Tuesday 29 October 2019

Borough of Woolwich Electricity Junction Box


By Richard Buchanan and Susan Bullivant

In the May Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter it was mentioned that: "on Shooters Hill one of the roadside electricity distribution boxes (green, about 3 '6" high and 1'6" by 1' in plan) still has its cast iron doors with the Arms of the Borough of Woolwich, from pro-grid days when the Borough generated its own electricity".

On the evening of Monday 25"' September 2006, Dr Barry Gray who lives in Eaglesfield Road (its location), phoned GIHS Chair Susan Bullivant to say that it had been knocked by a car, and was leaning across the pavement at a dangerous angle. As there are very few of these junction boxes left, they were both concerned that the box should not be consigned to a skip. The next morning Susan phoned the Greenwich Highways Department, as they are responsible for 'street furniture' and are the owners. They showed no interest in the matter; but did give her the phone number of EdF, the electricity supply company, whose office is in Ipswich. The staff there were sympathetic and concerned- that the box should be saved - that the electricity supply was safe - and to determine its owner. Susan then rang Chris Foord at Greenwich Heritage Centre who confirmed that they would like to acquire the box, and gave him the Ipswich phone number.    

On the evening of Tuesday 26th Dr Barry Gray again rang to say that men were removing the junction box, and had told him they had to be careful with it as "a lady has phoned up about it". Susan went along, and was assured they were taking it in their big EdF van to their depot in Bexleyheath Broadway. They gave her the phone number of their boss. This she passed on to the Heritage Centre the next morning, who then made arrangements for the junction box to be transferred to them from the Bexleyheath depot on the following Tuesday, 3rd October. EdF duly delivered it (less a small part of the bottom of one of the doors which had been broken off). So thanks are due to the EdF staff in Ipswich for their concern over a historic junction box with the Woolwich coat-of-arms on it. 

The Heritage Centre staff (and Richard Buchanan, a volunteer who was there that day) were pleased to see it and immediately started to talk of refurbishing it, and putting it on a plinth so that it could be stood upright.  Below ground the casting continues for another foot with a leg at each comer, presumably to fit over a conduit, leaving a clear cable entry from below. However, two of the legs had been cut off, probably to avoid a below ground obstacle when the box was in service. Its top has a round cap fitted over the centre, suggesting that it was designed to mount a lamp standard.    

Most such electricity junction boxes surviving on Shooters Hill are of (probably) later manufacture, on the 1935-6 Laing estate where they are situated in roadside verges planted with shrubs. These boxes were made by Siemens to a similar pattern, but lack the Woolwich Arms and do not have provision for mounting a lamp standard. Nowadays electrical supply connections are generally in boxes below the footway  

(This originally appeared in the Woolwich Antiquarians Newsletter – with thanks, Reprinted in GHIS Newsletter December 2006)

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