Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,382 pages of information and 233,851 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bankside Power Station

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Bankside 'A'

1891 The City of London Electric Lighting Co Ltd started operating its power station at Bankside in the borough of Southwark to supply The City of London. The power station was in two shed-like structures which housed the eighteen boilers, each with its own chimney, and a third building to the west housed the generators and electrical switchgear. To the east there was an associated coal storage site.

For lighting purposes the City was divided into two districts, one half of the station supplying one district and the other half feeding the remainder. The generating plant on the north side of the station consisted of ten Thomson-Houston generators, driven by Willans and Robinson's engines. The generators on the southern section consisted of Brush (Mordey) alternators, driven by Brush vertical engines, and two Ferranti fly-wheel alternator sets. The steam-generating plant consisted mostly of Babcock and Wilcox boilers of the "double deck" type.

The power station was extended and its equipment renewed on several occasions, the last major upgrade being in 1921-28 when the station was brought up to a maximum output of 85 MW.

The power station contributed significantly to local air pollution. Southwark Borough Council received many complaints about smoke and grit from the station but the company was reluctant to fit the necessary equipment, not least probably because of the number of chimneys to be equipped.

Bankside 'B'

In 1944 the Central Electricity Board directed the City of London Electric Lighting Company to extend and rebuild their generating station at Bankside. The company developed plans for a replacement coal-fired power station on the site and submitted these to the planning authority, the London County Council (LCC), in February 1945.

1947 The government approved a new Bankside power station on the understanding that oil fuel would be used rather than coal (which was in short supply at that time) and that the building would be set back from the river to avoid interference with plans for redeveloping the river front.

1947 The new power station was developed in two stages so as not to interfere with supplies. The western half and the chimney were built in 1947-53 on the site of the now demolished Bankside gas works.

Construction work was undertaken in two phases: 1947-52 and 1958-63. This allowed the old Bankside A to continue in operation while the new power station was built. The western half of the building, plus the chimney, was completed first and started generating power in 1952 from four boilers and two 60 MW turbo-alternators. Bankside A was decommissioned in March 1959 and construction started on the eastern portion. This was completed December 1963 and generated electricity from one further boiler, and one 120 MW and one 60 MW turbo-alternator. The maximum total generating capacity of Bankside B was 300 MW.

There were two 60 MW turbine-alternators by BTH (commissioned 1952-3) and one by AEI (1962), and one 120 MW English Electric Co TA (1963).

Bankside followed the example of Battersea Power Station and Fulham Power Station in having flue gas washing.

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