Steeped in local history, one of Birmingham’s first substations is getting a new lease of life.

The Bournville substation on the corner of Mary Vale Road and Alexandra Road in Stirchley was built in 1920 and supplies the power to the nearby Cadbury Factory along with the residents of Bournville, Stirchley and beyond.

The £6 million pound upgrade is being carried out by its owners Western Power Distribution, the electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands, South West and Wales.

The three-year project is expected to run until 2022 and involves replacing four grid transformers, 132kV circuit breakers and other 132kV equipment, along with all the 11kV switchgear.

As part of the upgrade, Western Power Distribution is keeping the historic features of the building and will be dismantling and rebuilding sections of the 5m high wall to access each of the existing transformers. Each transformer and associated switchgear will then be taken out and replaced before the brickwork is rebuilt. Together with their contractors they will then move to the next bay and repeat the process all the way along the 50m (164ft) boundary wall.

The scheme will be no walk in the park for Western Power Distribution as most of the housing around the substation did not exist. Fast forward 99 years and the site is surrounded by domestic properties on three sides, with a canal and railway on the other – these were vital transport links for entrepreneur George Cadbury’s burgeoning chocolate empire.

Projects Engineer Barry Organ, who is managing the project, said: “The land around the substations is now a densely-populated residential area so I suspect we will get to know the neighbours pretty well over the three years we are here. We will, of course, do everything we can to minimise the disruption for residents, particularly when it comes to traffic and parking.”

Barry added: “We will be working closely with Cadbury throughout the project to make sure it is business as usual. This project will upgrade and help future proof the network for both Cadbury and local residents. “We will be replacing all the existing substation switchgear, which was installed in the late 1950s and early 1960s and has now reached the end of its life, with the very latest, state-of-the-art equipment. We want to create a substation which is fit for the users of the 21st century while respecting and preserving the history and appearance of one of the city’s oldest substations.”