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 148,446 pages of information and 233,880 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Stepney Electricity Works

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

Also known as Stepney Power Station, Limehouse Power Station, Limehouse Generating Station, Blyth's Wharf Generating Station.


The Whitechapel District Board of Works constructed an electricity generating station at Osborn Street. The first generator was rated at 120 kW [1], and other units were added later. It was provided with an octagonal chimney c.180ft high, erected by Wilson Bros of Kensal Green in 1900–2. The capacity was progressively increased. By 1903 it was clear that additional capacity would be needed in the area, and in 1908–9 a larger station was built at Blyth’s Wharf, Limehouse, which was convenient for cooling water supplies (for the condensers) and for coal shipping. By 1909 it was anticipated that Osborn Street should become a a substation to Blyth’s Wharf. The Osborn Street turbines were removed and replaced by transformers, and the chimney was dismantled in the 1920s. [2]

Osborn Street Power Station

In 1909 'The Engineer' described the Osborn Street plant.[3]. All the reciprocating engines were of the Willans type, and five of the six engines drove Mather and Platt dynamos. There was one balancing set of 120 kW, four main generating sets of 275 kW each, and one of 500 kW. The dynamo of the latter set was by Dick, Kerr and Co, and it took up the last available space in the engine room. The building was then extended, and two 1000 kW C. A. Parsons turbine-generators were added, thus giving the station a total generating capacity of 3720 kW.

All coal had to be delivered in carts, and since the only cooling water had to be obtained from the mains, condensing on a commercial basis became impracticable. This was tolerable when running only reciprocating engines, but not with the turbines.

There were six 11,000 lb/hr Babcock and Wilcox boilers of the land type, and also a marine type boiler by the same makers, with a capacity of 22,000 lb. per hour. The steam pressure was 200 psi. The marine boiler and two of the land type were fitted with underfeed stokers, whilst the remainder of the boilers were hand-fired. Forced draught was supplied to the mechanically-fired boilers by means of a fan supplied by Musgrave and Co. The large marine boiler was fitted with a superheater, the steam being mixed with the saturated steam. Eventually the marine boiler would be transferred to the new station at Blyth's Wharf. Two Green's economisers were provided in the main flue at the base of the chimney. There were two componnd Weir feed pumps. In addition to the economisers there were also two exhaust steam feed-water heaters, supplied by Royles of Irlam, Manchester.

The Osborn-street station had a refuse destructor, not under the control of the electricity department. Steam was supplied from this destructor to the electricity department. One 275 kW set was always running on the separate destructor main. The water was treated at this station by means of a Reisert water softener, which was supplied by Royles.

Blyth's Wharf Power Station

Stepney Borough Council began construction of the station at Blyth's Wharf in 1908.

In 1909 there were two generators, a 1000 kW Willans and Robinson turbine/Bruce Peebles and Co alternator, and a C. A. Parsons set.

In 1912 it was decided to expand the station and increase the capacity, although work was delayed by the war. Two 5 MW turbine-generators were installed, having Escher, Wyss and Co turbines, condensers and condenser pumps and Brown, Boveri and Co alternators with salient poles. Work was delayed by the war. A 1000 kW Bruce Peebles and Co rotary converter was installed between the new turbines. The turbine hall was served by a Stothert and Pitt 50-ton overhead crane.[4]

A coaling jetty was built in 1923. In 1923 the plant comprised one 1,500 kW, one 2,000 kW, two 5,000 kW, and one 10,000 kW turbo alternators, totalling 23,500 kW.

Following pollution problems from the original chimneys, a single tall brick chimney was constructed in 1937. In 1956 the equipment comprised: 1 × 34 MW Fraser and Chalmers-GEC; 1 × 19 MW Escher, Wyss and Co-Oerlikon; 1 × 6.25 MW Escher, Wyss and Co-Brown, Boveri and Co; and 2 × 12.5 MW Metropolitan-Vickers turbine-alternators. During its final decade of operation the station used a single 34 MW generator. This was supplied with steam at a range of pressures and temperatures: 180/350 psi (12.4/24.1 bar) at 299/399/460°C. The steam capacity of the boilers was 753,000 lb/hr (94.9 kg/s). The boilers comprised 3 × Stirling; 3 × Spearling; and 2 × Babcock & Wilcox.[5]

1965 photo of station here.

The station was decommissioned in 1972.

Location of Power Station at Blyth's Wharf

The main building was bounded on the west by Shoulder of Mutton Alley, by Northey Street on the north, Brightlingsea Place on the East, and Narrow Street to the south. Coal conveyors crossed Narrow Street to a small area of land containing coal hoppers, and thence to a jetty with travelling cranes and hoppers. More conveyors on the north side crossed Northey Street to a patch of land on the bank of the Limehouse Cut, north of which was Regent's Canal Dock (Limehouse Basin). Immediately to the west were the Limehouse Paperboard Mills. Map here.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. East London Observer, 7 May 1927
  2. [1] Former Whitechapel electricity-generating station, Contributed by Survey of London on Oct. 4, 2019
  3. [2] The Engineer, 29 October 1909, p.448
  4. [3] The Engineer, 22 October 1915, p.385
  5. [4] Wikipedia