THIS interesting study of the Wessex Electricity shop was taken by photographer Edith Howard in 1933.

Electricity was a late development in Andover, having come to the town in 1926, after intense and long-term opposition from the local gas company had finally been overcome.

The first power station was in what is now Anton Mill Road.

The building still stands just beyond the Asda supermarket.

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Early offices were at 36 Bridge Street and then at 10 Junction Road - neither prime locations -  but presumably these were principally where new customers would sign up for the service, rather than to buy equipment and it was not until 1931 that Wessex Electricity decided to open a High Street outlet in order to retail an increasing range of electrical appliances.

What came on the market were the former premises of family jewellers, J W Cockings, who had traded at 61 High Street for over 100 years.

Widow Thirza Cockings had recently died and her son Richard had no wish to carry on the business.

Unmarried and in his 50s, he was the end of the line and it seems the business had been going steadily downhill for some time.

Richard Cockings granted Wessex Electricity a 21-year lease at £120 per annum, under which the new company was able to transform the rather dark and cramped shop, together with living accommodation, into an impressive showroom that stretched through three formerly separate rooms from front to back.

We can see how some thought was given to how such premises might be laid out in the early 1930s.

The overall look is that of a private drawing room, with light oak carver chairs placed in strategic places and a small unobtrusive table to be used as a desk by the shop assistant.

On the floor are stridently-geometric patterned rugs, the epitome of Art Deco design, probably in tones of brown, yellow and green that were fashionable at that time, all very tasteful and discrete.

No masses of electrical appliances lined up together in rows as we might see today; generally, just one of each.

Much of what we see here are small, convenient, electrically powered gadgets – a hair dryer, a toaster, a fan, an iron and suchlike; all highly luxurious goods in those days and comparatively expensive in the 1930s each costing £2 or so – a week’s wages.

Larger goods were on offer too; this interior view does not show it but an elaborate advertisement for a Frigidaire Solitaire was applied to the front window, and indeed, visible at the back of the first showroom, is an early refrigerator and also an oven and hob, both at around £15.

At the far end is a vacuum cleaner that would have cost about £10.

However, the greatest advance for Andover households was surely in lighting: the smelly, hissing, and occasionally hazardous gas jet had replaced the oil lamp, which in turn had replaced the candle but there was nothing like the convenience of overhead electric lighting.

On view are several types of suspended fittings, while in the cabinet can be seen the fragile glass lampshades that were then in vogue.

Heating by means of an electric fire may not have replaced the main hearth but it was very useful to warm a bedroom or back room and to provide some warmth on a day when it was not worth lighting a fire; we can see a range of these on display.

All of this was very new in Andover, as even into the 1920s, houses were built with fireplaces in every room, including the bedrooms.

Although Andover had long had gas, how many households had a gas fire? Probably very few.

Of course, none of these gadgets and appliances were of use unless the house was wired for electricity and this must have been the main purpose of the company from 1926 onwards.

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Erica Tinsley tells us in her article Electricity comes to Andover (Lookback at Andover 1991) that this was accomplished by door-to-door salesmen who offered free connection, three lights and a five-amp power socket if the customer agreed to take electricity for the next 12 months.

By 1930 there were already 200 domestic customers, so they were reasonably successful in a short time.

After the war, Wessex Electricity became Southern Electricity but the same premises were used by them until town development provided a new and bigger shop at the corner of the upper High Street on the site that had once been Scott’s shoe shop. The former building was demolished in 1974.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at