In 1920, the modern wonder of electrification had not long come to households and businesses in Perth. At a time when the town of Subiaco itself was a recent incarnation, a young Howard Hiddlestone saw the potential to service this exciting new utility and established H. Hiddlestone Electrics in the hope of building a successful business.
In 2020, his hope has certainly come to fruition with the family business still flourishing and celebrating 100 Not Out, the title of the Hiddlestone chronicles recently published and launched in September 2020.
The business has had a few name changes from H. Hiddlestone to Hiddlestone Brothers when young sibling Cec was old enough to join the business, then Hiddlestone Electrics in 1956 when Cec’s son Vern joined the company.
The business moved several times within Subiaco, with two locations at different Rokeby Road addresses, Denis Street, and since 2005 at 30 Townshend Road.
The 85 Rokeby Road period 1956 – 1998 was a large retail shop with all things electrical – irons, kettles, radios, lamps, globes and a myriad more.
Always an electrical contracting company, this was a step forward from a sideline of tyre re-treading that the fledgling business offered to support the electrical side in the early days. The family was glad to be rid of the acrid smell of burning rubber!
Today, daughter Natalie runs the business after spending much of her time working in it through her childhood, teenage years and then as an employee, as did her sister Kelly. At one point Natalie had to choose between a successful professional photography business and going into the family business.
Known and valued by many families across generations in Subiaco, their business is almost solely word of mouth and long-time customers often just drop in for a chat.
The office resembles a museum of early electrical goods from all the Hiddlestone reincarnations through two world wars, depressions and boom days. You also need to duck when the two cheeky Willy Wagtails flit through and play together.
Notable among the Hiddlestone lighting installations is the original Regal Theatre building (previously the Coloseum Gardens and before that Goulds’ Drapery), especially as there were no impact drills with diamond chipped chisel bits to get through the very thick concrete walls.
Hollywood Hospital was another huge job, as was the lighting installation for the re-developed China Town in Northbridge. Maintenance contracts with the WA Museum and WA Art Gallery are current prestigious clients alongside their local customers across Subiaco who comprise 95% of their business.
You can see some of Hiddlestone Electrics’ handy work in the lighting of Hiddlestone Lane, running from Rokeby Road through to Rowland Street along the side of their properties 83-85 Rokeby Road.
The results of their recent Community Art Project at the rear, which they did in partnership with 500 students from Subiaco Primary School, is a delightfully decorated wall of dragonflies.
Sources: 100 YEARS NOT OUT, Ross Addison, published 2020; Talk about Subi newsletter, City of Subiaco, Issue 3, 2001; Natalie Hiddlestone