J. Dick and Co – the family who illuminated Winchester
In 1862 and before Tower Bridge and the Natural History Museum in London were built, John Dicks opened a gas fittings and brass refiners shop at 5 Jewry Street in Winchester called J. Dick and Co, abundantly decked out with the latest in gas fittings and chandeliers is from London. The business is growing rapidly as it offers gas plumbing, wrought iron and lead work. In 1863, Dicks lit the exteriors of some of the city’s outstanding buildings with gas lights, such as the Guildhall, Westgate, Market House and the statue of Queen Anne.
In 1886 the company moved to 149 High Street, having already acquired workshops in Silver Hill and now installing water systems in homes by putting pumps in their wells and directing the water into their homes. By the turn of the century, John Dicks had died and his two sons, Philip and John, now run the business, installing telephones, speaking tubes in offices, and designing and installing call alarm systems for fire departments.
In those early days, the workforce used wheelbarrows for their tools and supplies to go to jobs as far as Crawley and lodged if the work lasted more than a day. Over time horse and carts were rented. Jobs in Stockbridge and Alresford meant train travel, one of the men AW Faithfull reminds of jobs like Odiham Church was like going abroad. He also remembers a young adventurous boy, Ralph Moore, who signed up as a crew member on the Titanic after completing his training in 1912. His body was never recovered.
Dicks would introduce new technology, design and install central heating systems and cooling, but it was with the arrival of electricity that Dicks would be the first in the field, initially using generator sets until the power supply was complete, the Dicks as a business and company In the early 1960s, it was said that Dicks would be in charge of lighting a city, its churches and most iconic buildings, as well as some of the main buildings such as the Guildhall, Great Hall, Assizes, from a modest, somewhat darkly decorated, old-fashioned little shop Courthouse, magistrates chambers, library, castle, St. Cross Hospital, Winchester College, St. Christes Hospital, the barracks after it burned down in 1896, Sherriff and Wards shop, although the first shop that had electricity was 26 High Street by William Hayward a tobacconist and all of the city’s churches. Big houses like Broadlands, Beaulieu, Preshaw Park, Tichborne Park, Wherwell Priory, Mottisfont Abbey and Romsey Abbey.
Workers first used road transport in 1922 to get to work farther away, such as Shaftesbury.
But after her father Philip’s sudden death in 1926, his daughter Jeanie would take control of the company and more than 75 employees, and in time would become known as Miss Jeanie Dicks, but doing so would run into huge prejudice from customers Jeanie wanted herself dealing with a man, so she turned to the well-heeled customers.
Tails lit up many outdoor occasions over the years when the construction of the statue of King Alfred who plays and crowns queens in Avington Park was completed in 1901.
In 1950, Jeanie gave a speech on the coming of electricity: “Electricity was only a cradle back then, only for the rich and the rich in their early days.”
Jeanie became the first female member of the male-dominated Electrical Contractors Association in the 1920s, attending the London conferences of 1928 and 1931. She became a member of the Women’s Engineering Society and is featured in her journal alongside aviator Amy Johnson. She is President of the Winchester Chamber of Commerce in the late 1930s. During World War II, Jeanie registers as an ARP ambulance driver. In 1954, Benevolent is President of the Electrical Industry branch of Hampshire and Dorset. But it was in 1934 that her company won the contract to install electricity in Winchester Cathedral against many contractors from Great Britain and Europe. Jeanie would personally oversee all work carried out as the cost of the first installment was £ 3,000. A few years earlier, her company had installed plumbing and electricity installations in the dean’s office for the new dean Gordon in Selwyn. Newspapers across the country reported on the completion of the contract and mentioned the “engineer”.
In 1937, Jeanie married Ian McVean, a traveling salesman for Beeston’s boilers, at Winchester Cathedral. In time they would live in the Limberlost family home on St. Giles Hill.
1960 Jeanie decides to retire at the age of 66 and the business is sold without children. Company buildings such as the old slaughterhouse, city baths, mission hall, warehouses and Coach and Horses pub in Silver Hall are sold. The new owners, who don’t want their pride and joy, sell the electrical side to four employees for a princely sum of £ 1. The company is named Dicks Dicks Electrical in honor of the family name and has new premises built in Winnall by 1965.
Jeanie McVean (nee Dicks) died on July 6, 1980 in a nursing home in Winchester. The newspapers report that she was one of the leading business women in town for 40 years and had been in poor health for quite some time.
Dicks Electrical Ltd was sold to new owners in early 2018, but in December 2018 the company ceased trading, ending 156 years of the Dicks surname.