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‘Alarming Electricity or Ghastly Gas?' Tricky decisions for the late Victorian household.

‘Alarming Electricity or Ghastly Gas?' Tricky decisions for the late Victorian household.
Dates and times

4 Sep 2019 2:45pm

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Abbey House Museum

Abbey Walk, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3EH

With Prof. Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds):

Could there by anything duller than talking about the domestic utilities of electricity and gas supply? Not for the Victorians who first dealt with them as ‘modern’ lighting techniques!

While the older illuminants of candles and paraffin lamps had certainly been a little messy, regularly in need of replenishing and prone to minor hazards,  at least it was clear to everyone what the risks involved were, and how to control them. 

By contrast,it took a lot of trust to cede control of household energy supply to an unseen remote corporation, whether it was piping in coal gas from the town works, or installing wiring to connect to the local electric power station. Quite apart from problems with reliability and expense, many people found both gas lighting and especially electric lighting much uglier than traditional naked-flame lighting.

And while hazardous gas leaks could usually be smelled before they caused their (not infrequent) explosions, the mysterious immaterial qualities of electric currents could be even more alarming: faulty circuits and uninsulated wires could make for a very shocking - sometimes fatal - first encounter. Tricky decisions about adopting new kinds of lighting technique were very often made by women in the household, facing some significant challenges about safety and much more besides.

Women’s expertise in handling such matters became very important as householders adapted to a new world of household utilities, importantly opting often not to trust just electricity or gas, but to install both instead.

A talk to tie in with Abbey House Museum's Danger Zone exhibition.

Talk cost is £5.50. Includes entry to the rest of the museum.
Book in advance, pay on the day.
0113 3784079 |

Image Info: Leeds Museums and Galleries

£5.50 including museum admission. Pre booking essential, pay on day.

Wheelchair Access

Induction loop, minicom and lift access are all available. Toilets including disabled facilities available.

  • Adults only
  • Wheelchair access
  • Talk
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