Power to the people as town gets electricity

Marshgate power station chimney demolished in the 80'S
Marshgate power station chimney demolished in the 80'S
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Electricity is taken for granted these days. Every city, town and village not to mention individual houses are totally lost when the power stops.

But it certainly hasn’t always been the case, there follows a short introduction to Doncaster’s fledgling electric system over its first 70 years.

Following a petition by some of the town’s leading tradesmen way back in 1898 demanding something be done about the lack of power, the Board of Trade authorised the provision of a public supply of electricity for the growing town.

It was decided to build the power station in Greyfriars Road (close to the North Bridge), the one time site of a religious house known as Greyfriars because the friars who lived there dressed in grey - simple. Henry VIII didn’t care for religious buildings very much so he destroyed it.

It was however the perfect practical site for such an undertaking, being near the canal for the convenience of coal carrying barges and close to a water supply for cooling purposes.

Fast forward now and on Monday, 18 October, 1900, the Mayoress of Doncaster, Miss Bentley, threw the switch and turned on the steam to number one engine - Doncaster had jump started into the electric age. The Mansion House, Regent Square and Spring Gardens were the first to benefit but the tramway system which first took its supply in 1902 was the biggest single user.

By now everybody wanted this convenient power source and demand grew enormously, In 1933 Doncaster was eventually connected to the National Grid with the next major development being the planning and construction of a second, bigger power station which was to be built at Crimpsall Ings (where the prison now stands). That left only a 33,000 volt switch room in Greyfriars Road. The central supply point was switched into the 132,000 volt grid on April 2 1970 by Mayoress of Doncaster Mr. M. S. Outwin.

Perhaps one of the most frightening stories from those early electric days relates to the main cables were laid under the pavements of Frenchgate, Hall Gate, High Street and St. Sepulchure Gate. Made of copper they were concealed in a wooden box and packed in with bitumen to keep out moisture, but unfortunately if an electrial fault developed the bitumen would release an explosive gas, which could ignite and cause the pavement to explode with the power of a bomb. Thankfully it didn’t happen in Doncaster, but in 1927 a number of people in the Acton district of London died due to this freakish phenomenon and it led to a government inquiry.

So it was then that from small beginnings with one station supplying 143 customers in 1900, production grew to a massive system extending way beyond Doncaster itself supplying 90,000 consumers.

The above is a very short history describing the introduction of electricity to Doncaster from 1900 - 1970, the changes to the town’s power.

A leap forward in time now as our photograph shows the second of two chimneys to comedown during the demolition of Marshgate Power Station which was opened in 1953 to replace the Greyfriars Road installation and meet ever growing demand for electricity. Marshgate ceased production in 1983.