Electricity had come to Thames before the Coast, the wait must have seemed endless!
From the early 1900s, changes happened at Thames, which would greatly impact on the lives of the residents. In previous years a few had known the wonders of gas, for lighting and other purposes, but the following years brought the introduction of electricity for domestic and industrial use. Thames Hospital for instance, had electricity installed in the surgical area from 1902 and in the remainder of the hospital by 1914. These early power supplies were provided from private generating plants. From 1906 the town debated whether to adopt a hydro power option as opposed to what was offered by the Thames Gas Company - it took until 1912 for the green light for the first option to go ahead. Thames Star 4 September 1944.
In 1914 the supply of electricity was nearly a reality for the town. The Borough of Thames had an Electricity Department, and was busily advertising various job opportunities. The local council was also offering a deferred payment scheme for people to have the electricity wiring installed in their houses. The Thames Star 10th June 1914, announced that the Thames Borough Council had successfully completed the construction of an electricity plant “of the most modern type for generating light, heat and power.” The technical specifications being: Two Diesel engines of the Hicks-Hargraves type of 160 h.p. each, with direct coupling of 105 Kilowatts Westinghouse sets. The plant had in fact started running on 27th April 1914. Thames Star 23/12/1916
Domestic consumers slowly came on board to the use of electricity in their homes. In June 1914 there were 87 consumers connected to the mains. It proved popular with businesses who changed from their old gas supply to electricity. By February 1920 the number of connections was 672.
Electrical supply was initially from dusk to midnight, with two extra hours on Tuesdays for domestic ironing. Reports in the paper, informed the residents of Thames of the benefits of electricity and that it was cost effective. Initially many felt it was going to be too expensive and also didn’t know about the wealth of uses that it had, apart from lighting. This was a big learning curve for the community as a whole.
Thames did have limited gas street lighting prior to the municipal electricity supply. Once electricity was available, there was a rapid increase in the number of street lamps around the Borough. By 1916 there were 91 lamps, with a further 10 on the boundary line of the County and Borough. The total yearly cost being: £328 2s 4d.
Thames Coast Electricity:
1933 October: Mr Watson convened a meeting at Thornton Bay with the Thames Valley Power Board and the Thames County Council to discuss the proposal to get power from Thames to Waimio [sic]. It was decided to canvas the coast residents as to the question of installation - the proposed cost was given as three thousand pounds for the project.
1937 August: Further meetings of residents were held, now the people at Te Mata wanted to be included in the plans for electricity supply. Again a canvas of households was to be undertaken.
The cost now was over five thousand pounds for the scheme. It was reported that there were 189 ratepayers and ten residents in the area. Sixty-seven people had replied to the canvas - fifty-three of these had signed up for power. Another seventeen had signed up the day of the report.
1938 May: Further canvas undertaken to see if there were enough people on the coast to warrant installation. The Chamber of Commerce agreed to make up any deficits regarding the costs for reticulation to Tapu, Thames Coast.
1938 September: Excitement was building, it was a reality, electricity was coming to the coast. (photo right)
1938 October: Bad news, the plan for power was running six months behind schedule. Engineer Mr N G McLeod told the Thames Valley Electric Power Board meeting, "Owing to the rush of work and the fact that other lines were signed up and the whole lot of the constructional staff was engaged on services elsewhere." Thames Star 6 October 1938.
1939 January: Thames Valley Electric Power Board reassured the Thames Chamber of Commerce that work would soon begin on the reticulation of the Thames Coast Road with electricity.
During the installation period, the unrest and war in Europe led to limited supplies of items such as switches.
1939 December 10: Red letter day - POWER TO THE THAMES COAST!
Lucky residents up to Te Puru received the first electricity supply's and right to Tapu was due in the near future. Electrical appliances, lighting and hot water services were now available to the Thames Coast residents.
1941 January: Now the coast had power, it was foreseen that things would rapidly change. Holidaymakers were overwhelmed by the provision of electricity at resorts and felt it would help popularise the coast (if only the road could be tar-sealed as well!).
Well the coast and town now had electricity - while war restrictions would ironically bring many nights of blackouts, electricity would change their lives forever. Just imagine all the new appliances to revolutionise Thamesites daily chores. Money would have been tight, but I bet that iron or toaster were one of the first things the residents of the Coast and Thames enjoyed! (photos below)
BELOW: Date not known but should be early 1900s - taken from the hill coming into Waiomu, looking back to Te Puru. Poles can be seen along the hill and road.
BELOW: 1970s view looking south back at Te Puru... Electricity and Telephone poles venture into the sea!