Electrifying Bottesford

Memories of rail journeys and installing electricity supplies to the Vale in the 1930s.

By Peter Mackness

A diesel car at Bottesford Station


Peter Mackness, of Sulgrave, Northants, contacted us to point out that the steam engine shown at Orston Lane Crossing is a J6 rather than a K2 as we stated. He has also been kind enough to add the following information about his past rail journeys on the Nottingham to Grantham railway, and his father’s use of the line in the early 1930s when he worked as an electricity supply installer. These memories confirm that electricity first came to the Vale between 1931 and 1935, though it evidently did not go to every house. Bottesford still had its own gas works, and coal gas was used domestically and for street lighting up to the early 1950s.

The picture sent to us by Peter Clay shows a diesel railcar at Bottesford, possibly like the ones Peter Mackness travelled in.

Travelling to Bottesford

I frequently travelled by train from Nottingham to Grantham during the 1950s and 1960s. I recall an interesting journey over the “Joint Line” when, due to the need to replace a river bridge between Bingham and Bottesford (circa 1957), all passenger and goods services were diverted at Saxondale Junction, via Barnstone, to Stathern Junction where they reversed and travelled via Redmile and through Bottesford South and East Junctions to Grantham. New ‘Derby Lightweight’ diesel railcars had been introduced for Sunday services on the Grantham line and I had a front seat view through the driver’s ample windows. As we sped down the steep bank towards the ghostly Barnstone Station, a flock of pheasants, being unused to Sunday traffic, met an untimely end beneath the pristine diesel’s wheels. The driver and signalman at Stathern Junction made a ‘joint’ inspection of the running gear and at least one cluster of ruffled feathers changed hands for the pot! Climbing back into his seat the driver turning his head to me, winked and smiled, knowingly…………..!

My father, an electrician, travelled to Bottesford, every working day for two years between 1931 and 1935 by train from Nottingham. He stored his bicycle at the railway station and from where he cycled to join his workmates at properties where the owners could afford to abandon their oil lamps and install the marvel of electric light – courtesy of the Mid-Lincolnshire Electric Company.

I should add that throughout the 1930s dad lived at Swain’s Avenue, Thorneywood, Nottingham, and he kept his cycle at both Bottesford and Grantham railway stations, enabling him to cycle to each job. His diary says that he caught either the 6.23 am or 7 am from Nottingham Victoria, depending on the length of journey he had to make at the Bottesford or Grantham end for an 8 am start. He often told me “I was lucky to be in regular work in the 1930s, so a train and cycle ride was essential to avoid the dole queue.”

A salutory maxim…….

The Mid Lincolnshire Electric Supply Company Limited (Mid-Lincs) was a new company which began life around 1930 and had some sort of connection with Lincolnshire and Central Electric Supply Company. They had offices and a showroom in Grantham and elsewhere.

The pre-1948 nationalisation electricity supply companies worked within clear boundaries – towns, cities, counties – although there were cross-border, and intra-county agreements. Sometimes both private and local authority undertakings had territories within a county. For instance, the Melton Mowbray Electric Light Company were joint providers along with Leicester County Borough Corporation, though there is some question as to which company was mainly responsible for installations at Bottesford.

My father’s first installation work for the Mid-Lincs was at Grantham, Belton and Great Ponton. Then he went on to other properties around Woolsthorpe, Denton and Redmile. He said that he also did some work at that time (maybe sub-contract work after initial installation) in Bottesford village, but I don’t know where. His colleagues came from Nottingham, Newark and Grantham, but I don’t know their names.

For the Mid-Lincs the task was to install light and power to those households who had subscribed to the Mid-Lincs “Assisted Wiring Scheme “, which may have been a Government inspired, or a Mid-Lincs, initiative. How the costs were apportioned I don’t know, but Mid-Lincs paid part and so did the householder. Father told me that his work in villages took place at large “well to do” properties, where “you had to wipe your feet and be respectful to the owners.” You may conclude that wealthier owner occupiers were the first to avail themselves of the Scheme’s provisions!

Power was laid to the property and electricians installed 5 amp lighting circuits to each room. The circuits were two-core (feed and return – no earth).  Only one power socket per property was installed – in the kitchen – controlled by a separate 20 amp switch (the first sockets were unswitched), mainly for the ‘new electric cookers’. Light switches were always surface mounted on a wooden pattress. A meter, one main isolating fuse and two circuit fuses (light and power) were installed. The mains was brought to, say, a farmhouse on poles. If it was a row of closely spaced properties the cables would cross from house to house just below the eaves. If a householder required extra installations beyond the terms of the Scheme (lofts, cellars and outbuildings) they had to pay the full costs of that work.

The popularisation of the ‘new domestic appliances’ was not widespread at that time. Most radios were accumulator powered and electric irons a rarity. Stories of electric irons powered from a ceiling rose bayonet socket are familiar, together with many ‘blown’ fuses!

Properties near towns and larger villages already had gas and much of father’s work in such cases was ‘conversion’. In most of the more remote places light had been provided by oil or candle. In some cases the gas pipework was used as a conduit for rubber coated cables. At other properties, unsuitable lead pipework was stripped out and sold, and steel electrical conduit installed. Some people preferred, at first, to choose light fittings which resembled gas fittings.

This page was added on 17/02/2008.

Comments about this page

  • Very interesting reading this. Are you the Peter Mackness who went to Claremont school. If so I would like to get in touch. I don’t mind you having my email address if you can get it.

    By Michael Maltby (23/05/2012)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.