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Old 29th Apr 2021, 12:38 pm   #1
rontech
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Default When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

I was watching an episode of Foyle's War recently. A woman living alone was plunged into darkness. She called up a male friend who came round and told her that the "ring main" had fused. He repaired the fuse with fuse wire. The episode was set in 1941! I believe ring mains with 13 amp sockets etc came in some time after the war had ended. The family home built 1939 had old style 5 amp and 15 amp three pin switched sockets. We moved to a new built house in 1954 which had the new ring main system.

Comments anyone?
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 12:41 pm   #2
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_c...20of%20Ireland.

So 1942 to 1947 which is a bit earlier than I expected.

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Old 29th Apr 2021, 12:56 pm   #3
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

Ring mains only became common some time after that though. Most housing built in the 1950s housebuilding boom used ring mains, and there was a mass rewiring of older housing in the 60s.

No domestic properties would have used ring mains in 1941. FW is reasonably historically accurate and has a nice period feel, but doesn't put a huge amount of money and effort into getting everything exactly right, and there is a long record of anachronisms and 'alternative history'.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 2:48 pm   #4
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

Paul's right. I lived at a terraced house with Round Pin 5 or 15 amp sockets [unfused] on the individual radial cables until we moved to a "new build" semi detached estate house [The Dare to Build Company] near Blackford Bridge in Bury [1958]. It had futuristic "ring main" circuits with the [now] familiar fused plugs. Despite this we spent the first night with Kerosene Lamps and a Camping Stove. The electrician came round next day and used his Megger to trace a large nail that had been hammered through one leg of the ground floor ring. He demonstrated what he was doing as I was so interested. The Fuse Box was replaced because one section had burn't out and he gave it to me. I was delighted!

Despite the flexibility of the system we weren't exactly overburdened with 13 amp sockets. I was never sure if that was a pure money saving exercise or uncertainty about how many would actually be required in practise? There were only two singles in the rear living room and my dad had someone in to replace one of these with a surface mount double quite quickly. The front [best] room had a 3kw wall mounted electric fire but NO sockets at all Quite inconvenient really. NO sockets in the boxroom either! As I got older a friend of my Dad's supervised some additions to the ring when I convinced my parents that I could "tap in" to the electric fire feed and also install four doubles in the tiny box room by extending the ring from the bedroom next door [there's!] I was using it as a radio shack by then, powered from a light socket adaptor [1930's style]. Power to the bench went via the redundant Fuse Box [burnt section removed] and low level fuses. The family were instructed that turning off power there would quickly isolate isolate any equipment I was working on if I was in difficulty.

My Mentor didn't give dates about the ring system when he explained it to me but he did say that it had been exclusive to Industry before and during the War and it was still a very new aspect of house building then. During the sixties I was in a lot houses trying to set up guitar systems with friends etc and even doing some jobs with my electrician father-in-law. The was no major rush into the modern system as I recall and a lot of people were ignorant or suspicious in relation to 13 amp plugs and wiring for a long time. There's always a certain amount of artistic license in drama and the electrical side is usually where this occurs. Foyles War is pretty good at creating the right period atmosphere [I think] so the odd discrepancy can be forgiven perhaps?

Dave W

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Old 29th Apr 2021, 3:34 pm   #5
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

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Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
The was no major rush into the modern system as I recall and a lot of people were ignorant or suspicious in relation to 13 amp plugs and wiring for a long time.
Dave W
I suspect a major reason was that rewiring a whole house would have meant redecorating every room as well (perhaps also extensive replastering if the plaster was already old and tired). That's a big cost and disruption consideration, and just as much of a disincentive today!

Mike

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Old 29th Apr 2021, 3:42 pm   #6
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

Indeed!

Don't forget, that in 1960, round pin circuits wouldn't have been unduly old. With a predicted life span for VIR cable of approx 30 years, not too much of it would have been deemed as 'old', I would imagine.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 4:11 pm   #7
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

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Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
The was no major rush into the modern system as I recall and a lot of people were ignorant or suspicious in relation to 13 amp plugs and wiring for a long time.
Dave W
I suspect a major reason was that rewiring a whole house would have meant redecorating every room as well (perhaps also extensive replastering if the plaster was already old and tired). That's a big cost and disruption consideration, and just as much of a disincentive today!

Mike
Indeed, but I'm sure in my dark and distant past I've seen houses with mains wiring going around rooms tucked under lengths of wooden moulding or even just tacked on top of skirting and up door frames and into the next room etc. No-one seemed to worry about the regs in those days. Not saying it was right, but I'm fairly sure it was rife.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 5:38 pm   #8
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

But, surely, the lighting circuits were radials? Totally separate from the ring final circuits that supplied power to the sockets.

Why would a 'ring main' fuse blowing plunge the whole house into darkness? Unless they were only lighting the house with table and standard lamps plugged into wall sockets.

It doesn't make any sense to me!
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 5:52 pm   #9
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

At my gran's old cottage when I used to go there in the early 60s, there was one ceiling lamp in the sitting room cum-dining room cum-kitchen, comprising a 40w bulb hanging from the ceiling with a side socket on it to connect say, the tele. Other rooms were lit with oil lamps and candles.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 6:07 pm   #10
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

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Originally Posted by Lancs Lad View Post
But, surely, the lighting circuits were radials? Totally separate from the ring final circuits that supplied power to the sockets.

Why would a 'ring main' fuse blowing plunge the whole house into darkness? Unless they were only lighting the house with table and standard lamps plugged into wall sockets.

It doesn't make any sense to me!
That's why I posted in the first place it made no sense to me either. The producers clearly did not understand. I suppose it is nit picking in a way but I found it interesting
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 6:20 pm   #11
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

Very well spotted Rontech and Peter! I missed that bit completely!

Mike
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 6:36 pm   #12
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

Apart from the misuse of that term "ring main" in Foyles War, the plot line repair would have stood up! It's not really a technical issue as it clearly was all radials in 1941. As I suggested in my post 4*, anything electrical is usually misunderstood the most easily. On the other hand a film crew techie or a consultant should be able to spot that sort of an anomalie

If anybody is confused and wondering why the radial chain lighting circuit [at least] wasn't still on in 1958. It was late in the day by the time we finished moving in when the ring main blew, the Fuse Box was damaged and the best option was to power down everything for the night.

[Today's Foyle episode had a few references to Bexhill where the criminal lodged]. Bexhill was to Hastings as Hove is to Brighton ie "posher"!]

The worst mistake I've seen was a 50's living room display sporting a white 13amp socket. It was probably actually there for the contemporary museum Vac but uncovered and it stood out like the proverbial. Nobody had noticed the disconnect!

Dave W

In 1941, I think all the circuits power or light would have been radial Peter - no ring at all.

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Old 29th Apr 2021, 7:03 pm   #13
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

What brand was the socket , Dave?

I bet it was a 1960s unswitched MK - probably in white/ivory.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 7:19 pm   #14
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

I would say although the ring main had been around several years in my area it wasn’t widely installed un to the late 50s . Lots of people had old fashioned ideas and were stuck in there ways . I once worked in a old people’s home and it was rewired in 1973 but the owners insisted on round pin sockets not a ring main.
Andy
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 7:31 pm   #15
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

13 amp sockets were only meant to be installed on 50 cycle AC circuits at 230/250 volts.
So the older round pin sockets were still required, even in new houses, if the supply was DC or non standard AC.
DC mains largely "went out with the war" at least for new supplies and most new housing estates were served with standard voltage AC.
However some new homes were built not in large estates but on bomb sites in existing urban areas, these might well have had DC or non standard AC supplies.
The Weir report into the future of electricity supply recommended that all new electrification schemes should be 50 cycles AC.
Domestic supplies to be single phase, 2 wire, 240 volts with an earthed neutral. Normally obtained from 3 phase, 4 wire main at 240/415 volts.
Single phase, 3 wire systems at 240/480 volts were allowed as an alternative.
Additions, extensions, and improvements to existing DC or non standard AC systems were allowed, but "new schemes" for public supplies had to be standardised.

One merit of the 13 amp system, in the early days thereof, was that the presence of a 13 amp socket SHOULD denote an AC supply of standard voltage and frequency, to which an unskilled person could connect any appliance with a matching plug.

The presence of other types of socket outlet, in an unfamiliar building, might make enquiry or testing prudent before use.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 9:20 pm   #16
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

My Dad was good at spotting terminology like this that was wrong.

I've noticed in some historical buildings the sockets tend to be those floor mounted ones with a sprung flap which can easily be hidden under a rug.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 10:56 pm   #17
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing?

I saw that programme to, and didn't mention it to my wife, who gets annoyed when I point out this sort of thing! AFAIR it was a 3A fuse that was blown, consistent with the early 13A system that I understand from old books and a MK 13A plug that has a 3-position flag showing fuse type, originally had only 3A, 7A , and 13A fuses. Most 1940's domestic wiring would surely have been fused at only 5A, 15A, or 30A using a wired ceramic fuse carrier. I would think that a sysyem designed in the early 1940's would not have been found in a domestic dwellng during the war: I doubt that many new houses for private dwellings were built then, and I would think that supplies of electricity cables etc. would have been reserved for government use.
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Old 29th Apr 2021, 11:14 pm   #18
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

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Indeed, but I'm sure in my dark and distant past I've seen houses with mains wiring going around rooms tucked under lengths of wooden moulding or even just tacked on top of skirting and up door frames and into the next room etc.
I suppose it depends what you define as the "dark and distant past." The first house I bought in 1979 (a Victorian terrace) had ring main wiring tacked on top of skirting in some places & around door frames.

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Old 29th Apr 2021, 11:18 pm   #19
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
The was no major rush into the modern system as I recall and a lot of people were ignorant or suspicious in relation to 13 amp plugs and wiring for a long time.
Dave W
I suspect a major reason was that rewiring a whole house would have meant redecorating every room as well (perhaps also extensive replastering if the plaster was already old and tired). That's a big cost and disruption consideration, and just as much of a disincentive today!

Mike
I was brought up in the semi detached bungalow my grandfather bought in the 30's. The wiring insulation had seriously packed in by the late 60's so my dad got the place rewired as a ring main in modern twin and earth. Red and black of course with solid green earth.

For some reason I don't recall the obvious disruption this must have caused. But I remember my old man showing me how to wire a mains plug, and letting me loose (under his watchful eye).

I certainly remember when colours changed to brown/blue/green-yellow. I had a mental debate on which was live and which neutral when I was adding a mains plug some years later. I decided that blue looked less menacing than brown. Which of course was the right choice.

All fifty-ish years ago....

Craig
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Old 30th Apr 2021, 7:18 am   #20
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Default Re: When were ring mains introduced in domestic housing.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boulevardier View Post
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Originally Posted by dave walsh View Post
The was no major rush into the modern system as I recall and a lot of people were ignorant or suspicious in relation to 13 amp plugs and wiring for a long time.
Dave W
I suspect a major reason was that rewiring a whole house would have meant redecorating every room as well (perhaps also extensive replastering if the plaster was already old and tired). That's a big cost and disruption consideration, and just as much of a disincentive today!

Mike


I certainly remember when colours changed to brown/blue/green-yellow. I had a mental debate on which was live and which neutral when I was adding a mains plug some years later. I decided that blue looked less menacing than brown. Which of course was the right choice.

All fifty-ish years ago....

Craig
I always worked on basis that red and brown are the closest colours out of the four.
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