By Ceri Houlbrook , University of Hertfordshire
With the Electric Generations exhibition now open at the Irish World Heritage Centre, we wanted to consider Manchester’s role in bringing electricity to people’s homes. It’s no surprise that this industrial powerhouse of a city embraced technological developments – and hosted a number of large-scale exhibitions showcasing them.
In 1887 they held the four-month Royal Jubilee Exhibition, opened by the Prince of Wales and admitting over four million visitors. Many newly developed electrical devices were on display. The building was lit by arc and incandescent lighting, installed by the Anglo-American Electric Light and the Manchester Edison Swan companies. An installation by Mather and Platt of Manchester included generators (pictured below), used to power a printing machine and electrical singeing machine, and various other electrical miscellany were on display: electric bells, electric cigar lighters, even a miniature electric bath ‘for medical purposes’. And a lot of attention was given to the telephone, with visitors being invited to use public telephones, managed by operators, to send over 100,000 messages to towns in Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.