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Powering the City

Why were power stations and gasworks built in East London?
Producing gas
East Greenwich Gasworks
Beckton Gasworks
Electricity generation
Greenwich Power Station
Deptford Power Station
Gasworks and power station workers
Pollution
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Deptford Power Station

New age of power generation

Aerial view of Deptford power station.
View full size imageAerial view of Deptford power station in 1925. © NMM
Further along the river from Greenwich, another power station was built at Deptford in 1889 by Sebastian de Ferranti. He was the chief engineer at the London Electric Supply Corporation.

It was the world's first modern high pressure power station. It introduced a new age in the scale and capacity of electricity generation.

Giant generator

Early sketch of Deptford Power Station
View full size imageDeptford power station in 1890. © NMM
The station was located on a 1.2-hectare (3-acre) site at the Stowage. It housed four 10,000- horsepower engines and four 500-ton alternators.

Originally, the building had two large chimneys, but these were later replaced by a single one. This sketch of the station was made in 1890. It shows the original chimneys and it also gives an indication of the pollution created by the station.

Ferranti Generator and Musgrove engines.
View full size imageFerranti generator and Musgrove engines at Deptford. © NMM
The electricity generated at Deptford was sent 11 km (7 miles) into the city by 10,000-volt cables. To produce this amount of power the station was burning more than 16,000 tons of coal a year by the mid-1890s. This photograph shows the generating equipment inside the station.

Commercial failure

Although the station pioneered lots of important new ideas, the scheme was a commercial failure. This was because the number of consumers earmarked for the company by the Board of

Coaling plant and workshops.
View full size imageCoaling plant and workshops at Deptford power station. © NMM
Trade was far smaller than the company had expected. This meant that the proposed electricity generating capacity was much too large.

At the same time, the designer's vision was too far in advance of its time, which led to problems with the generating and distribution equipment. This photograph is of the coaling plant and workshops at Deptford.

The London Power Company

North chimney.
View full size imageBuilding work at the new Deptford plant, c. 1926. © NMM
In 1925 10 electric supply companies, including the London Electric Supply Corporation, merged to become the London Power Company. They immediately planned a new station at Deptford, on the dry docks, near Ferranti's building.

Leonard Pearce designed the new Deptford station and building began in 1926. This photograph shows the north chimney during construction.

Coal store.
View full size imageThe coal store at Deptford. © NMM

During the building of the new plant, which was known as Deptford West, five men were killed when a shaft ring fractured. The men were caught between tons of falling debris on one side and the river gushing into the tunnel on the other.

Despite this, the work was soon completed and, although there was a friendly rivalry between the two plants, they were actually both part of the same complex. This photograph is of the shared coal store for both Deptford East and West.

Nationalisation

Greenwich at Low Tide
View full size imageGreenwich at low tide, showing Deptford power station in 1963. © NMM

In 1948 nationalisation of the industry created the British Electricity Authority. They completed Ferranti's original work by creating a high-pressure extension to Pearce's design. This was the final extension to be built at Deptford, making it the second largest station in Britain.

Demolition of Deptford Power Station
View full size imageThe demolition of Deptford power station in 1992.  © NMM

After 1957 the Ferranti building was taken out of use. It remained empty until it was demolished in the late 1960s.

The remaining buildings finally closed in October 1983 after problems with asbestos. It was also destroyed in 1992.

The site now forms part of the Millennium Quay development, consisting of 660 appartments. This picture shows the demolition of one of the chimneys at Deptford Station.

 

 


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Glossary
Asbestos
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