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Francis Edward Gripper

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Francis Edward Gripper (1852-1928), managing directot of Edmundsons' Electricity Corporation

1928 Obituary [1]

FRANCIS EDWARD GRIPPER, who died on the 7th December, 1927, was a pioneer in private electric light installations and also in the introduction of electric lighting into many of the smaller towns.

He was born in 1852, and in 1874 joined the firm of Edmundsons and Co., of Dublin and London, as their London manager. The firm of Edmundsons were originally ironmongers in Dublin. They were also pioneers in the use of gas lighting, both for country house and town lighting, with the result that, at an early age, Mr. Gripper became associated not only with gas plants but also with some of the first attempts at electric lighting, as, for instance, the experimental lighting of the Central Hall of the Houses of Parliament in the year 1878, with two Serrin arc lamps supplied by Gramme arc-lighting dynamos. In those days, incandescent lamps cost 25 shillings each, and the frequent breakages of these expensive lamps, owing to irregularities in voltage, were very distressing.

As early as 1881 Mr. Gripper had carried out one of the earliest, and at that time the largest, installations of country-house incandescent lighting for the late Lord Amherst of Hackney (then Mr. Tyssen-Amherst) at his large mansion in Norfolk, using 250 Swan lamps (by then reduced in price to 5 shillings each), Siemens dynamos, and a gas engine supplied from the private gas-works which had been erected by Edmundsons some years previously. At first, there were no storage batteries and the lighting had to be shut off after a certain hour.

From the year 1883 onwards, Messrs. Edmundsons, under Mr. Gripper's management, carried out a large number of private installations throughout the country, chiefly in large country houses, while in those days it was not unusual to supply temporary installations in large houses, both in London and in the country, for balls and parties, portable storage batteries being sent down to supply the necessary energy.

After 1883 no further private installations of gas-works were put down by Edmundsons, as electricity was then being found so much more convenient. Later, Mr. Gripper conceived the idea of the supply of public electric lighting for a large number of towns which up to then it had been thought could not be economically supplied at prices which, on the one hand, were low enough to attract the consumer, and, on the other hand, would bring in sufficient revenue to pay adequate interest on the capital outlay.

The first public supply was started by Mr. Gripper at Shrewsbury in 1894, and three years later Edmundsons Electricity Corporation, Ltd., was formed, with Mr. Gripper as managing director. Great activity ensued, and Provisional Orders were obtained in various towns all over the country, Edmundsons and its subsidiary company, the Urban Co., probably being responsible for the starting of electricity undertakings in many more towns than any other single organization. In all this work Mr. Gripper acquired a vast amount of knowledge, not only as to methods of cabling and wiring, but also more especially in connection with the procedure required at the Board of Trade for obtaining and working Provisional Orders, and later he took a leading part in the starting and organization of the Lancashire Power Co., which eventually obtained the first purely electrical power company Act, this forming a precedent for most of the other electric power company Acts.

Mr. Gripper continued his work on the Lancashire Power Co., and on numerous boards of local and other companies connected with Edmundsons and the Urban Co., until 1927, when failing health compelled him to resign his positions.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1881 and a Member in 1896, and served on the Council from 1903 to 1906. For a number of years he also took a considerable part in the Provincial Electric Supply Committee of the United Kingdom, where his almost unique knowledge of the procedure required in connection with the administration of the Electric Lighting Acts proved of great value to the Committee and the many companies associated with it. He was greatly esteemed by all who knew him, not only for his extensive knowledge and his business abilities, but also for his genial and even temperament and for his marked fairness of view.

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