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Under construction c1930

History of the Construction

The proposal to site a large power station on the south bank of the River Thames at Battersea in 1927 caused a storm of protest that raged for years. Questions were raised in Parliament about pollution which might harm the paintings in the nearby Tate Gallery and the parks and "noble buildings of London".

Now Battersea Power Station is one of the best loved landmarks after serving London with electricity for 50 years.

In the UK during the 1920s electricity was supplied by numerous private companies who built small power stations for individual industries with some of the surplus power generated going to the public supply. There was a bewildering variety of incompatible systems, high cost and jealous competition between the numerous companies. This chaotic situation caused Parliament to decree that electricity generation should be a single unified system under public ownership.It was to be another 30 years before the electricity supply was nationalised.

In the interim the formation of the London Power Company was a response by private owners to delay the imposition of public ownership. Set up in 1925 it took up Parliaments recommendation that electricity generation should be in fewer, larger power stations. This led directly to the building of the first super station, to produce 400,000 kilowatts, in Battersea.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the building. His other buildings include Liverpool Cathedral, Bankside Power Station, Waterloo Bridge and the classic red telephone box.

Under construction c1931

The building is in fact a steel girder frame and Sir Giles designed the exterior brick cladding and the tower-like bases of the four chimneys. It is the largest brick building in Europe.

In effect Battersea is two power stations and the familiar silhouette of four chimneys did not appear until 1953 and for the first 20 years the building had a long rather than four-square appearance, with a chimney at each end. But even this appearance caused positive comments, described as a temple of power and to rank as a London landmark equal with St. Paul's Cathedral. In 1939 a survey of celebrities voted it their 2nd favourite building when canvassed by the Architects Journal.

The construction of 'B' Station was begun a few months after World War 2 to bring Battersea to a total capacity of 509 megawatts and the 3rd. largest power station in the U.K.

This huge project, begun by the London Power company 30 years before, was to be completed by the British Electric Authority when the electricity supply was nationalised in 1948. Battersea "B" station began operating in 1953 and had the highest thermal efficiency of all power stations and provided one fifth of Londons total electricity supplies, ( 28 other stations generated the rest )

Throughout the whole of its life Battersea has been a symbol of the electricity industry to the media and the general public alike.

Aerial view c1975

 

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