council narrowly decided, at a special meeting on 29 June, to seek powers to promote a scheme of electric lighting for the borough.

That was by no means the end of the matter as the following months were filled with argument in the council, the borough in general and in the correspondence pages of the local newspapers. Edward Partington, in particular, was against electric lighting of the streets by the council, because of the risk of failure of such a scheme and the fact that they had other items to spend the rates on, whilst Dr. John Whelan, of Hadfield, was strongly in favour, partly because he did not wish to see another monopoly like the gas company in place. As this debate was going on the town clerk was authorised to write to private companies to obtain details of their proposals should the council take that course.

At a special meeting on 31 October, Councillor Partington presented a petition urging the council to rescind its decision of 29 June. Members decided not to do so but left the question of whether the council should promote a scheme itself, or contract with a private company, open for discussion. The annual meeting of the council, on 10 November, debated a resolution from Councillor Partington that the Electric Lighting Sub-committee be empowered to treat with a private company for provision of street lighting. The council had received two proposals in response to the town clerk's enquiries, from the Electrical Power Distribution Company Ltd. and from Edmundsons' Electricity Corporation Ltd. Councillor Whelan moved an amendment that handing over powers to a private company should not be done without the sanction of ratepayers at a public meeting but the council decided to pass the resolution unamended.

Application for an order was duly made and an advertisement in the Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 14 April 1899 stated that the Board of Trade had made and issued a provisional order to authorise the council to supply electrical energy for all purposes within the Borough of Glossop. The Board had initially struck out the clause allowing the council to transfer its powers (as was the case with all such orders applied for in that year) but had reinstated it on representations being made.

The council meeting of 20 September 1899 heard that the town clerk had written to both interested companies asking if they could offer more favourable terms. The manager of the Electrical Power Distribution Company was abroad so had been unable to respond but Edmundsons' replied with an offer of a price reduction and more favourable terms for potential buy out by the council. The town clerk, having been informed that tramways were a success elsewhere, had also received from Edmundsons' an agreement that they would supply power to a tramway to be run either by the council or the company. Members decided that the powers to supply electrical energy would be transferred to a private company and left the decision as to which to the sub-committee after the Electrical Power Distribution Company had replied. The annual meeting of the council on 9 November 1899 heard that the sub-committee had chosen Edmundsons'. A notice of the intention to transfer the Glossop Corporation electric lighting powers to the Urban Electric Supply Company Lit. (a subsidiary of Edmundsons') was published in the Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 15 December 1899.

The First Mention of Tramways.

Trams in Glossop town centre 1903/4

At the council meeting on 4 April 1900 the town clerk reported that, whilst discussing the requirements for lighting, he had taken the opportunity to talk to Edmundsons' regarding provision of the necessary works should the council wish to go ahead with a tramway system in the future. He had been told that the plant for the lighting would not be sufficient to run a tramway as well but it would be much cheaper if the work for the two schemes were done together. The company had written to the town clerk saying there were no similar tramways in England in a town the size of Glossop, and there was no evidence that such would be a financial success, but the company was prepared to take the risk of establishing a tramway, partly because of the peculiar positions of the various mills, residential, and shop portion of the borough, but chiefly because they believed that combining the electric lighting and tramways would achieve economies that would make the tramway undertaking a success. If the Corporation would apply for, and obtain, a provisional order for an electric tramway from Old Glossop round to Hadfield, the company was prepared to on the powers under similar terms as the Electric Lighting order previously agreed. The town clerk had taken the proposal to a meeting of the Electric Lighting Sub-committee which voted to agree the terms subject to agreement of the full council.

The council agreed the terms at the meeting of 13 June and authorised the seeking of an order under the Tramways Act at its meeting on 8 August. At the latter meeting Councillor Braddock expressed a desire for the route to be extended to Padfield so the town clerk met with the company regarding an extension into Padfield and also one up Victoria Street to the gates to Whitfield House. The company was happy with the latter but the railway arch on Platt Street was too low to allow an extension into Padfield. The council agreed to the amendment of the agreement.

The Glossop Electric Tramways (Provisional Order) was published in the Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 19 April 1901 and passed in the House of Lords on 1 July (despite initial objections from the railway company regarding the passing of the line underneath Dinting Arches and the Brookfield bridge, and over the level crossing at Lower Barn). It passed the second reading in the Commons later in the month.

The order having been passed, members of the council had expected Edmundsons' to move quickly and became somewhat frustrated by perceived lack of action by the company, being were concerned that the powers granted by the Board of Trade might lapse. At the council meeting on 11 December the town clerk reported that the company had finally found a site for the electricity works and cart (tram) sheds and were negotiating with Lord Howard. The council meeting of 5 February 1902 heard that terms had been agreed for the generating works site and that Lord Howard had granted permission for access over Glossop Brook. The meeting of 2 April received a letter from the company regretting the delay, which had all been because of the difficulty in finding a site for the work. The boilers and machinery had been on order for some time and building plans were being prepared so that tenders for the construction of the works could be sought. At that time the company was hoping to start running the trams by the end of the year.

Preparation of the generating works site started in May 1902 but construction awaited acceptance of the plans by the council. Work on the roads was also not without difficulty. The council meeting of 2 July, at which members expressed further frustration at the works not being completed, heard that there were problems agreeing, with the Calico Printers Association the building of a new bridge over the goyt and river at Dinting. The company overcame the problem and work was soon under way. Towards the end of the month the company issued a circular around the town offering to wire houses ready for an electrical lighting supply.

The Electricity Generating Works

The Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 15 August 1902 carried a report of progress and an interview with Charles Edward Knowles:
Excavations—building operations—and sundry other active signs on a specially acquired piece of ground down Dinting way betoken that the Urban Electric Supply Co. Ltd., which have in hand the Glossop Electric Lighting and Tramway Scheme, are now making a vigorous push for the installation of the said schemes. And the work at last commenced in earnest should allay anxieties of the Glossop Councillorial mind and give considerable contentment to that part of the public which had begun to look upon the schemes as possibilities of the very remote future. The work proceeds apace, the real march of electricity has begun, as onlookers are forced to recognise when inspecting the Dinting plot, from whence in the future is to be disseminated the new and wonderful power for lighting and traction purposes. In the near future this plot, or the machinery in the fine buildings erected thereon, is to be the busy home of Glossop’s electrical energy. With the active commencement of operations, public interest now for some time dormant, has received marked stimulation, and this week one of our representatives proceeded to the source from whence further information of the electricity schemes could be derived for the public benefit. In the person of Mr. Charles E. Knowles the Company has appointed a skilled electrician, and a most courteous and conscientious gentleman, to act for them in the capacity of Resident Engineer, and we regard the choice as as admirable one.
Our representative found Mr Knowles and his staff in the neat temporary offices of the Company at 117, High Street West, surrounded by many of the wonderful fittings and contrivances inseparable from electrical schemes, and we can heartily commend a visit to the show rooms at the premises named as a means of deriving much pleasure and instruction.
“When do you anticipate the scheme will be sufficiently advanced for electric light to be 'switched on'?” was the query promptly levelled at Mr Knowles.
“Well,” came the ready and confident answer, “unless the winter is an unusually bad one we expect the light will be available about the end of next March.”
“And the tram cars?”
“The two schemes will proceed simultaneously. On one point, continued Mr Knowles, “I find people show some hesitancy, but a little explanation will clear the matter up. They think that, as the light won't be turned on until the close of the winter, it would be best to wait for a period before their houses or premises are connected and wired,and that it would be the better policy not to let money lie idle by going to the expense of any fittings or wiring until nearer the time. But the Company, it is important to point out, do not expect any payment for the wiring until the current is turned on, and so the objection alluded to disappears. There can be no object gained by people waiting until nearer the time, and their best plan is to get their premises wired now whilst there is good weather and daylight to work by, and the fittings can be added just before the current is supplied.”
“And the cost of the wiring?” was the next interrogation.
“Well,” continued the Engineer, “experience shows that the cost of wiring is from 12s to 15s per light according to the nature of the fittings selected. Payment for wiring may be spread over periods of 3, 7, 10, or 14 years as may be selected by the customers, 5 per cent. interest being charged on the outstanding amounts; or for those who prefer free wiring the Company will fit up premises with wires and plain fittings free of all initial cost to the occupier, and charge a rental of 4˝d per lamp per quarter, the installation remaining the property of the Company, but the consumer to have the option of purchasing outright at any time. Experience shows that the average price paid for lighting will be about 5˝d per unit, which is equal to gas at about 3s 2˝d per 1,000 cubic feet. For premises where lights are burned for long hours each night, such as public-houses, clubs, late closing shops, etc., this price will be much reduced. For small private houses, that is to say, those which have not more than 10 16-candle, power lamps, or 20 8-candle power lamps, prepayment meters can be supplied and electricity charged at 6d per unit, which covers the rent of all wires and fittings, meter, etc. This would mean that 1s dropped into the meter would keep two 8-candle power lamps lighted for about 30 hours.”
In reply to further questions, Mr. Knowles stated that about 30 men were at present engaged on the works at Dinting. The plans show that the buildings, to be approached by a bridge over the adjoining river and goyt, will be commodious and handsome, and will also include large offices, show room, stores, etc. There are to be car sheds, with four pits ; three engines to commence with, and two boilers ; two large sets of accumulators, one to assist the traction load and the other to assist the lighting. The office headquarters will, of course, be removed to Dinting on the completion of the works. Finally, Mr Knowles was a courteous guide over the temporary and attractive show room in High Street West, and here could be inspected all kinds of fittings, radiators for heating rooms, electrical cooking apparatus, electrical heaters for ironing, coffee pots, pans, tea kettles, curling tong heaters and electric motors tor all purposes, ranging from quarter horse power upwards.
A chat with Mr Knowles certainly serves to show his confidence in the future of the Glossop schemes, and the gradual installation of the electric lighting and tramway schemes will now be watched by the public with the greatest interest.

The question of lighting of public buildings (whether by gas or electricity) was discussed at the council meeting of 17 September. Members thought that being in competition for the first time might make the gas company reduce its prices. It was decided that tenders would be invited for wiring the buildings and fuel costs. The meeting of 23 January 1903 heard that tenders had been received and the charges for both fuels were very close. It was decided that no action be taken until electric light was working in the Borough and they could decide whether it would be better. An exception was the reading room at the Victoria Hall as it was thought that electric light would be less damaging to books and literature than burning gas.

The Glossop-dale Chronicle and North Derbyshire Reporter of 12 June 1903 reported: The rapid progress being made with the Glossop Electrical Tramway scheme augurs that the cars will be running in the near future. And thereby a capital fillip should be given to the town. In the Glossop part of the Borough the new track has been laid and other necessary plant placed in position, and the work is being pushed on well in the Hadfield ward. Of course much remains to be done for the completion and equipment of the generating station at Dinting, where important machinery will be located, but even here the work is now well in hand. It is stated that the new cars will shortly make their appearance at Glossop, and it is hoped by the public that they may be running by the end of August or the beginning of September. Very active progress is also being made with the laying of the cables for the electrical lighting scheme.

Progress continued as expected and the newspaper of 14 August announced that the opening ceremony would take place on Thursday 20 August. In the run up to the opening, some Glossop people witnessed trams undertaking trial runs to test the system, but it was only on that day that they were able to see the trams running properly – in the prelude to the full public service which started the next day. Even though it was pouring down with rain at times during the day, interest was so great that large crowds were attracted. Despite the fact that, at that stage, the council had not decided on lighting the streets by electricity, the company had already contracted to supply electric light to some 50 customers.

The Opening Day.

A large number of guests, including members of the Corporation, ministers, clergymen, borough officials, and prominent residents attended the opening ceremony and luncheon at the generating station, at the invitation of the company. They were first given a guided tour of the premises by Mr. Wigham, the director of the company in charge of the engineering department which had carried out the works. Mr. Wigham then invited Alderman Rowbottom to start the engine for switching on the light and then Hon. Rachel Hill-Wood, wife of Samuel Hill-Wood, switched on the first dynamo and the lights themselves.

Mr. Wigham also explained that system would be formally inaugurated but the tram cars would not run for public service until Friday afternoon because the Board of Trade had to complete its inspection of the system (the holiday season meant that they were short staffed as a number of the inspectors were away on holiday).

The party was then invited to board the cars for the inaugural run. The interior of the first car was occupied by directors and a few friends, whilst the outside seats were taken up by members of the Glossop Old Band, who provided a musical accompaniment to the emergence of the car from the station. Large crowds lined the route up High Street West to Old Glossop and back, then along through Dinting and Brookfield to Hadfield, before the cars returned to the generating station. The main party was then entertained to lunch, catered for by Mr James Waterhouse, of the Talbot Inn, Old Glossop, in a marquee adjoining the generating station.

Mr. Sellers' tram on the opening day

The second car, which was handsomely decorated, had been chartered for the occasion by Mr. Squire Sellers. After the cars had been round the district, Mr. Sellers entertained several friends to lunch at the Howard Arms Inn.

Electric light was switched on for the first time for use by the consumers on Saturday 22 August 1903. The Manchester Evening News of 31 August 1903 reported: About ten o’clock on Saturday night the electric light—an adjunct to the Glossop Electric Tramways—was switched on for the first time to the fifty shopkeepers in High-street, who have discarded the old mode of illumination of the gas. The new innovation has already caused a reduction of 4d. per 1,000 feet in the price of gas, which previously was 4s. 4d. per 1,000 cubic feet. The Gas Company have had the lighting monopoly in the town for about forty years.

Plant and Cabling of the Glossop Electric Lighting and Tramways Schemes.

The generating plant included a high-speed steam engine, made by Belliss and Morcom, with a direct drive on to the dynamos, constructed by Thos. Parker and Company of Wolverhampton. The dynamos generated a current at 500 volts which was taken to a switchboard to feed systems for both for lighting and the tramways.

In the case of the tramways, cables ran out from the works parallel to the track, with a cast iron feeder pillar (or box) at every half mile, from which the current from the underground cables was fed up to the overhead wires, through wires in the tram poles. Each pillar contained switches and fuses to allow isolation of both the underground cables and overhead wires if anything went wrong in any half-mile section. Telephone cables ran alongside alongside the tramway cables, with telephones in all the feeder pillars to enable communication with the generating station.

For the lighting, a large feeder cable was laid from the works and along High Street West to the Town Hall, where it entered a lighting feeder pillar from which all the cables in the town then ran. The current in any part of the town could be cut off from that pillar if need be. A branch feeder ran from High Street West to the corner of North Road, supplying the North Road and Talbot Road districts. From the corner of Hall Street and High Street East to Woolley Bridge a line of earthenware piping had been laid to ease the job of installing extra cables to cope with an increased demand for electric light. Hadfield was to be supplied by an overhead transmission line, taking a short cut across the fields and going underground again near the railway bridge at Hadfield, then running to a feeder pillar to be erected at the top end of Station road.

The total length of the cables laid, when the systems opened, was about 40 miles, all laid in about ten miles of trench.

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Last updated: 16 November 2022