The Substation is centrally located in Margate, just off the High Street (between Burtons and KFC) and a three-minute walk from Turner Contemporary. Margate is on the North East coast of Kent and just a two-hour ferry ride from France.
The building dates back to 1849, when it was apparently erected and functioning as coach house, stables, wash house and storehouse for Thomson and Son Brewers. In 1902 the property was sold for a mere £1,598.2s.9d to the Isle of Thanet Electric Tramways and Lighting Company and became part of a significant social and economic change, providing communication in the form of light, power and traction. High voltage alternating current from the generating station at nearby St Peters was passed through a series of step-down transformers and finally converted to DC using mercury arc rectifiers. This direct current was used to power an extended tramline and to provide lighting and domestic electricity for parts of Margate.
Use of DC for domestic consumers was unusual and potentially dangerous, but this spare capacity brought early access to electric power to the population of Margate. During the night the generators were shut down and a massive bank of batteries with '265 Tudor Cells' provided power for the early morning and late night trams, as well as for domestic lighting (the generators at St Peters were also shut down overnight). This arrangement lasted into the 1920s when demand for domestic and industrial power at night became too great. When the tramlines were finally closed down in the late 1930s the Substation continued to provide DC power to Dreamland amusement park until it converted to AC in the 1970s.
The substation equipment now sits outside at the front of the building in the space previously occupied by a lean-to veranda.