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IET Archives: Power supply

The IET Archives holds many collections pertaining to the history of the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Illustration of the staircase lit by electric lamps at Cragside from the Graphic newspaper 1888 ref NAEST 197  Early electric power schemes

Electricity had been known to be produced via the chemical reactions in a electrolytic cell discovered by Alessandro Volta in 1800. However, production by this means was expensive. In 1831, Michael Faraday discovered the fundamental principles of electricity generation and devised a machine that generated electricity from rotary motion.

The world's first public electricity supply provided Godalming in Surrey with electric lighting in 1881. An earlier enterprise saw the lighting of the privately owned Cragside, the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power in 1870. Water from the estate's lakes was used to power a dynamo and the electricity it produced powered an arc lamp installed in 1878; this was later replaced in 1880 with an incandescent lamp.

Power generation and electricity supply records

In addition to information about the early schemes such as Lord Armstrong's residence, Cragside, the IET Archives also holds material relating to power stations such as Croydon, Stepney, Battersea and Barking dating from the early twentieth century. The collections consist of maintenance log books, photograph albums, plant descriptions and plans, oral history recordings and commemorative booklets. There are also several personal collections from employees within the supply industry that shed light on working practices during this period.

Original material

For original material in our collections please refer to the research guides and search our online catalogue. There is also a series of Garcke's Manual of Electrical Undertakings (The Blue Book) from 1896-1960 that are held for consultation in the Archives Centre reading room. Please see the visit us section if you would like to make an appointment to view these manuals or any of our other collections.

Black and white photograph of employees next to power generation and supply equipment from the Deptford Generating Station album 1888-1892 ref. SCMSS 059  Online resources and related links