Electricity in local authority housing

Ireland underwent huge social change in the late 1950s and early 1960s, due in no small part to the rapid progress and success of the Rural Electrification Scheme since the late 1940s. The domestic demand for electrical appliances was increasing rapidly, doubling every 7 years.

This pamphlet, published by ESB in this period, describes how the company worked with local authorities to meet a common purpose: ‘to provide the best possible homes for the families in their communities, in relation to the funds available to them.’

It celebrates the great advances made in local authority housing in the preceding years: ‘Houses are roomier. Services are better. Designs have improved tremendously. Sites are better planned and laid out, and most important of all, the increase in the number of homes completed is remarkable’.

The benefits of electricity in local authority housing are highlighted in terms of ‘space-saving and cleanliness’, as well as in its reduction of the ‘capital cost’ of the home.

Two such local authority developments featured are Marian Park, Dundalk, built in 1958, and Iona Park, Athlone, which was built around the same time.

Marian Park, Dundalk, c1959

Iona Park, Athlone, late 1950s

The pamphlet notes that electricity is now the ‘new’ standard for the Irish home – unlike homes built 20 years prior, ‘modern families need plug sockets, for kettles, irons, fires, radio, TV, hairdryers, washing machines, refrigerators and bedside lights.’

Progress is a hard master. It is not acceptable to rest on past – or even current – achievement. Here in Ireland living standards are rising and it is a duty imposed on all of us who have the power – in central and local government, in the state organisations – to keep pace with these living standards – and to think ahead, so that the homes we build to-day, will be reasonably acceptable a generation hence – because it is that generation which will pass judgment on our foresight, on our abilities.

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Shannon Airport Development, 1961

This pamphlet, published by ESB in 1961, introduces customers to their ‘all-electric flat’, built by the Shannon Airport Development Co Ltd in 1961. These modern flats came fully equipped with a range of electrical appliances, aimed to ‘give you every satisfaction and make living a lot easier’:

  • 20-gallon water heater in the kitchen, giving a constant supply of hot water
  • an electric cooker, ‘safe and simple to operate’
  • an modern electric refrigerator
  • electric floor warming in the kitchen, living room and lobby, set to 60℉ (approx. 15.5℃)
  • an electric ‘radiant’ fire mounted on the living room wall
  • convector heaters in each bedroom
  • an instant infra-red heater in the bathroom, for instant comfort

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