Wooden panelboards, with glass panels in the larger sizes, were quite common in England right up to the 1930s, although they weren't usually asbestos lined. Each plug-in porcelain fuse carrier (rewireable type) typically had a small asbestos insert.
Wooden patresses for light switches were also the norm, and in later years some people even constructed "back boxes" for the newer-style switches using any old scraps of wood.
#152161 - 03/10/0404:13 PMRe: 1913 American Electrician's Handbook
The wooden pattress, in my experience, has always been used when mounting a surface mount switch or socket, like the one shown in the picture, to a plaster or masonry wall.
The reasoning is that you would use larger and longer screws (or nails) to anchor the block to the wall and then use the tiny wood screws that normally come with the switch or socket to fasten it to the pattress.
It makes for a much more secure installation than just using small wood screws to directly anchor the switch to the plaster wall. That way the device won't pull away from the wall when used.
#152163 - 03/23/0409:49 PMRe: 1913 American Electrician's Handbook
Sven, Yes, that was the typical application of the pattress block in Britain as well, and seeing as the majority of old houses had masonry walls, they were used by the dozen.
By the way, what holds the cover of that switch in place? The equivalent "tumbler" switches here had either a round threaded boss in the middle so you just tightened the cover onto it, or they had two small screws above and below the toggle to secure it.
#152165 - 03/24/0401:27 PMRe: 1913 American Electrician's Handbook
Here wooden patresses were usually plastered in flush with the wall to provide something to screw into. If done right definitely much more solid than todays plastic wallplugs. Weird, our toggle switches always had the cover screws to the left and the right of the toggle, except for the doubles. Some German retro toggles just have _one_ screw. Looks pretty weird.
#152166 - 03/26/0411:12 AMRe: 1913 American Electrician's Handbook