Shining a light on Norwich’s electric past with LSE
The last industrial giant in Norwich, known and loved as LSE, is reaching out to family and friends to attend a reunion later this month.
It was Laurence, Scott and Electromotors which helped to shed light on the city, introduced the first traffic-controlled traffic lights, and went on to make huge ground-breaking machinery which resulted in the company becoming world famous.
Those who worked at the factory walked tall. They were turned from apprentices into skilled craftsmen - and women - and some spent their entire working life at LSE on the factory floor or in one of the busy offices.
It had been thought that, with time marching on and the workforce getting smaller, the annual reunions would be a thing of the past but the hand of friendship is still being reached out for workers to get together.
Laurence and Scott were a brilliant double act whose machinery was, and still is, being used across the entire world.
William Harding Scott came to Norwich in 1883 to help install electricity to Colman's Carrow Works. He and a colleague called Paris set up their own company and the supply of electricity in Norwich was one of the first major jobs tackled by Scott.
The corporation hadn't enough money to build its own power station so Scott set up a portable plant in Stamp Office Yard.
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He designed the first electricity system in Norwich and also invented a two-rate meter meaning cheaper electricity at certain times of the day.
It was the start of factories being opened for 24 hours a day.
Scott was a brilliant inventor, a perfectionist but he needed someone with money and vision to back up - and along came Reginald Laurence.
Together they put Norwich and Norfolk on the world's industrial stage.
Gothic Works was opened in 1898 and was soon employing more than 150 people. During the First World War, with the men away fighting, women took over the factory, making vast numbers of shells and other equipment for the war effort.
The company grew and grew and 90 years ago bought a rival firm called Electromotors in Manchester, hence the name.
The expansion grew between the wars. Around 3,000 people were employed at LSE. A second factory was opened on Salhouse Road.
Come the Second World War the Luftwaffe wanted to destroy the factory so it was camouflaged. Mind you, the canteen was bombed.
It would take a book to tell the full story of LSE.
The first traffic-controlled traffic lights were designed by Scott and controlled by cars running over special pads in the road.
Where did this happened? At the junction of Unthank and Colman Road in Norwich.
The company made a range of equipment for the Royal Navy. The first of the Trident class of submarine was equipped with LSE switchboards, generators and propulsion motors.
It supplied the cutting motors when the Channel Tunnel was built and so much more.
Today the company employs fewer people but it is still going and we have much to thank LSE for.
The reunion for all LSE workers over the years and members of their families is at The Cottage, Thunder Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, on Friday July 26 at 7.30pm where a warm welcome awaits.