Early domestic mains components

 Nowadays we are governed by beaurocrats. No doubt "jobs for the lads" rules and this dictates that there must be something for the lads to do. A lot of these jobs are in Brussels, where our money is squandered over rules and regulations concerning just about everything. The trouble is that once pen is set to paper and a regulation is made it has to cover every eventuality. What was once a simple statement turns into vast tomes of regulations. Not least is legislation concerning electrical safety.

It must be a pain to the beaurocrats that there is such a proliferation of connector types in use across Europe. Maybe not. Because of the proliferation one can envisage not just one legislator but a whole office full. Plenty of scope for more money to be spent on our behalf.

Below I have shown a large number of mains connectors that were used from the earliest days to, dare I say it... the present day.

Probably none of the following would be acceptable for use nowadays!

I can't remember when it was exactly, but a new 13-amp plug was introduced in the UK. The roots of the live and neutral pins were now insulated because it had been suddenly discovered that if ones fingertips extended inwards under the plug to a circuit could be made across the two pins, or between one pin and ground.

None of the early connectors have this feature. Strange that over 70 or 80 years no-one had noticed that fingers could touch the pins. Maybe it's only modern fingers that have this dexterity?

It took the best part of half a century to standardize UK mains. There were lots and lots of different voltages, several frequencies of AC mains and of course the great divide.. some mains supplies were DC and some were AC.


It was not common in the early days to have wall-mounted sockets in homes and the usual method of connecting an electric iron or a radio was to the ceiling socket via a multi-way adaptor, such as two shown here. One incorporates an on/off switch operated by the short cord.



Here's a collection of two pin plugs for wall-mounted sockets

None are polarized so could be inserted either way round.

Ratings are two, five and ten amps.


A couple of three pin multi-way adaptors, each designed to accommodate four standards; small or medium two or three pin plugs.


Two more adaptors of a different design, again accommodating four standards; between them a total of no less than eight different standards.


This pair pre-dates the universal use of bakelite, and are made of wood.


This connector is the type used by many radio and TV sets of the 40s and 50s. It was designed to be used in such a way as to cause the set to be unplugged before the back was removed. It was unlikely though that it was ever returned the same way round as the two pins were the same size. This meant that the set invariably would end up with a live chassis. As the majority of valve radio receivers and TV sets in use after the war were AC/DC, and had no transformers, it was very dangerous to operate a set without its back. To make matters worse it was not uncommon to find a single pole switch in the mains circuit that guaranteed a live chassis even if one took care to orientate the connector with neutral to chassis. The explanation is that the switch often had to be in the neutral lead to serve its purpose and when this wire was opened the chassis became connected to mains live via the valve heaters. True, these may limit the current, in the long term, to typically 150mA but a lethal current is usually defined as only one tenth of this.

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