Leeds nostalgia: Three injured and biscuits burned in power outage

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Dateline: November 1948

This week 70 years ago, parts of Leeds were hit by a power outage, following a “flashback” at Kirkstall Power Station, which left three workers injured and several generators damaged.

There was a rush to buy candles in the area, according to a report in the Yorskshire Evening Post from the time.

The breakdown came at 1.20am after William Westerman, 47, was adjusting a switch - the “flashback” came as a result of frost and fog on the outside of the switch. It threw Westerman off his feet and his clothes caught fire. Two of his colleagues, Douglas Hudson, 42, and Frank Ledger, 19, ran to his aid and had to beat the flames out with their hands.

The report said that all three were taken to hospital but that Hudson was later discharged, while the other two were detained.

In a statement, the Yorkshire Electricity Board said: “Faults arose in the Kirkstall-Harrogate section and when attempts were made to isolate the section, an oil circuit breaker flashed over and shut down No. 1 switch house. This resulted in three turbo-alternators having to be taken off load.”

Thousands of homes and businesses were affected in Headingley, Chapel Allerton, Moortown, roundhay, Halton and Cross Gates, meaning hundreds of homes had breakfast by candlelight and in some parts of the city, the tram service was affected.

More than half a ton of biscuits was wasted at the York Road works of Stokes & Dalton Ltd and Leeds fire brigade had to be called in after the smouldering biscuits were stuck in the oven.

At clothing manufacturer Montague Burton Ltd, hundreds turned up for work at 8am but had to wait hours until power was restored.