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Electric Light Years 1878AD - 1900AD

One of the most important developments in the history of modern life took place in the north - the use of electric light. The most important figure was the Sunderland-born Joseph Swan, inventor of the first practical light bulb, whose developments would result in the widespread use of electric light throughout the world. Newcastle was one of the first towns to be lit with electricity, Cragside in Northumberland one of the first houses to be lit and a light bulb factory at Benwell was the first in the world. The region was witnessing the birth of modern times. The late Victorian Age was certainly a period of great change and development in the North-East. It was an age of increasing travel, leisure, tourism and political reform. It was also a period of booming industry and rapidly expanding towns.

1878 - SWAN DEVELOPS LAMP (Tyneside) .

Joseph Swan develops a successful electric lamp

1878 - CRAGSIDE LIT BY ELECTRICITY (Northumberland)

Sir William Armstrong installs a small hydro electric plant on his estate for generating electric light in his picture gallery at Cragside. Using lakes in the grounds, Cragside is the first house in the world to be lit by electricity generated from water power. The arc lights he uses are not yet suitable for mass production and are unlikely to replace gas lighting.

1878 - HANCOCK MUSEUM (Newcastle)

The Hancock Natural History Museum opens.

December 18, 1878 - SWAN DEMONSTRATES LAMP (Newcastle)

Joseph Swan demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb to an audience at the Newcastle Chemical Society, but it burns out after only a few minutes.

1879 January 19, - SWAN DEMONSTRATES LAMP AGAIN (Sunderland)

Joseph Swan demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb during a lecture to an audience at the Athenaeum in Fawcett Street, Sunderland.

December 1879 - EDISON DEMONSTRATES LAMPS (United States)

American inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates an electric lamp similar to that pioneered by Joseph Swan.

1879 - US PRESIDENT VISITS SUNDERLAND (Sunderland)

US President Ullyses Grant visits Sunderland and opens the Central Museum and Library.

1879 - SUNDERLAND FOOTBALL CLUB FORMED (Sunderland)

A football club has been formed by teachers on Wearside.

1879 - NEW STEEL MAKING METHODS (Middlesbrough)

New steel-making methods enabling the use of Teesside ore are a great boon to Middlesbrough's industry.

1879 - GUMS AND PASTILLES (York)

York Chocolate manufacturers Rowntree & Co diversify into gums and pastilles.

1880 October 20, - SWAN REPLACES GAS WITH ELECTRICITY (Newcastle)

Joseph Swan once again demonstrates his incandescent electric light bulb, this time at the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society. In front of an eminent audience, he has 70 gas jets turned down and their light immediately replaced by 20 electric bulbs.

1880 - SWAN LAMPS AT CRAGSIDE (Northumberland)

Sir William Armstrong has installed Swan's light bulbs in his house at Cragside.

1880 - EDISON TAKES SWAN TO COURT (England and America)

Thomas Edison has threatened to take Joseph Swan to court over an alleged infringement of patent in the development of a successful electrical light bulb, but it becomes clear that the two inventors have coincidentally made their developments at the same time.

1881 - BENWELL LAMPS (Newcastle)

A company is formed at Benwell for the manufacture of Joseph Swan's newly-patented electric lamps. It is thought to be the world's first light bulb factory.

1882 - NEW CITY (Newcastle)

The town of Newcastle becomes a city and St Nicholas' Church becomes a cathedral. The first Fenwick's shop opens in Northumberland Street.

1883 - EDISON-SWAN FOUNDED (Tyneside)

The Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company is formed. The American inventor Thomas Edison has teamed up with Tyneside industrialist Swan after at first accusing Swan of copyright infringement. Both men developed an electric light at around the same time.

1883 - NEWCASTLE ELECTRICAL WORKS (Newcastle)

JH Holmes opens an electrical works at Portland Road Newcastle.

1883 - ARMSTRONG GIVES DENE TO CITY (Newcastle)

Lord Armstrong has given Jesmond Dene to the new city of Newcastle. It was part of his town centre estate.

1883 - MUSIC HALL DISASTER (Sunderland)

182 children die of suffocation at the Victoria Hall Theatre during a crush.

1884 - ELECTRICAL SWITCH (Newcastle)

JH Holmes of Newcastle has manufactured the first quick break electrical switch.

1884 - MARKS AND SPENCER (Leeds)

Michael Marks opens a Penny Bazzar in Leeds, with everything priced at one penny. Marks, a Lithuanian Jew who had entered the country via Stockton-on-Tees, later establishes a partnership with a Mr Spencer in Wigan.

1884 - FIRST STEAM TURBINE (Tyneside)

Charles Algernon Parsons has patented the first steam turbine on Tyneside. Parsons, born in Ireland in 1854, is the youngest son of the Earl of Rosse and is a keen inventor. He currently works as a junior partner in the Tyneside firm of Clarke Chapman. T urbines allow wide-scale generation of electricity and Parsons will come to be known as "the man who invented the 20th Century".

1884 - CRAGSIDE COMPLETE (Northumberland)

Cragside House, with it vast estate near Rothbury has been completed by Norman Shaw for Lord Armstrong.

1885 - BERWICK LOSES STATUS (Berwick)

Special references to Berwick in Acts of Parliament are abolished.

1887 - DARLINGTON STATION (Darlington)

Bank Top opens and becomes the town's main station.

1889 - PARSONS OPENS HEATON WORKS (Tyneside)

Parsons has opened his own works at Heaton for the manufacture of turbines.

1889 - LIGHT COMPANY REGISTERED (Newcastle)

The Newcastle and District Electric Light Company has been registered.

1890 - FORTH BANKS POWER STATION (Newcastle)

Newcastle's Forth Banks Power Station has started work.

1892 - NUFC FORMED (Newcastle upon Tyne)

Newcastle United football club formed by uniting Newcastle West End FC with Newcastle East End.

1893 - DUNSTON STAITHS (GATESHEAD)

The North Eastern Railways' Dunston Coal Staiths commence operation on the banks of the Tyne near Gateshead,

1894 - TURBINE COMPANY SET UP (Tyneside)

The Marine Steam Turbine Company is set up by Charles Parsons at Wallsend.

1894 - ARMSTRONG BUYS BAMBURGH (Northumberland)

Lord Armstrong has purchased Bamburgh Castle.

1896 - WOMEN AT UNIVERSITY (Durham)

The first women students are admitted to Durham University.

1897 - ARMSTRONG WHITWORTH WORKS (Tyneside)

Armstrong's works become Armstrong Whitworth & Co. The company achieves prominence in the manufacture of arms.

1897 - TURBINIA DEMONSTRATION (Spithead)

Parsons' Turbinia vessel is demonstrated at the naval review at Spithead.

1898 - SMALLPOX (Middlesbrough)

Smallpox kills 202 people in Middlesbrough.

1898 - ELECTRICITY COMES TO TOWN (The North)

Electric lighting is introduced to many towns in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This year, electric lighting came to Middlesbrough. Electric trams are also beginning to replace horse drawn trams in North-East towns.

August 15, 1900 - POLICE CHASE (Newcastle)

The world's first pursuit of a criminal by motor car takes place at Newcastle. A car is borrowed by a policeman who orders the driver to chase a drunken horse-rider. The chase lasts one mile.

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