The following 'History' transcript is taken from the Golden and Diamond Jubilee Booklets produced to commemorate the achievements from 1933 to 1993
In The Beginning:-
After the construction of Lloyds Avenue in Ipswich, The Ipswich Corporation opened new offices and showrooms that were named "ELECTRIC HOUSE". This caused fears amongst Electrical Contractors in Ipswich that the showrooms would take business away from them.
At the time, Hampton E. Blackiston was Manager and Chief Engineer of Ipswich Corporation Electricity Department and he conceived the "idea" of inviting the Contractors to meet him in order to discuss matters affecting the Electrical Industry within the borough. This meeting took place at Electric House on May 12th 1933 and one resolution which was passed unanimously was that a local organisation, to be called the "Ipswich and District Electrical Association", should be formed.
The Association was formed at a meeting held at Electric House on Monday May 22nd, 1933. The object of the Association was " To assist to the utmost, the use of Electricity in the Borough of Ipswich and District"- the district meaning the area surrounding Ipswich supplied with Electricity by Ipswich Corporation.
Membership of the Association was divided into two categories:
(1) Manufacturers and Factors (Wholesalers)
(2) Electrical Contractors
Mr. Hampton, E. Blackiston, Borough Electrical Engineer was appointed Chairman. The other officers were: Secretary, Mr. H. Wintle and Treasurer, Mr. F. Crush. An Executive Committee of seven members was formed, three from Manufacturers and Factors and four from Contractors. A sub committee of Contractors was also formed to deal exclusively with contracting matters. The Chairman, Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer were ex-officio members of both committees.
Electric House, Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich, was the official address of the Association and meetings were to be held in the Lecture Room on the fourth Monday in the month at 6.30 p.m., with 28 members attending the first meeting.
The ensuing months were ones of cautious progress. The matters discussed were, amongst other things, the cost of electricity, fair trading and joint advertising in the local press. Advertisements appeared in the Star in September and the East Anglian Daily Times in December.
On Thursday 15th March, 1934 the first Annual Dinner was held at the Crown and Anchor Hotel, Westgate Street, Ipswich. The principle guests were: Sir John Ganzoni, M.P. for Ipswich, the Mayor of Ipswich and the Chairman of Ipswich Corporation Electricity Department. By all accounts this function was a great success.
The first year concluded with the Annual General Meeting on Monday 23rd April, 1934. Mr. H. E. Blackiston was unanimously re-elected Chairman.
The ensuing months were ones of cautious progress. The matters discussed were, amongst other things, the cost of electricity, fair trading and joint advertising in the local press. Advertisements appeared in the Evening Star in September and the East Anglian Daily Times in December.
The second year saw the formation of a set of Rules of the Association and the widening of the membership to include representatives of other Supply Authorities that took electricity from the Corporation power station.
It also saw a new office of President created at the second AGM, a post unanimously filled by the outgoing Chairman Mr Blackiston.
During this year there emerged a desire to make the meetings more interesting and from this the first lecture was delivered on January 28th, 1935 by Mr. Waters of East Anglian Electric Supply Company. His subject was the 10th Edition of I.E.E. Regulations on the Wiring of Buildings. This was the first of a series of three on the subject.
The second Annual General Meeting took place at the end of May. The principle feature of this meeting was the creation of the office of President. It was unanimously agreed that the first to hold this office should be Mr Blackiston. Also at this meeting a paid minute secretary was appointed at a annual fee of 7 guineas (£7.35).
Discussions continued throughout the year on matters relating to electricity, such as the cost of electrical appliances compared with gas. Efforts continued to promote electricity through advertisements in the local press, though thoughts were turning to ways other than the newspapers. It was decided towards the end of 1935 to explore the possibility of producing a booklet as a more permanent way of advertising. This idea became a firm proposal early in 1936 and in September 30,000 copies of the 24 page booklet "Electricity Service in East Anglia" were circulated.
At the A.G.M. of 28th May, 1936 a donation of 5 guineas (£5.25p) was made to the Electrical Trades Benevolent Institution (later to become the Electrical Industries Benevolent Association and now Electrical and Electronic Industries Benevolent Association). This was the first of many donations which continue right up to the present.
Following the success of the booklet a more ambitious project was discussed early in 1937, that of holding an exhibition to promote electrical goods and services. This eventually took place between 19th and 30th October. In connection with this project 40,000 copies of another booklet were printed, a dance was held on the 22nd and on the 20th October, 18 architects and 36 builders were entertained to luncheon by the executive committee. At this luncheon a talk was given by the Director of the Electrical Association for Women, Miss (later Dame) Caroline Haslett. The presence of Miss Haslett was no doubt partly due to the part the I.D.E.A. had played in the formation in Ipswich of a Branch of A.E.W. Talks between the two organisations had taken place during the previous autumn and winter, culminating in an inaugural meeting at the Town Hall on 7th June.
At this point it is perhaps appropriate to mention how electrical consumption had grown during the brief existence of the Association. At the formation of I.D.E.A. the quantity of electricity sold in the Ipswich Corporation, East Suffolk and Felixstowe areas was about 21,000,000 units. By the time of the exhibition this had grown to 21,000,000 units. The average cost of a unit was less than one penny (0.416p).
About this time, concern was felt for the lack of educational facilities in Electrical Engineering There were no courses available in Ipswich and anyone wishing to study to Higher National Certificate standard had to travel to London. A Committee was formed to investigate the possibility of starting suitable courses locally. Nothing seemed to come of this and it was some years before a comparable course was available.
At the March 1939 Annual Dinner the Association bade farewell to its Founder and President, Mr. H. E. Blackiston. The occasion was marked with a suitable presentation. It also marked the end of the first period of the Association's history. There were to be only two more meetings before war was declared.
The War Years :-
Upon the outbreak of war in September 1939 all arrangements for the remainder of the year were cancelled and it was January 1940 before the first wartime ordinary meeting was held. However, the Executive Committee had been busy prior to this, making contact with various government agencies with a view to the Association being of the greatest help in the war effort.
Members serving in the forces were made Honorary Members for the duration of their service with gifts of cigarettes being posted to them from time to time. Social functions were not entirely forgotten and it was possible to hold a combined dinner and dance at the end of February at the Great White Horse Hotel. The cost of tickets was 8s-6d (42p) single and 15s-0d (75p) double.
As the war progressed, with Britain standing alone following the fall of France, the Association's difficulties increased. Membership was affected with some members having to resign because of leaving the area, others being called up but there were a few new members. Nevertheless, in spite of these circumstances, thoughts were on the future to when the war would be over.
The difficulties continued - the Annual Dinner was cancelled and replaced by a luncheon. Travelling to meetings was not easy for those living outside Ipswich, so it was decided to hold meetings at bimonthly intervals. In the period May 1941 - May 1945 only 16 meetings were possible (an average of four a year instead of the usual eight). One departure from normal at this time was a demonstration and talk after the April 1942 meeting that was opened to the ladies. The subject was Wartime Cooking.
The lecture programme for the 1944 - 45 session had to be cancelled due to an increase in the number of air raid alerts - this was the time of the flying bombs.
In spite of all these restrictions it was obvious in early 1945 that the war would soon end. In March, a Special General Meeting was called to examine the Rules of the Association and to act upon the recommendations of the committee appointed in June 1944 to study them. The main alteration was to the membership categories. They were changed so that membership was open to all those interested in the application, distribution or utilisation of electricity. Up until then, there had only been two categories - Full Membership and Associate Membership. The former was confined to the Electric Supply Authorities taking their energy from Ipswich, Manufacturers Representatives residing in the area, Factors and Contractors having business premises within the area. Associate Membership was open to Engineers interested in the distribution and / or use of electricity.
The fees varied according to type of membership, being £2-2s-0d (£2.10p) for Supply Authorities down to 5s-0d (25p) for Associates. These were changed to one common fee of £1-1s-0d (£1.05p). The membership at the time of the 1945 A.G.M. was 50, comprising: 12 from the Supply Authorities, 21 from Manufacturers and Factors, 6 from Contractors, 10 Associate Members and 10 Honorary Members, i.e. serving in the forces.
The 1945 Annual General Meeting took place on 28th May, the war in Europe was over and although the war in the Far East had yet to be concluded, by the end of the meeting the Association was poised to meet the challenges of post-war reconstruction. The changes in the rules had been approved, a Lecture Committee appointed, the Annual Dinner was to be revived and a prize for the best student taking an electrical course at the School of Technology was to be given consideration.
By the time the winter session was due to open the Lecture Committee had arranged a comprehensive list of lectures for the coming months. However, the session did not start until November for two reasons - First, the September meeting was cancelled because it coincided with the holiday arranged to celebrate the ending of the war in the Far East, VJ Day and also because the speaker arranged for October was taken ill.
Because of the anticipated popularity of the November Lecture, it was decided that it should be held in the afternoon rather than after the monthly meeting. At the same time some doubts were expressed about the capacity of the Lecture Hall at Electric House. In the event the hall proved just about adequate for 90 people who listened to a lecture entitled "Electricity and Agriculture" delivered by Mr. H.W. Grimmett of the Electricity Commission, an expert on his subject. This lecture was followed in January with one on "The Principles of Television", a sign of things to come. Another sign of the times was the shortage of materials being experienced by contractors in their day-to-day business, particularly with regard to wiring accessories. It was almost impossible to obtain such things as plugs, sockets and switch fuses. The reason was that housing was the number one priority and all available material was channelled in that direction. A resolution was passed expressing the Association's concern and letters were sent to the Ministry of Health and the British Electrical Development Association. The Ministry replied, but offered little hope of improvement in the immediate future, except to say that consideration would be given to components required for housing. An irony of the situation was that some components could be obtained but these were of very poor quality.
The first post-war Dinner Dance was held in April at the Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe and members recently returned from the forces were guests of the Association. At the time of the A.G.M. the membership was 62.
The winter of 1946/47 will be remembered for the long spell of arctic weather and the ensuing fuel crisis. This does not seem to have effected the Association to any great extent. The full programme of lectures was carried through; a Dinner for men only was held in December at the Felix Hotel in Felixstowe; and a Dinner Dance was held in March.
After the Annual General Meeting a talk was given by the Vice Chairman, Mr. F.C. Dean, on the Royal Air Force Air Sea Rescue Service. This was the second talk to be given by a member relating to war service. After the previous A.G.M. Col. A.E. Knights had spoken of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese.
The social activities continued to grow with a garden party in the grounds of Finborough Hall, headquarters of the East Anglian Electric Supply Co. The monthly luncheon was re-introduced in July, as this function had been an enjoyable part of pre-war activities.
The winter session started with a talk on "The Commercial Kitchen and the use of Electricity" and as the session progressed, thoughts turned to the impending nationalisation of the Electricity Supply Industry - after the January meeting, members watched a special showing of the C.E.G.B. film "Prelude to Prosperity". At about this time Mr. S.F. Steward, a founder member of the Association, was appointed Chairman of the South Western Electricity Board.
Nationalisation affected the Association in another way, the then President left the District, but the Association was fortunate that the first Chairman of Eastern Electricity Board, Mr. C.T. Melling, agreed to become President.
At the end of the February 1949 meeting, an address was given by Mrs. R. Messenger, Advisor of Womens' work to Eastern Electricity Board, on the subject of "Electricity Service from the Consumers' angle. Mrs. Messenger was no stranger to the Association, having been instumental in the formation of a Branch of the Electrical Association for Women in Ipswich before the war. It was with her that discussions took place when members of I.D.E.A. assisted in the creation of the Branch.
The Association continued to prosper and the 1950 A.G.M. could be considered to be another milestone in the Association's history. The shortages of the immediate post-war years were being overcome, nationalised Electricity was an established fact and years of prosperity ahead seemed likely. Membership had reached 91.
This meeting saw the retirement of Mr. W.H. Howell as Secretary, a position he had held with distinction for 12 years. It was not the end of Bill Howell's executive service for the Association, as in the 60's he was to serve with dedication for a number of years as Treasurer. Unfortunately, Bill did not live to see the 50th Anniversary.
The business side of the Association was in a healthy condition and the social side, though no small part of the activities, was to be developed further. Early in 1951, refreshments were introduced at meetings, being consumed at the conclusion of the formal business and before the lecture. Bowls matches were played against Eastern Electricity. These matches had been a feature for a number of years and continue to be played to this day. The Association seldom won, but the function was always most enjoyable. Another social function introduced at this time (which was to be repeated for a number of years) was the boat trip on the River Orwell as many as 90 people at a time have enjoyed this outing. December 1952 saw the first "Film Night" - yet another function to become a regular feature.
To return to more serious matters, in 1951 a prize of £2-2s-0d (£2.10p) was instituted, to be awarded each year to the student considered to have performed best in the City and Guilds Electrical Installation Course "C" at the School of Technology.
1953 was the year of the East Coast Flood disaster which caused so much havoc, particularly at Felixstowe. The Association donated 20 guineas (£21.00) to the "Mayor's Flood Relief Fund".
On a happier note, 1953 was also the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and in connection with the local celebrations, the Association sponsored a competition for the best window display by Electrical and Radio Retailers. Unfortunately the response to this challenge was poor and the competition was cancelled.
Another highlight of the year was the purchase of a Badge of Office to be worn by the Chairman on all official occasions. After considerable discussion this was eventually obtained at a cost of £42-4s-3d (£42.21p). The badge was worn at the January 1954 meeting when the President, Mr. C.T. Melling formally invested the Chairman, Mr. G.H. Blackburn - also present at the ceremony was the Editor of "The Electrical and Radio Trading Journal". The year's A.G.M. concluded with a supper, thereby initiating an event which was to become an annual feature.
1955 was a memorable year, as we won the bowls match - the first time in 17 years. More importantly, Mr. W.F. Rowberry became Honorary Secretary, a position he was to hold for 16 years, relinquishing it in order to become Chairman in 1972. (Bill Rowberry is one of the all-time outstanding members of the Association. He joined in 1941 and since then has only missed two meetings - a remarkable record). One of Bill's first proposals as Secretary was that the retiring Chairman become Vice President for the following year. This practice continues to this day.
In 1955, a visit outside the district was made with a combined outing to London Airport and Pinewood Studios. By all accounts this was a most successful outing, although some members were disappointed in not being able to make the acquaintance at Pinewood of their favourite Film Star.
Works visits were now a very popular part of the Association's activities and in the 1956/57 session 5 were arranged, four locally: to the clothing factory of Phillips and Piper; to the Cigar factory of W & A.C. Churchman; to British Sugar Corporation at Sproughton and B.X. Plastics at Brantham. The most ambitious excursion was when 28 members visited Yorkshire Copper Works, staying overnight in Leeds to fully appreciate the visit. The high point of this particular year's session was, however, the "Ladies Night" in November when the whole of the Royal Hotel at Clacton was devoted to the occasion.
Social activities continued with the Entertainments Subcommittee always looking for new ideas. Three of these were the special outings arranged for members' children - the first was to the Magna Carta Pageant at Bury St. Edmunds in 1950, with visits to Cliff Quay Power Station and the United States Air Force Base at Bentwaters, both being made in 1958.
It should not be thought that social activities were the main preoccupation of the Association - far from it. Each ordinary meeting ended with a lecture on some aspects of electrical engineering and the works visits were of special significance in relation to members' business interests. The last one to be made at this time was to Bradwell Nuclear Power Station in Essex.
An incident at the 1958 A.G.M. illustrates how developments in electrical engineering aided the Association's proceedings. The Chairman of the Entertainments Sub-Committee, Mr. R.L. Thurlow was unable to attend due to illness, but his report was relayed to the meeting by means of a tape recorder. (About that time domestic tape recorders were becoming available in the shops at reasonable prices).
The 1950's ended on a sad note with the death of the founder Mr. H.E. Blackiston in June 1959.
At the start of this period the membership was 168. The life of the Association continued on the lines evolved in the previous decade, with the meetings and lectures being interspersed with visits to places of technical and general interest and of course the Annual Dinner and Ladies Night , now renamed "I.D.E.A. BALL".
An early highlight that combined all elements of the Association's activities was a visit to the works of Phillips Electrical at Eindhoven in Holland. Seventeen members left Harwich on Friday night and spent Saturday and Sunday at Phillips, returning to Harwich on the Monday morning. This was but one of many visits made during the 60's which were too numerous for them all to be mentioned. Typical examples are: to the T.V. Mast at Mendlesham, the new Civic College at Ipswich, Ransome & Rapier (where the giant walking dragline excavator being built for the Calgary Power Corporation was examined), the Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge and a visit to the Oil Refinery at the Isle of Grain was so popular, a second visit was organised a few months later.
Two memorable outings that had all the elements of the Association's interests were a day out at Southend in September 1960, and the visit to B.I.C.C. cable works at Erith. The first included a visit to E.K. Cole followed by a tour of the illuminations and dinner at the Dolphin Hotel. The second culminated with dinner at the Regent Palace Hotel in London and a show at the Palladium.
At the 1961 A.G.M. the retiring Chairman, Mr. R.L. Thurlow, presented a reading desk to the Association. This was a most welcome gift and was of great assistance to all who used it - until lost in a fire at the Burstall Grange Hotel.
One of the guests at the 1963 Annual Dinner was Carl Giles, the famous cartoonist. On the front of the menu card was a cartoon of his depicting terrible things electrical about to happen to the Chairman, Mr. Harry H. Wright. Also in 1963, Mr. S.F. Steward rejoined the Association as President, he was to hold the office until 1965 and then again from 1972 to 1978. Mr. Steward is one of our founder life members and was Chairman for the 1937/38 session.
The 1968 A.G.M. was the last to be held at Electric House. A few more Management Meetings were held there, but the A.G.M. could be said to mark the end of an era, that had lasted 35 years. It was not the end of our close association with Eastern Electricity as the new venue for our meetings was the Computer Centre of the General Accounting Offices in Russell Road. This in a way was like coming home because the offices are almost next door to the site of the old Generating Station in Constantine Road, which was the source of electricity when the Association was formed.
The connection with Russell Road was to last only to the end of 1970, when a restless period in our history began. It was to be October 1976 before an entirely suitable venue was found for our meetings, at the Marlborough Bowling Club in Lansdowne Road. Until then, meetings had been held at various places such as the Great White Horse, Belstead Brook, Burstall Grange and Melton Grange Hotels. In 1971 a small committee had been appointed to find a suitable venue. By the time it reported back, 39 sites had been considered, most of which were unsuitable in some respect. A short list of 5 was produced and Belstead Brook was chosen.
Accommodation was not the only problem at the end of the 60's and early 70's, as finance and a fall in attendance at meetings were also causing concern. By careful management with some judicious economies, a serious financial crisis was avoided. Attendance improved considerably when we settled into our present home and refreshments were once more provided before the meetings.
At about this time (1969) a small Subcommittee was formed to explore the possibility of a closer association with Norfolk Electrical Circle. After several discussions it was mutually decided that a closer relationship was not practicable.
In spite of all the difficulties during this period the life of the Association continued. In 1970/71 visits were made to USAF Bentwaters, British Fermentation Products at Felixstowe, Davey Paxman at Colchester, and Heatrae in Norwich. The Annual Dinner was held at the Great White Horse Hotel, the Annual Ball at the Orwell Hotel in Felixstowe, and the Film Night at the Great White Horse.
The subjects of the lectures ranged from Electrical Contracting (Chairman's Evening); Closed Circuit Television; Eliminating Electric Shock and Fire Hazards; Labour Relations in the Power Industry (President's Address); Electrochemical Power Systems, Instrumentation and finally a talk by one of our members, Mr. R.W. White, on the work of the new Post Office Research establishment at Martlesham.
Sporting activities were not forgotten and the annual Bowls Matches took place as did the Golf Tournament, not previously mentioned, featured prominently in the life of a number of members and had been part of the Association's activities on an irregular basis almost from the beginning. In 1968 a Golf Section was formed and matches were played for a trophy to be awarded annually.
In 1971/72 there was a slight change of emphasis in the lecture programme, with two lectures on subjects not connected with electricity - "Winemaking at Home" and "Inland Waterways". However, without detracting from the Chairman's and President's address, the most important talk was that entitled "The coming 15th Edition" (of I.E.E. Wiring Regulations). These Regulations had been the subject of lectures on previous occasions. Indeed the 10th Edition was the subject of the first three lectures delivered to the Association in 1935. The 14th Edition was also featured at the time of its introduction.
In the year 1972/73 visits were made to Shell's North Sea Gas terminal at Bacton; Eastern Electricity's Consumers' Service Unit at Norwich and to Fisons Research Station at Levington. Social activities were highlighted with the re-introduction of the evening boat trip on the River Orwell and abroad once more to Holland. This time the excursion was purely social, when a party of 56 members, wives and friends, travelled by boat from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and then on to the bulb fields at Keukenhof, in May 1974.
During the 1974/75 session four of the lectures were given by members. The Chairman's night was devoted to Ipswich Hospitals. Another was on Power Factor Correction and the third on H.R.C. Fuse Technology. The subject of the President's address was "The Electrical Industry and the Common Market". The November meeting took the form of a "Brains Trust" between the Association and the Ipswich Engineering Society.
At the January 1976 meeting the Association was presented with a new lectern designed and manufactured by Mr. Bill Smith from materials provided by the Vice-President Mr. Bob Bell. The April meeting was held at the offices of Messrs Willis, Faber and Dumas and concluded with a tour of the establishment. The Building (the exterior of which is all glass) has become one of the landmarks of Ipswich and the electrical system has several novel features.
At the 1977 A.G.M., Mr. Michael Steward took the chair and the Association had the distinction of having father and son as President and Chairman. 1977 was the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and a large party of members and wives took a trip on the River Thames to view the illuminations. The boat left Tower pier at 8.00p.m. and travelled upstream for about 2 hours before returning around midnight.
In November the Students Prize was reintroduced. For unaccountable reasons not due to the Association, the award of the prize had lapsed some years ago and it was to members' general satisfaction that it was again awarded.
In January 1978, Mr. Stanley Steward gave his last Presidential Address entitled "Electricity, not so much an Industry, more a Way of Life". As with all Mr. Steward's talks to the Association throughout the years, his comments were relevant and to the point - he was subsequently interviewed on a BBC live radio broadcast.
The April meeting was held at Cliff Quay Power Station, members listened to a talk on the history of the station and then enjoyed a conducted tour. This was not the first time members had visited Cliff Quay. The connection goes back to when the station was built and it is depicted on the Association's badge of office.
In October, block membership was granted by The Electrical & Electronics Industries Benevolent Association in recognition of the substantial and regular contributions made by our Association to E.E.I.B.A. funds. It is impossible to calculate what the total contribution has been since the first donation of around £5 in 1936, but it must run into thousands of pounds. At this time annual contributions were in the region of £600 - £700.
The events just described typify the life of the Association as it is and the pattern seemed set for years to come. The present attendance at meetings is about 40, a figure that is above average for our type of organisation.
Over the years the Association has been fortunate in having outstanding guest Speakers at the Annual Dinners. These have included Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, Chairmen and Directors of internationally-known public companies, Officials of Nationalised Industries, Presidents of the Electrical Contractors Association, University Lecturers and Principals of Technical Colleges, Mayors of Ipswich and local dignitaries.