Exploring Battersea Power Station, UK

Author Happyshopper - Last updated: 28.02.2012

Since I first started all this UE malarkey just over a year ago, this has been my Holy Grail site. Some of you will laugh at that, but it’s true. So much so that I got into bed afterwards around 7:30am and had to get up again at 10:30am having not slept a second – I was still buzzing that much.

Visited with Keïteï, OliverGT, 2wid and Gh0sT. The Subversive had to bail, something about university courses, employment prospects, sleep, that kind of thing…

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B Power Station was the first in a series of large coal-fired electrical generating facilities set up to solve the problems of Britain’s inefficient and fragmented electricity supply in the 1930s.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the man behind the trademark red telephone box, played a key role in the design of B Power Station – it was cutting-edge, but controversial. Londoners protested that the building would be an eyesore. Parliament debated the effects its pollution may have on public health, buildings, parks – and even works of art in the nearby Tate Gallery.

Station ‘A’ with two chimneys came on stream in 1933 with a second phase completed in 1957. The power station then generated 509MW providing a fifth of London’s power demand.

As expected, and despite attempts to minimise this, pollution was unavoidable. During its early years, the power station burned up to 4,000 tonnes of coal every week, belching vast amounts of CO2 and sulphur into the atmosphere. The heat generated as a by-product of power production was piped under the river to provide heat for the 11,000 residents of Churchill Gardens in Pimlico.

Before World War II, pioneering new devices were fitted to the chimneys to ‘wash’ sulphur out of the emissions in an effort to reduce airborne pollution. Unfortunately, the toxic effluent produced by this process was discharged into the Thames contaminating the water and destroying wildlife.

Due to continuing concerns over pollution and a shift in national policy in power generation, Station A was closed in 1975, followed by Station B eight years later.

Following on from some early evening warm-up derps, we made our way to the waterfront for some rather more epic shenanigans.

After a bit of squeezing and climbing, struggling in the dark and then blinded by the floodlights, a bit more squeezing, some running, climbing, more climbing, sketchy sketchy ladders and a pigeon, we finally found ourselves in the most impressive, most pristine control room I’ve ever seen.

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It’s almost impossible to photograph though! With the room lit from windows looking out into the Turbine hall, which secca routinely tour, we couldn’t risk light painting. There are, therefore, 6 minutes exposures at f2.8, ISO 200, and they still needed brightening in post!

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The walls were solid marble panels and under the floor covering was the original wooden herringbone floor. The details were stunning and I really need to try this again in daylight. Not to mention the B side which we didn’t manage this time around!

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Once we decided enough was enough was enough – taking pity on one of the guys who had been pacing the room waiting for us for at least half an hour – we aimed for the roof.

Climbing ladders, pigeon shit, returning for ladders, more pigeon shit, roof!

Well it was probably worth it in the end. Probably.

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Christ was it windy though! I was holding my camera strap to make sure it didn’t make a leap for it off the scaff, and several images were unusable because the scaff was swaying too much. Excellent.

We finally came down from the chimneys and took a quick group shot before making our weary way back down through the site to ground level again.

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Getting out we took a collective sigh of relief at getting through undetected and made our own way home.

What a night.

3 comments

#1ikumiFebruary 29, 2012, 1:19 am

anyways, very nice photo!

#2RomanyWGFebruary 29, 2012, 9:47 am

Yeah great pics. Somewhere I’ve always wanted to explore.

#3Mark BlundellFebruary 29, 2012, 11:42 pm

Full of Awesome!

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