“Flats are generously provided with power points …”

“Barbican”, Cement and Concrete Association, 1971

“What??!!” I hear Barbican residents exclaiming.

Power point limitations

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.


But in the 21st century, Barbican wall sockets sprout with adaptors and extension leads because there just aren’t enough sockets. 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).

The electricity companies have been replacing the old meters with smart meters so nowadays electricity usage can be read remotely.

Main fuses

The consumer unit for all the electrical installations in a 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 fuses

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.

Lighting circuits

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.

Light fittings

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.

For flats which still have their original bathrooms and toilets, there are 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 may be on the kitchen fascia panel, or outside the bathroom door, or in the bedroom wardrobe.

Door bell

There is a door bell next to the entrance door. If it is not connected, or if 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.