Wolverhampton's First Power Station

The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Municipal Lighting Works took place on Monday, 21st May, 1894, the function being performed by the Mayor, Alderman C.T. Mander. The proceedings, which were of a purely formal character, were witnessed by a considerable number of people collected in the vicinity of the works in Commercial Road. Amongst others who attended the ceremony besides his Worship were the Rector (Prebendary Jeffcock), Aldermen W.H. Jones, T.V. Jackson, and J. Saunders, Councillors Johnson, J.J. Tate, Shepherd and Jenks, the Town Clerk, Mr. H. Brevitt, Messrs. T. Parker, F.H. Lewis (electrical engineer), A.P. Brevitt (architect), H. Willcock (builder), and J.T. Homer.

The Mayor said that they were assembled on a very important occasion, and he hoped the electric works would prove a vast benefit for the town in the immediate future. (hear, hear).

Mr. A.P. Brevitt presented the Mayor with a handsome trowel, with which he laid the stone, and having declared the work well and duly done the proceedings terminated. The trowel was of massive silver, with an ornamental ivory handle, and was specially made for the occasion. It bears on the front of the blade a copy of the borough arms, artistically engraved, and on the back the following inscription:

Presented to the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Wolverhampton (Mr. Alderman Charles Tertius Mander, J.P.) by the architect, Archibald Paul Brevitt, on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of the Municipal Electric Lighting Works, on Monday, the 21st May, 1894.

The whole is handsomely mounted in a morocco case, and was supplied by Messrs. Kemp and Wilcox, silversmiths, Queen Square.

The power station as seen in 2006.

Luncheon at the Victoria Hotel

The Mayor afterwards entertained a company of about 25 gentlemen at luncheon at the Victoria Hotel, the host, Mr. J. Boome, catering in his usually satisfactory style. The loyal toast having been honoured, His Worship, who presided, said that since he had the honour of asking the company to lunch he found that the Queen was passing through Wolverhampton that afternoon, and he should consequently have to leave shortly to go to the railway station with the object of showing the loyalty of the borough to her Majesty – (cheers).

He desired to present now, “Success to the Electric Lighting Works of the Corporation.” It was some five years since the question of electric lighting was seriously considered in Wolverhampton, and had it not been for the interference of the Town Council, no doubt they would have had electric light in their midst long ago. He did not blame the Town Council, but they had been a precious long time about it (laughter). However he thought the Corporation and the borough were none the worse for having proceeded with this question slowly – (hear, hear).

In the last few years electricity had made enormous strides, and, by waiting, the Corporation had probably been able to introduce here a system which they could not have initiated even four or five years ago. Owing to the strides electricity had made in the market of late, there was a new system by which they could mix up, high tension and low tension with great advantage – (hear, hear). They had determined to carry out their electric works on the double principle. 

The speaker proceeded to speak of the principle upon which it was proposed to distribute the light, and said the station in Commercial Road had every facility for being enlarged almost to any extent. They proposed to put down a plant at the present time, capable of generating sufficient electricity to light 10,000 lamps, and they could increase the number to 15,000 – (hear, hear). Motor transformers would be put at the Art Gallery, Free Library, and Town Hall, the last-named place being the head sub-station, and he hoped another sub-station would soon be required in the vicinity of St. Mark’s Church for the Chapel Ash district.

He had in a pamphlet showed what he thought were the relative merits of electricity compared with gas, and there was absolutely no question that the former as an illuminant was far superior to gas in every respect – (hear, hear). The relative cost of the two illuminants seemed to be a matter of opinion, though to his mind electricity was practically no more expensive than gas at 2s. 9d. per 1,000, and ought in the near future to be less than gas at 2s. 6d. In spite of the strictures he had made on gas in his pamphlet, no gas shareholder, and no manager of gasworks or director, had been pleased to break lance with him on his figures – (hear, hear).

Alderman W.H. Jones proposed “The Architect, Builder and Electrical Engineer, and Mr. Thomas Parker.” He paid a tribute to the work of the first three gentlemen named, and added that they were indebted as a Corporation very largely to Mr. Thomas Parker, who had been a true friend to Wolverhampton – (cheers). He had advised them in such a way as to lead through many mazes into smooth water – (hear, hear).

Messrs. A.P. Brevitt, H. Willcock, F.H. Lewis, and T. Parker responded, the last named gentleman thanking the Corporation generally for recognising any efforts he had made. He wished to see Wolverhampton lit up second to no place in the country, and anything that he could do to further that end he should be pleased to do – (hear, hear).

Alderman Saunders who had taken the chair in the Mayor’s absence, proposed “The Visitors”, Mr. Thomas Callender, whose firm laid the underground mains responded. “The Health of the Mayor”, proposed by Councillor Jenks, having been honoured.

Mr. Thomas Parker proposed “The Press”, and said that eleven and a half years ago he came to Wolverhampton a solitary working man, with one boy and started not many yards from where the foundation stone had been laid that day. Since then they had built, under his supervision, works for the lighting of a great number of towns and for a vast number of purposes, and now Wolverhampton was waking up to the uses of electricity, and he had been able to perceive the consummation of a long-entertained hope in the laying of a foundation stone which meant the lighting of Wolverhampton by electricity – (cheers). With all the systems devised, and with all the various efforts made by others throughout the world, they had that day adopted the system of his own devolution – (cheers). They had, he felt convinced, acted wisely in adopting that system, and it would be the one that would be taken up elsewhere. He thanked the press for all their kindness.

The toast having been responded to by Mr. J.B. Hardcastle, the health of the “Deputy Mayor” (Alderman Saunders) was honoured.

The Mayor (who had now returned) responded to the toast of his health, and said that on the public they depended for enthusiastic support for the success of the electric light undertaking. He hoped soon that the scheme would be more than a paying concern, and would do something towards lowering the rates – (hear, hear).

“The Town Clerk” was the next toast, and in responding to his health, Mr. H. Brevitt said they had done right in being the pioneers of electricity in the borough. Electricity as an illuminant should invade every healthy home, and gas should be abandoned – (hear, hear).

The health of “The Rector” was afterwards drunk. In replying Prebendary Jeffcock said he would like to see the electric light in the old church, as sometimes the gas made the atmosphere somewhat impure.

The health of Alderman W.H. Jones, the senior alderman of the council was honoured, and in responding, that gentleman said they owed much to Mr. Thomas Parker for his wisdom and counsel in the matter of the introduction of electric light – (hear, hear).

The proceedings then terminated.

Return to the
previous page