“Flats are generously provided with power points …”
“Barbican”, Cement and Concrete Association, 1971
“What??!!” I hear Barbican residents exclaiming. The fact is that there are only enough power sockets in Barbican flats for one kettle and a table lamp. And if you want toast with your tea you have to unplug the table lamp. But in 1971 ‘generously provided’ genuinely wasn’t meant as a joke. Tea and toast was all we needed for the good life back then.
Power point limitations
But in the 21st century, Barbican wall sockets sprout with adaptors and extension leads because there just aren’t enough sockets. The problem is that you are not permitted to channel cables into the concrete walls.
The electricity meter
The electricity meter is outside the flat, so it can be read without you having to be at home. Usually it’s in the tradesmen’ s cupboard, or in a separate meter cupboard, just outside your front door. It needs a special key to open the meter cupboard. The staff can give you access if you need it. (In Ben Jonson House and Bryer Court there are communal electricity cupboards for up to 20 meters).
The consumer unit for all the electrical installations in your flat is in a cupboard, which is usually in the entrance hall or the dining area. The main switch which cuts the supply to the flat is located there. The consumer unit contains 60 amp fuses for the kitchen, 15 and 30 amp fuses for power points, and two 10 amp miniature circuit breakers for lighting circuits. There is a separate unit next to it for the under-floor heating installation. Only Barbican staff have access to that.
Kitchen services can be turned off without affecting the rest of the flat. The unit is in the cupboard above the sink. There is also a master switch and fuse for the kitchen services in the main unit.
The lighting circuits are controlled by small circuit breakers instead of fuses. If they keep turning off, you will need to contact the Barbican staff.
Flats were supplied with a single central hanging light for each room. There was a specially designed “snap-on” rose, so if you wanted to change the bulb or the shade, you could slide the whole unit off and deal with it without tottering on a chair. In the original bathrooms and toilets, there were wall lights mounted in a tiled tray integrated with the rest of the tiling.
Kitchen water heater
If you still have the original equipment from when the flat was built, the switch for the kitchen water heater is on the fascia panels in the kitchen, next to the light switch. The water heater switch for the bathroom and shower room is sometimes on the kitchen fascia panel, or outside the bathroom door, or in the bedroom wardrobe.
There is a door bell push next to your door. If it is not connected, or you want a different ring or buzzer, you can choose one yourself and have it connected. The bell push is wired to a terminal box in the meter compartment. A warning notice in the terminal box gives recommended wiring instructions.