ALTHOUGH electricity has not been generated in Woking for more than 60 years, a few relics remain of the Woking Electric Supply Company (WESCO).

Peeps into the Past researcher Mark Coxhead has photographed two of these relics and provides a short history of the power station that dated back to the late 19th century.

In 1890, Woking’s first electrical supply works was established on a site in Board School Road and North Road.

It was built by Messrs New & Mayne (Electrical and General Engineers) Ltd, and the Woking Electric SupplyCompany was formed.

However, due to the slow take up of electricity by domestic customers, the firm ran into some financial difficulties.

Some of the people who did sign up for electricity still kept a supply of candles in their homes.

When power was initially supplied to Woking, the original main went as far as the Goldsworth Arms and Constitutional Hill.

The main was extended to Woking Village – Old Woking – in 1907, Knaphill in 1908 and to Bisley, Pirbright and Ripley by 1914.

The first task was in fact to install public lighting, and there are references to the occupation of the site by an electric laundry.

The original chimney stack for water cooling was 50 feet high. But in 1906 the works became a major landmark in the district with the construction by a German engineering firm of a brick chimney that was 210 feet tall.

The plant saw many changes over the years, with the final extensions undertaken in 1928. From 1934, when Woking joined the National Grid, the power station became uneconomical. It closed in April 1959. 

Some of the comments that appeared in the News & Mail at the time stated that the works was one of the foundation stones of the electric power industry, as Woking was one of the first English towns to have a public electricity supply.

The chimney, which had been reduced in height by 40 feet in the 1950s, was demolished in February 1960, piece by piece, due to the proximity of housing.

The News & Mail reported: “A well-known landmark – it is visible from the North Downs above Merrow and from the Chobham Ridges – the chimney is being demolished as part of a reconstruction scheme at the former power station premises.”

In its later years the site was used for storage and office accommodation for the much-expanded South Eastern Electricity Board.

A rare example of an inspection cover of the Woking Electric Supply Company can be found at the corner of York Road and Wych Hill. Presumably the concrete infill is recent.

A transformer with the letters ‘WES’ on its door and with a date of 1924 is adjacent to Stone Farm, Church Hill, Pyrford.

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call David Rose on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: [email protected]