An imposing neo-Georgian building on Walthamstow’s Church Hill is a familiar part of the local streetscape. Now a retirement housing complex, clues to its original use are seen in the Walthamstow Borough Coat of arms in the pediment and its name, Electric House.

Part of a swathe of early to mid-20th century municipal buildings, Electric House opened in January 1937 as an electricity distribution centre, showroom and offices, at a time when domestic electricity was becoming more accessible. Before this, gas had pretty much had the monopoly within homes, until the National Grid was established in 1926 which enabled more homes to be connected to an electricity supply.

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The Entrance Hall to Electric House. Credit: Walthamstow Borough Council, Opening of Electric House Souvenir booklet, 1937

Walthamstow had had an electricity showroom as early as 1909, in relatively modest premises at No. 212 High Street, but by the 1930s the demand for domestic supply as well as the growing business in the hire and hire-purchase of cookers and other electrical appliances, meant that larger and more modern premises were needed. The High Street showroom was closed, and Electric House was built, as well as an additional new showroom in Highams Park that opened in 1936.

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The original electricity showroom at 212 High Street. Credit: Walthamstow Borough Council, Opening of Electric House Souvenir booklet, 1937

Occupying around two acres, with stores, repair shop, garages and workshops to the rear, Electric House’s main steel-frame and brick and concrete block was as impressive inside as out. Many people who worked and visited there remember the illuminated marble fountain in the wood-panelled foyer, where children often waited as their parents paid electricity bills. The ground floor also housed an All Electric Flat and Domestic Appliances and Fittings Display rooms, and a Demonstration Room which could seat 40 people.

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The Domestic Appliances Display Room. Credit: Walthamstow Borough Council, Opening of Electric House Souvenir booklet, 1937

A grand central staircase led to the first floor, housing administrative offices accessed via a three-sided landing, and above this was a green-glazed dome, twenty foot in diameter. A commercial kitchen with scullery and larder on the second floor was fitted out with all the mod-cons, to demonstrate the advantages of electricity for large-scale commercial cooking in hotels, schools, and restaurants. On the same floor there was a large Assembly Hall with a curved ceiling, capable of seating 337 people. This was originally mainly for cookery demonstrations, but was also available for concert halls and lectures as well as dinners and supper dances. This floor also had staff rooms, including a female-only room, and self-contained accommodation for the caretaker was located towards the rear.

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The Commercial Cooking Kitchen. Credit: Walthamstow Borough Council, Opening of Electric House Souvenir booklet, 1937

In 1948 Electric House passed to the London Electricity Board (LEB) when electricity was nationalised, and in 1990 the LEB was privatised as London Electricity plc.

Many local residents have worked and visited Electric House over the decades, and as such the building is an important part of the area’s social history.

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving historian and research consultant specialising in researching histories and stories of buildings, people and places. She researches house histories for private clients and collaborates in community heritage projects ( She is also director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, an historical research consultancy providing research services for the commercial heritage sector ( Also found on Twitter @karenaverby and @archaheritage