Crabtree celebrates 100 years of electrical safety in 2019

March 11th 2019

Crabtree: 1919 to 2019 and Beyond

It began with the flick of switch.

One hundred years ago John Ashworth Crabtree designed and patented a quick make and quick break switch. This innovation, which safely managed electric arcs that can occur in switching devices, was the beginning of the philosophy that became the culture of electrical safety for Crabtree.

A lot can change in 100 years. Technology develops, new challenges emerge, solutions are found. But despite it all, the earth continues to turn, and those with a passion continue to design and innovate.

For a business that has weathered the storms of time, changed ownership, evolved its working methods and undoubtedly over 100 years, engaged many staff; one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the drive for new product development – a vital ingredient in the success of the brand.

As it turns 100 in 2019, Crabtree is still a leading brand in the UK, now a Siemens company, it has 100 years of innovation from the early inventions that inspired and evolved into the devices electrical installations would be nowhere without.

Crabtree: The First 100 Years

Electrical safety has always been at the heart of everything Crabtree does. It’s a philosophy that has seen the brand through periods of depression, a world war, and market uncertainty. It enables them to consistently deliver products and devices that installers can trust, and it all started with a “dolly”.

One hundred years ago John Ashworth Crabtree designed a quick make and quick break switch, which safely managed electric arcs that can occur in switching devices. Patenting his creation, John went into business for himself opening a factory in Walsall, a market town in the West Midlands.

One hundred years later and Crabtree remain at the forefront of electrical safety, this time with digital technology in Arc Fault Detection Devices. Crabtree AFDDs automatically detect and disconnect arc faults and prevent fires occurring in electrical cables and final circuits, providing higher levels of safety for homes and workplaces.

In 1939 it was Crabtree (a 20-year-old business) switched production in response to a need for the Air Ministry. Robust, reliable, flexible, quick and easy to install aircraft wiring systems were required by the Air Ministry. It was Crabtree that designed and developed solder free, screw-less crimped terminals, providing safe reliable connections and safer flying conditions.

Hardly surprising then that even now Crabtree uses screw-less plug-in systems in consumer units to provide instant guaranteed reliable connections in household installations in the UK.

We’re now on the 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, but back when the 12th Edition of the wiring regulations was just being published in 1950, Crabtree had been operating for over 30 years. It had launched during that time a number of innovations, including one still used today - British standard 13A twin sockets.

Now a staple in homes and businesses across the UK, British standard 13A twin sockets first introduced by Crabtree in 1947, one year after being awarded a Royal Warrant as supplier of electrical products to King George VI.

13A sockets might now seem ordinary. But they make our use of electricity safer. The secret to safety is the shutter system that makes BS sockets safer to use by protecting people from accessing live parts and by using switches that contain electric arcs within labyrinth of protective shields.

Sockets have changed over the years, through updates in decorative plates and the styles of the eras. The latest versions from Crabtree now combine recent innovations too, such as the multi pin shutter safety system, and full contact cable terminations, all combined with slim plates, soft curves and smooth style because looks matter too.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Heading back to the mid-century, in 1956, Crabtree introduced its first earth leakage circuit breaker, the voltage operated E.60 range. Earth leakage circuit breakers (or RCDs as we now know them) are standard products these days, but they were new in the 1950s when Crabtree developed this technology for devices that protect people from risks of electric shock.

Fast forward 60-odd years to the very latest earth leakage devices and you will find innovative “A Class” Miniature RCBOs that include two-pole switching as standard for even higher levels of personal protection.

Another recent drive for safety, when fires in plastic consumer units in residential properties were rising and London Fire Brigade called for action, Crabtree investigated the initial proposals and found that an alternative solution (metal enclosures) would provide a better way to control the spread of any fire that occurred in switchgear assemblies.

This led directly to a change in the UK wiring regulations and now metal consumer units are mandatory.

To the next century...

When it launched in 1919, Crabtree had a motto: “That which is built soundly endures well”. It was inscribed into the company plaque and rightly so. Crabtree was built soundly enough to provide 100 years of electrical safety to its customers. And with a 100-year solid foundation what else can the brand do in the years to come?

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