More Unusual Sockets: The Dorman Smith System

A look at the Dorman Smith socket system, a precursor to the standard BS 1363 sockets seen in today’s homes and businesses

Before the modern day BS 1363 socket came about, there was in the UK a hotchpotch of non-standard systems. The most common one, prior to the late 1960s was the Dorman Smith system. Instead of rectangular pins, plugs had circular pins, configured in the same way as today’s 3-pin plugs. One exception to today’s plugs was the positioning of the fuse. The fuse itself was one of three pins; the Live pin.

The first plugs and sockets under the Dorman Smith system were manufactured in 1946 in their Salford works. Two years later, newly built London County Council municipal homes were fitted with the Dorman Smith system. Some sockets were made under licence from Dorman and Smith by Reyrolle, who were based in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear.

Core uses

Before the BS 1363 standard was adopted, Dorman Smith socket systems were used by homes, universities and businesses. Though the Dorman Smith system ceased to be a standard option in the 1970s, the BBC used this socket system till the 1980s. This was avoid Earth-Neutral interference with electrical equipment which used BS 1363 plugs.

Today, Dorman and Smith’s plug is an anachronism, displaced by the IP44 and IP67 plugs we sell on our website. Furthermore, the company are still in business. Dorman and Smith are a leading manufacturer of switchgear equipment.

As well as plugs, they also manufactured the main switchgear for the doomed Titanic ship. Other claims to fame for the company includes being the advertiser of Preston’s first all-over advertising bus. This was in 1972, a Preston Guild year.


Total Control and Distribution, 26 January 2017.

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