Supplement to HISTELEC NEWS No.22
Electricity In Cornwall - Part 1
Camborne & Redruth Tramway
by Eric Edmonds
Eric Edmonds is a member of both our Society and the Trevithick Society in Cornwall. Eric has written a considerable thesis consisting of 6 articles in the Trevithick Society Annual Journal No.29 and he has agreed that we can extract extensively his material for two supplements of our newsletter, now in December and the second edition in April 2003. The first such supplement, Part 1 is as titled above and Part 2 "Cornwall Electric Power Company"(CEPCo). As you will read there are three elements in this story of early electricity supplies in Cornwall, which are intertwined, Supplies to Mines, Supplies to Tramways and Public Electricity Supply, all by Edmundson's. It is highly appropriate to publish this article at this time in the year 2002(just!) to celebrate the Centenary of the inauguration of the Tramway in 1902.
First Use of Electricity in Cornwall
The first industrial use was undoubtedly by primary cells supplying telegraph circuits such as the Truro-Penzance line opened in April 1859. However 'the electric light' as it was called, was demonstrated as early as 26th Sept. 1850 by Mr.J.N.Hearder in a lecture on Batteries to Truro Literary Institution. A Staites arc-light was fixed to the Assembly Room tower and lighted up adjacent land-marks and far down the river as Tolverne (2miles).
The first sub-marine telegraph cable from Porthcurno to Lisbon, Gibraltar & Malta was in service in June 1870, so a bank of primary cells must have been used there initially, though by 1906 they had an engine & dynamo charging a bank of secondary cells, which also supplied the offices & quarters. Perhaps the first use of plant was at the Lizard Lighthouse, where Trinity House installed generators to electrify the navigation light on 28th March 1878.
In 1879 the Redruth Rifle Corps Supper was held under electric lights and on the following day, a floodlight match was arranged by Redruth Rugby Football Club. The generators for both functions were provided by C.W. Probis & Co of Manchester. Mr. Probis being a Redruth boy. The football match was lit by two 12,000 C.P. and two 2,400 C.P. lamps, 13th January 1879. The butcher's shop of W.Williams in Redruth was lit in 1891 and between 1890-92 part of the house of Mr.R.H. Michell was supplied by a wind generator.
In November 1892 Broad & Co, Drapers, installed five arc-lights and a noisy gas engine to light the Arcade between Fore St. & Penryn St., Redruth. The coming-of-age of Mr. A.R. Bassett was celebrated by flood-lighting the grounds of Tehidy House in 1894 and also the rebuilt Tabb's Hotel, Redruth had electric light installed.
The First Supply Companies in Cornwall The Devon and Cornwall Electric Light and Power Co. was incorporated on 12.5.82. They planned for supplies in Exeter and Penzance, including manufacturing, generation and distribution, and marketing. They had an agency for the items manufactured by Mr. Brush, but were wound up in 1883.
Veale & Co. Ltd. were the first in the field, supplying St. Austell town in 1886, whilst the Mevagissey Electric Supply Co. Ltd. claims to be the first to provide public lighting in 1895.
There were obviously a number of private installations, which were not publicized, but quite a few were, incl. :-
1 898 Poldhu Hotel, Mullion- Being built and will have oil engine for dynamo. Mullion Bay Hotel- Dynamo for lights and ext'n down to harbour & pier.
1898 Lanhydrock House, Bodmin - Drake & Gorman installed wood-fuel boiler, engine & 100v dynamo for lighting. SWEB supply after 1948.
1902 Polwbele, Truro -Dynamo driven by waterwheel.
1903 Prideaux House, Padstow - Lighting plant.
1904 County Mental Hospital, Bodmin - Two Belliss & Morcom type C3 steam dynamo sets.
1908 Porthgwidden, Feock - Generator at Harcourt Fm.
1910 Truro Skating Rink - Now the "Hall for Cornwall". Sale Notice stated "lit by electricity".
c1914-21 Mullion Airship Station - Sale Notice included Campbell SG engine, one 10kW & two 40kW dynamos.
1920's St. Michael's Mount - Ruston petrol engine, dynamo & battery for lights. SWEB supply by 11kV cable across causeway soon after 1948.
1921 Tregothnan - Installation by CEPCO contracting department.
Water Power for Generating Electricity in Cornwall
Water has been used for years in Cornwall to drive mills and machinery, but only to a small extent to produce electricity. Records survive of a number of interesting proposals and schemes, which were actually carried out -
Mines, industrial consumers and private houses
In 1890 Tregeagle Mine, Trevenner, installed a 180 HP Escher Weiss turbine, 73ft head, to drive the pumps and ropeway. By 1907 it also drove a dynamo for lighting and later a 16ft double vertical British Empire turbine was installed, which drove two dynamos 54kW & 6kW, but closed in 1912. Northwood Clay Pit on Bodmin Moor had a turbine driving a dynamo from 1908 until it closed in 1914. Moresk Mills, Truro generated their own supply by water from around 1905. In later years they exported their surplus to the Truro LV network, until they closed. Magdalen Mine, Ponsanooth, near Redruth had a Gilkes Francis~type reaction turbine from 1913, driving machinery and a small dynamo until the mine closed in 1930. Loggans Mill, Hayle, installed a Francis-type turbine to drive an alternator. In 1904 W.Visick & Sons, Basset Works, Devoran, near Truro built a new dam across Melingey Creek and erected on it an undershot waterwheel to drive lathes, etc, and also a 5kW dynamo for lighting. Wheal Martha, Luckett was reopened in 1947 as New Consols, with water power used for generation, but evidently to no great extent, if at all, before the mine closed in 1954. There were other premises supplied by water power, including Trecarrel Mill, Launceston, and Addicroft Mill, near Rilla Mill, Liskeard.
Public Supply Companies
The Camborne ESCo Ltd. obtained the 1899 ELO to use water from the Polstrong Stream, but nothing came of this scheme and Camborne ESCo and the 1899 ELO were acquired by Edmundsons in 1910 for Urban ESCo.
Bickford Smith, Ponsanooth evidently had a water power scheme at Kennal Vale. The CEPCo records show an entry on the sheet for the Carnon Valley for a 10kV wood pole line reading "Transfer from Ponsanooth Water Power Scheme & HT Mains Suspense A/C. £2l.l5.0", being between 1914 and December 1916.
Penryn ESCo Ltd started a non-statutory supply in 1915, using the waterwheel at Tresooth Mill to drive a dynamo, until it was replaced by a Fielding SG engine.
The Cornwall Electric Power Syndicate Ltd. considered tidal generation at Hayle before applying for the Cornwall Electric Power Act, 1902, but decided against it. In 1931 Tidal Energy Ltd. applied for approval of a scheme to use the River Gannel at Newquay for tidal generation, by means of a dam across it, and on which there would be a road, but this application was refused by the Board of Trade.
Edmundsons Electricity Corporation
This Company was registered on 7.4.1897 and took over the assets of Edmundsons Ltd, on the following day. They formed the Urban Electric Supply Co Ltd In 1898, for the purpose of obtaining Parliamentary powers to work electric lighting and tramway undertakings in various places in England and Scotland.
Prospectus of the Urban Electric Supply Co. Ltd.
On 25th June 1901, it opened a Subscription List for the raising of Share Capital totalling £500,000 for the construction of generating stations and associated works in various towns and districts, for which it had acquired parliamentary powers.
The proposal for Camborne and Redruth was a combined lighting scheme and tramway. The parent company, Edmundson's Electricity Corporation Ltd. undertook the construction of the works under separate agreements each dated 6.2.1901.
The Engineer's Report supporting the prospectus had a paragraph, which may cause some amusement :-
'Camborne and Redruth are two important towns in Cornwall .... Camborne has the larger number of inhabitants, but is devoid of good shops, so that almost its whole population is forced to come for its shopping to Redruth, which is a market town with excellent shops. There are houses on both sides of the road the whole distance between Camborne and Redruth and some of the chief mines in Cornwall are along the route.'
Edmundsons had also undertaken to subscribe or procure subscriptions for the whole issue.
Opening of the Carn Brea Branch Office
In 1901 Mr. F.S. Hanning was appointed Engineer and Manager of this branch of the Urban Electric Supply Co. Ltd., with Mr. J.E. Edmundson as Assistant Electrical Engineer. He was drowned bathing at Hayle in September 1911. On 6.12.0l two contracts were signed between the Urban ESCo. Ltd. and Edmundsons.
1. Generating Station and Distributing System - £38,500 - Sub-contract to Callenders Cable & Construction Co. for the cable system.
2. Tramway - £35,000 - Direct labour for track and overhead conductors, Sub-contracts to G.E Milnes, Birkenhead. for the tramcars and to B.T.H. for the control gear and motors.
See Appendix 1 for Carn Brea Generating Station
These were laid by Callanders Cable & Construction Co. Ltd, and were of the system known as 'Vulcanised Bitumen" or VB laid in wooden troughs. They consisted of Tramway Feeder, Lighting Feeder, Lighting Distributor Telephone and pilot cables and spare duct for future H.V. cable. The snag soon became apparent that the Distributor cable, which was on the inside of the footpath, should have been laid 6inches higher and not at the same level as the others. This meant that a rather elaborate service connection was required.
The laying of the track started on 7.4.02. and the men were paid 4d/hour. They struck on the next day - refused 4 ½d and then settled for 5d/hour after one hour. No strike has occurred in electrical distribution in Cornwall since that day, not even during the General Strike of 1926. The track was 3ft 6inch gauge, the rails spaced by tie-rods, 8ft apart, and was all single track with eight loops and double tracks at each end. It was in the centre of the road, to B.O.T. requirements. The sharpest curve was 40ft radius and the steepest section 1:15 on East Hill. The rails were laid on 6inch of concrete, with 5inch x 4inch stone sets extending 16inch on either side of each rail, with macadam between and outside. These rails, weighing 83lb/yard as well as the steel trolley wire poles, were shipped in through Portreath. The "Neptune" type bonds and the 50lb fish plates were supplied by Dick Kerr & Co. The various points and the railway crossings, across the North Roskear, North Crofty and Portreath branches of the G.W.R., were supplied by the Steel Casting Co. Whilst the track was being laid down East Hill, Tuckingmill, a traction engine got too near to the north side and the nearside rear wheel went over the edge of the wall, blocking the road for over 24 hours.
|Fig.1 Track Laying in 1901|
|1. (a) Depot||2. (e) Depot|
|(b) Pool Chapel||(f) Pendarves Street,Tuckingmill|
|(c) IIlogan Highway Chapel||(g) Wesley Street|
|Fig.2 Electric Tram - Redruth to Camborne|
|Fig.3 A Tram competing with old transport|
|Fig.4 Carn Brea Generating Station & Offices|
|Year||Installed Capacity||Load kW||Sets Added|
|1904||425kW||No.4 Belliss & Morcom triple exp. 300 H.P with 2 x 100 kW Parker dynamos|
|1907||825kw||750||No.5 Bellis & Morcom triple exp.580 H.P with 400kw. Crompton dynamo@ 375 rpm|