The case of the missing chimneys: Lots Road Power Station

Lots Road Power Station is the overlooked older brother of the flashier and more famous Battersea Power Station. It never starred on an album cover. Unlike their cousin Bankside it hasn’t been turned into an art gallery. But when it was built it was the biggest in the world. For years it provided the power for the tube network. It survived the blitz despite being right on the Luftwaffe’s flight path. And unlike its cousins it sat on a little street by the river among the terraced streets at the industrial fringe of Chelsea.

It started generating electricity in 1905. The four brick chimneys belched out smoke for a good part of the twentieth century though not in this picture, which shows some proud men from the building company perched at the top:

They’re probably not the actual bricklayers.  Not being too good with heights myself my thoughts are of the photographer who must have had to ascend one of the other chimneys to get the picture.

Here’s the station in an aerial view of 1921.

You can also see the railway yard in front of the station where many years later the sumptuous dwellings of Chelsea Harbour were built. Look again at a wider view in 1936.

You can see Chelsea football ground on the right. You can also see the station in the centre of an industrial zone. Gasometers to the north, warehouse and factories on the south side of the river.

Which is fascinating of course. But I know what you’re wondering. What about those chimneys? Well take a last look at them in 1950 across the mud of Chelsea Reach:

In the background you can see Fulham Power Station with its row of four chimneys in line.

Now we move on to 1968:

Just three chimneys now, giving the building an unsymmetrical look. The station had converted from coal-fired to oil-fired generators. But it didn’t end there.

By 1979 a second chimney has gone. The station goes on providing power but the railway lands look quiet. It looks as though activity on the site had reduced to a much lower level. Look back at the 1921 picture. See how far the creek extended then, the barges and the lines of railway trucks. By contrast in the 1979 picture you can see how ready it was for subsequent development.

Lots Road power station stopped generating in 2002. There have been attempts at redevelopment and regeneration. The roof has been removed, a tradition in these cases but whatever unlikely plans exist are as far as I know currently suspended.

Some of these power stations are curiously resilient so who knows what the future may bring for Lots Road? It’s best to remember it at the height of its power, pouring out smoke into the cold air at dusk.

I hope you liked the aerial photos. We have a good many of those in the collection and you might be seeing more of them in the future.


20 responses to “The case of the missing chimneys: Lots Road Power Station

  • Michael Gall

    David David are you a mind reader …another really fabulous post and yes I would love to delve into that aerial archive some time.

  • Chris Pain

    Fascinating aerial photos Dave!
    Also the case of the disappearing harbour! In the pre-war photos there seems to be a basin of water with a number of barges in it by the railway line, more or less where the marina at Chelsea Harbour is now. In the post-war pictures it appears to have been filled in, though it’s not really clear how and with what.

  • Richard K

    Living almost directly opposite the power station, this was a great post to read through (and very sad to hear that the proposed development is suspended…).

    Most of the creek is still there by the way, albeit covered by a culvert to the upstream now I believe:

    http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=skcp94gzjbs0&lvl=18.24&dir=275.38&sty=b&form=LMLTCC

  • Adebanji Alade

    My studio is almost opposite this place, 92 Lots Road-It’s just great to read stories like this! Thanks for the post!

  • Brian Milner

    At least the station went down fighting – there was a 5 and 10 year plan, depending on when the “bulk loading” was going to happen. This is what LUL called the closing of the power station and its then ultimate dependancy on grid – now every thing stops in the event of a power outage! They opted for the 5 year plan, which as far as I was concerned, work-wise, was the replacement of the voltage regulators – one unit that could be routed to any of the 6 sets, whereas the 10 year plan would have involved replacing all six.

    • bill.newman

      hiya my names bill newman i love the greek. ive bean fishing over sum years my p/b..36ib grass carp ive seen big fish over the years such a great spot .

      you can email me any time [bilko61@hotmal.co.uk

  • Martin Lemon

    I have a painting of Lots Road power station bought from an antiques shop in Bath in 2006. How can I send this? It is signed “C.J.” but I have no idea who this could be. Given all four chimneys are intact, the picture probably dates from the fifties. As a boy I lived in Ashburnham Road which led from Kings Road up to the power station. I went to school in Battersea, walking twice a day over Battersea Bridge from where the artist of this picture is standing.
    Hope to hear from you. Martin Lemon

  • Malimari1504

    What a wonderful collection of photos throughout the ages. I have lived in Chelsea all my life and it so precious to see these images. Especially as I work near the Harbour. I have studied the Cremone estate and the gates, Cheyne where the boats are. It’s a shame,the streets went and worlds end estate replaced it. It looks magnificent, I imagine it must be like the pocket on Cremone and lots areas.
    Thanks you and I would love to support and help where I can.

  • Martin Lemon

    I have a digital image of the painting of Lots Road Power Station I sent a year ago to Dave Walker. If you want to let me have your email address I can send it to you. No idea who painted it but it’s a nice picture painted I should think from the middle of Battersea Bridge. I also have a poster from London Transport Museum of one of the photos taken in 1910.

    Martin Lemon

  • Chimney Removal Ruislip

    This place looks amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  • Future visions, grand and small | things magazine

    […] a short film by Katerina Athanaspoulou / The case of the missing chimneys: Lots Road Power Station at The Library Time Machine, an excellent local studies weblog. The power station is soon to become […]

  • Lucy Jennings

    Fascinating article, what interesting photos! I was hoping if someone could help me, I am a student doing a dissertation on the power station down Lots Road and its impact on the area during its life and after, along with the redevelopment plans and its future. I was hoping to get a few questions answered, on living in the area while it was ‘powering’ and during its decaying years. If there are any locals that anyone knows who would be willing to answer just a few questions via e-mail, I would be so grateful!
    Lucy

    lucy@jennings.ky

    • Martin Lemon

      Dear Lucy

      Thank you for the enquiry. I was brought up at 7,Ashburnham Road just a hundred metres or so from the Lots Road Power Station. With my parents and brother and sister we lived there from the late forties to the late fifties.
      very happy to answer your questions about life in the World’s End /Lots Road area at the time.

      Martin Lemon
      martinlemon@hotmail.com

  • Four Chimneys Good, Two Chimneys… (Lots Road Power Station, London, UK) | The Beauty of Transport

    […] Two entries about Lots Road Power Station from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Libraries’ local studies blog, with lots of historical detail and photographs, here and here […]

  • Chris James

    People are interested in the power station and what it was like when it was working, i used to walk past it every day and i thought it was boring.

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