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No. 6 Electricity Sub Station

The No. 6 substation at the corner of Brown and Glyde Streets is an important part of the story of the provision of power in Western Australia, being one of a number of substations developed, built and owned by the City of Perth between 1910 and 1930.   The building’s history also reflects the industrial development of East Perth during the first half of the century especially now that very few of the original industrial buildings that were typical of East Perth remain today. 

In 1916, the East Perth Power Station was completed and commenced operating, initiating the centralised electricity scheme.  Once East Perth was on line, the State Government then on-sold electricity to the City of Perth, as well as other local governments, which in turn would retail it to their residents and consumers.  The high power was carried from the power station via a ‘ring main’ throughout the city, and by 1916 the City of Perth had built four substations, numbered 1 to 4, to house the meter panel points.   

By the 1920s, the City of Perth needed to build a substation in East Perth to cater for the expanding industrialisation of the area and increasing use of electricity and gas particularly from the new gasworks and glassworks.  In 1923, the City of Perth Lighting Committee approved the purchase of a block of land and construction of the No. 6 Substation commenced almost immediately with service officially commencing on 22 May 1924.  The original red brick substation was later enveloped and added to in stages as demand for power increased and the technology to create and transfer the power was further developed.  The additions carried out in 1930 and 1945 were designed by the City of Perth’s Electrical Engineer, Mr H. E. Middleton, who worked there from 1929-1945.  These later additions and alterations resulted in unusual forms and spaces, and combined with its utilitarian design for purpose have given the building its strong aesthetic. 

After the State Electricity Commission (SEC) was established in 1948, the City of Perth Electricity and Gas Department was absorbed by the SEC and in 1950 Substation No. 6 was also transferred to the SEC.

Detailed Description

The No. 6 substation at the corner of Brown and Glyde Streets is an important part of the story of the provision of power in Western Australia, being one of a number of substations developed, built and owned by the City of Perth between 1910 and 1930.   The building’s history also reflects the industrial development of East Perth during the first half of the century especially now that very few of the original industrial buildings that were typical of East Perth remain today. 

Before the main power station was built in East Perth by the State Government, small electric power stations were located all around the metropolitan area and operated by local government.  In 1916, the East Perth Power Station was completed and commenced operating, initiating the centralised electricity scheme for Perth and making the West Australian State Government the first in Australia to take on the public production of electricity.    

Once East Perth was on line, the State Government then on-sold electricity to the City of Perth, as well as other local governments, which in turn would retail it to their residents and consumers.  The high power was carried from the power station via a ‘ring main’ throughout the city and meter panel points were provided at strategic locations and housed in what were called substations.  The City of Perth was responsible for constructing the substations and by 1916 had constructed four of them around the city, numbered Substations 1 to 4.   

By the 1920s, the City of Perth needed to build additional substations.  One was built in Maylands (No. 5) and another one was also needed in East Perth to cater for the expanding industrialisation of this area particularly from the new gasworks and glassworks, as well as the increasing use of electricity and gas in the surrounding businesses and homes.  In 1923, the City of Perth Lighting Committee approved the purchase of Lot 119 in East Perth from Mr Albert Stinson for a substation for £140.  Construction of the No. 6 Substation commenced almost immediately and by May 1924 a 500 KVA transformer had been installed and service officially commenced on 22 May 1924.   

The No. 6 Substation was a single-storey building constructed of red face brickwork with concrete lintels and sills.  Both the ceiling and floor were constructed with four-inch reinforced concrete, with the floors of the transformer cubicles constructed of stone filled oil pits. 

The substation was later enveloped and added to in stages as demand for power increased and the technology to create and transfer the power was further developed.  In 1930, the first additions to the substation were undertaken, including the installation of high tension feeder switches for Victoria Park, Belmont and Maylands and enclosure of the existing transformer cubicles, with cable trenches dug into the concrete floor and covered with timber boards.  The additions were designed by the City of Perth’s Electrical Engineer, Mr H. E. Middleton, who worked there from 1929-1945.  In 1945 Middleton designed a second pair of transformer rooms and walls to the south and west were added creating a large room on the southern side with sliding doors opening to the east.  More cable trenches were dug out and timber covered.  Another room, labelled “Protection Workshop Store”, was created between the first and second enclosures and large fireproof steel doors were installed providing access between the two enclosures.  

These later additions and alterations resulted in unusual forms and spaces, and combined with its utilitarian design for purpose have given the building its strong aesthetic. 

In 1946, the State Electricity Commission (SEC) was established and from then on took charge of all power generation, transmission and distribution in the metropolitan area.  The City of Perth Electricity and Gas Department was absorbed by the SEC in 1948 and Substation No. 6 was transferred to the SEC (later called Wester Power) in 1950.  After the substation was closed some of the plant equipment was left in the building.

Location