The History Of London's Power Stations

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 76 months ago
The History Of London's Power Stations
Battersea Power Station, September 2011. Photo / curry15
Battersea Power Station, September 2011. Photo / curry15
The granddaddy of power station redevelopment projects: the former Banside Power Station, an oil-powered facility designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea, was converted into Tate Modern in the late 1990s. The building is now one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and has become a focal point of the wider revamp of the South Bank. Photo / Eva Palazzetti
The granddaddy of power station redevelopment projects: the former Banside Power Station, an oil-powered facility designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea, was converted into Tate Modern in the late 1990s. The building is now one of the world's most popular tourist destinations and has become a focal point of the wider revamp of the South Bank. Photo / Eva Palazzetti
Deptford Power Station, built 1887. It was the first major station to use the new-fangled high voltage AC current. It was rebuilt a number of times, before it was decommissioned in 1983 and demolished in 1992.
Deptford Power Station, built 1887. It was the first major station to use the new-fangled high voltage AC current. It was rebuilt a number of times, before it was decommissioned in 1983 and demolished in 1992.
Lots Road Power Station, beside Chelsea Creek on the north side of the River. Opening in 1905, this coal- and later oil-fired station supplied power to the Underground. It closed in 2002, and is to be converted into shops and apartments.
Lots Road Power Station, beside Chelsea Creek on the north side of the River. Opening in 1905, this coal- and later oil-fired station supplied power to the Underground. It closed in 2002, and is to be converted into shops and apartments.
The two chimneys are all that remain of the coal-fired Croydon B Power Station. An Ikea is now on the site, as indicated by the coloured bands at the top of the chimneys. Croydon also had a number of impressive cooling towers on-site, long since demolished. Photo by Peter Trimming
The two chimneys are all that remain of the coal-fired Croydon B Power Station. An Ikea is now on the site, as indicated by the coloured bands at the top of the chimneys. Croydon also had a number of impressive cooling towers on-site, long since demolished. Photo by Peter Trimming
Part of Acton Lane Power Station. Closed in 1983, the power station was used as a filming location, most notably standing in as the Ace Chemical Plant in Batman (1989). Photo by ca1951rr, who also has a wonderful pic of the station's now-demolished cooling towers.
Part of Acton Lane Power Station. Closed in 1983, the power station was used as a filming location, most notably standing in as the Ace Chemical Plant in Batman (1989). Photo by ca1951rr, who also has a wonderful pic of the station's now-demolished cooling towers.
The former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in Wapping, part of a network of hydraulic power that stretched between east and west London. The system closed in the 1970s. This building has been converted into The Wapping Project, a restaurant and art gallery. Photo / Dean Nicholas
The former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in Wapping, part of a network of hydraulic power that stretched between east and west London. The system closed in the 1970s. This building has been converted into The Wapping Project, a restaurant and art gallery. Photo / Dean Nicholas
The former Fulham Power Station. It has been redeveloped into a flagship Big Yellow Storage Company facility. Photo / sarflondondunc
The former Fulham Power Station. It has been redeveloped into a flagship Big Yellow Storage Company facility. Photo / sarflondondunc
Brown Hart Gardens, in Mayfair. The plaza sits on top of a former electrical substation, built in 1905. Photo / Johnathan Wakefield
Brown Hart Gardens, in Mayfair. The plaza sits on top of a former electrical substation, built in 1905. Photo / Johnathan Wakefield
Brunswick Wharf Power Station, at Blackwall, east London. It opened in 1952 and was closed in 1984, before being demolished later in that decade. Photo / Ian M
Brunswick Wharf Power Station, at Blackwall, east London. It opened in 1952 and was closed in 1984, before being demolished later in that decade. Photo / Ian M
Greenwich Power Station is still operational as a backup supply unit
Greenwich Power Station is still operational as a backup supply unit
Brimsdown Power Station, in Enfield, with three of its seven cooling towers visible. Decommissioned in 1974.
Brimsdown Power Station, in Enfield, with three of its seven cooling towers visible. Decommissioned in 1974.

The recent news that Battersea Power Station is once again up for sale will be of little surprise to long-time watchers of the crumbling riverside building. Since closure in 1983 numerous plans for its redevelopment have been floated, only to be dashed (see the Guardian's gallery for some examples). The most recent proposal, approved 2010, stalled in January when the group behind it went bust.

Battersea's plight is particularly sad given that a little way to the east stands Bankside, another former power station (built by the same architect, Giles Gilbert Scott) that has been successfully redeveloped into Tate Modern, among the most popular art galleries in the world. Tate's success suggests that there is (or should have been) a path toward post-power success for Battersea, had the right decisions been taken. The fear is that it may now be too late.

The fate of Battersea got us wondering about London's other disused power stations. Click through the gallery above for a look at some of the stations we've lost, and a handful that have survived and prospered.

For more on the early history of London's electricity generation, see this blog post by Ian Visits.

Photo credits:

Battersea Power Station by curry15 via the Londonist Flickrpool

Tate Modern by Eva Palazzetti via the Londonist Flickrpool

Greenwich Power Station by scappini via the Londonist Flickrpool

Acton Lane Power Station by ca1951rr under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Brunswick Wharf by Ian M under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Lots Road by Arpingstone under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Croydon Power Station by Peter Trimming under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Brown Hart Gardens by Johnathan Wakefield under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Last Updated 13 March 2012