Power writing on the wall

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the letters EL found outside some house walls and on kerb stones stand for ‘Electric Light’. Back in the late 1920s or early 30s, all houses were lit by gas and it cost £20 to wire and instal electricity. In those days, this would represent more than 10 weeks’ wages for a normal family.

However, more money became available and gradually a few houses managed to go electric. These were identified by chiselling EL usually on the kerb, maybe to facilitate metre reading.

The electricity supply was, I believe, owned and run by the council. It was generated at Owlerton and at Tinsley, where the two famous water cooling towers were.

The council eventually introduced penny-in-the-slot electricity which, after paying an over-the-cost charge per unit of electricity, the cost reverted to the slightly less than 3/8th of a penny per unit. The misalignment between unit cost and currency unit meant there was a slight overpayment, which was refunded by pennies extracted from the meters.

When installation was paid for you either carried on with the penny-in-the-slot or transfered to metered costs.

PS: a meter rental charge frequently exceeded the electricity charge.

Leonard Price, S8

n See Retro for more on the EL puzzle