21st September 2019
In 1934 Miss Jeanie Dicks managed the first electrification of Winchester Cathedral. A woman undertaking such a high-profile engineering role at the time was very unusual and press worthy, with reports in newspapers all over the country of the “girl engineer” (in her early 40s), but her name has since been forgotten.
Electrifying a cathedral was a complicated job, and cables had to be run through the crypt. This meant removing and reburying coffins, except for that of Jane Austen, whom they managed to move gently to one side.
At the time when electricity was still a relatively new and expensive commodity, J. Dicks Ltd boasted 75 employees. Miss Dicks was the first female member of the Electrical Contractors Association, and was later elected President of the Winchester Chamber of Commerce under her married name, Mrs I. McVean. She was also a member of the Women's Engineering Society.
Speaker Ceryl Evans first discovered Miss Dicks in a one sentence entry in The Women Engineer Journal. As a history curator with a fascination for all things medieval and working for the Women’s Engineering Society, she was instantly intrigued. She went down the research rabbit hole, eventually writing Miss Jeanie Dicks a Wikipedia page, and remains convinced there is more to uncover about her.
The Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8SB
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