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Electric lighting - direct current

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
There wasn't much call for a public electricity supply until the trams were electrified. I believe a few of the larger factories generated their own supplies before then, but other firms were quick to take a public supply, which was worth their while, once it was available. Originally it was all direct-current, which meant that you couldn't use a transformer to step down the voltage very easily. By the turn of the century supplies were offered to domestic users, at about 220 volts.
I can't be too definite about this, but I seem to remember that my grandparents in Grasmere Road Handsworth were converted from dc to ac in 1944 or 1945, but it's hard to believe that they would be doing the conversion during the war - perhaps it was seen as helping the war effort. Direct current juice was certainly more costly and wasteful to distribute than the equivalent in alternating current, and the effects of an electric shock were less uncomfortable too.
It would be interesting to hear from someone who knows about these things. There must be a few around somewhere.