Woolwich Power Station.

 A brief history   ( last updated 6th Dec' 2003 )


 Chris Mansfield

   The Woolwich Power station began its life in 1891 as the "Woolwich district electric lighting company".  In 1901, the Woolwich borough council bought the company for £80,000 .                                                

That same year, the first electric street lights were introduced to the town and also the first household, at 262 burrage road, had its power switched on.

In the early days, this new fangled kind of power was slow to catch on, partly because of the uncertainty of its likely cost. Even ten years later there were less than 1000 households in the town equipped with electricity. Although things did pick up quite quickly after this.

  Woolwich Power station stood on a Thames-side site of just over seven and a half acres.  The main part of the Power Station and the first two of its three huge chimneys was built from the early 20s to late thirties and the others followed soon after the war.

During early excavations of the turbine house, the remains of a burnt out ship was discovered, at the time there was speculation that this may be the remains of a famous old warship called the "Henri grace a dieu"   ( the great harry ) but a positive identification could never be made, although the remains were consistent with a ship of that period and size.


A report can be found in the “Kentish Independent” of December 1920,  about a fatal accident related to the Power Station.  On the morning of 29th November a young man had just boarded a bus in North Woolwich when he was killed instantly by a large piece of metal from a Turbine which had exploded after a speed governing device had failed.

Continuously rising demand was met by progressive improvements in the capacity of the station.. Over the years the station was gradually enlarged and reached its peak of activity in the late 1950s.

  The coal used by the station was usually shipped from the Yorkshire and Northumberland areas and offloaded by crane onto a deep trough conveyor. At its peak, the station was burning over 1000 tons of coal a day.

The site of the main power station building is now occupied by the Waterfront leisure centre car park.


                                     Control room year 2000                                              Control Room 1975



These 3 photos show a Fraser & Chalmers/GEC 12,500 kilowatt turbo alternator being installed, the pictures were taken in October 1927, This part was known as the low pressure section.  Around this time the Central Electricity board was formed and Woolwich became a "Selected" station.

The picture on the right below shows the scaffolding work that surrounded the first chimney which was demolished by hand .



The Power station ceased producing electricity during the mid 1970s and the first of its three 250ft chimneys was dismantled by hand in 1978. 

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I took this picture from the office block across the road during the demolition by hand of the first of the three chimneys ( click the thumbnail for larger image ).

 The other two were demolished by explosives on the 29th July 1979.  The rest of the Power station followed shortly after, leaving only the control rooms (shown above).

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These five thumbnail pics show the last stages of demolition of the power station during July and August 2000.  Demolition was by a company called "Erith"