Electricity pioneer: the East Lyn river

Whilst most British cities were being lit by gas, Lynmouth residents were enjoying electric lamps. This was thanks to a hydro-electric power station built in 1890 by Charles Green of the Devon Electric Light Company.

One of the first hydro electric power stations in the UK, its turbines and alternators were supplied by water fed along pipes and leats from the river above the Overflow Pool.

A revolutionary system

The 100 volt electricity was on for just a few hours a day - dusk until midnight and the mornings in winter. To increase peak supply a pumped storage system (the first in the world) was built with a reservoir on Summerhouse Hill.

On the night of the Lynmouth flood, engineers Charlie Postles and Reg Freeman kept the lights burning using a diesel generator. They stayed as the waters were rising, until they were forced to abandon their posts at 9pm, plunging Lynmouth into darkness.

Although the station survived the floods, the town was soon connected to the National Grid. The station was subsequently demolished to widen the river to prevent any further opportunity for a flood of the scale of the 1952 disaster.