Lots Road Power Station: a look inside – 1977

A new tower is rising close to the remaining chimneys of Lots Road Power Station with a sign on it saying Chelsea Waterfront. The station building itself is more or less intact but empty inside. It stopped being used to provide electricity for the tube network in 1985 but was kept as a back up until finally closed in 2002. Since then various schemes have been proposed for its future use.

The pictures in this week’s post which come from a collection recently acquired by the library take us back to what it looked when it was still a working power station.

Chelsea residents and visitors are used to the view from Lots Road .



In the late 1970s steam still rose from the chimneys as in this view from the southern bank of the river.



I’ve written a couple of posts about the station before, concerned with the matter of its chimneys, and its days as an industrial icon. Those posts were quite popular so I’m quite confident about today’s views. Regular readers will know that I like industrial pictures. After a string quartet of Edwardian/Victorian  ladies in postcard and book illustrations so many times it’s a refreshing change to savour some (literally) heavy metal, whether at the gas works or the water works although the appropriate music for this era and setting is of course Kraftwerk.

There is something awesome about large complex pieces of machinery, especially when they are used to generate power.


The photographer had the chance to roam high and low in the enormous space, above massive pipes and turbines.



All controlled by huge, complex but somehow retro control panel.



Gantries and platforms.



Light streaming in from the huge windows at the end of the hall. Even though it’s a cliché, I can’t leave out the words cathedral of power.

The designers came from an age when industrial shock and awe was something a building could aspire to have.



And this white coated man in the control room could be described as an acolyte, if we’re in that sort of mood.



This picture shows the sheer size of the space and the lighting needed to illuminate the rows of generators.



This view looking down shows the tangled layers of plant and machinery with manual controls visible on one of the platforms.


Below a favourite kind of view for me, the network of stanchions – compare it with something similar at the much smaller Alpha Place  generating station.


Below, part of a wall-mounted diagram explaining the whole thing for engineers and other interested parties



This picture taken near the roof of the station shows the interior section of one of the chimneys



Back again to ground level it’s 10.45.  AM or PM? I can’t say.



Lastly, one of the controllers takes a break, relaxing at the heart of this giant piece of machinery, some kind of hum, loud or small, around him, but probably not the sounds of electronic music. You can imagine that



See more on the area around the station in this post. Watch out in the future for a few pictures of the construction of Chelsea Harbour


8 responses to “Lots Road Power Station: a look inside – 1977

  • Michael Gall

    Another excellent post Mr Walker. Change is all around us and loss continues and as we all know ( thank you MS), loss takes many forms. Thank ewe again Dave for your poetic posts.

  • mikegreens

    Hi Dave.

    My father worked at Bankside Power Station just prior to it being decommissioned, all alone in a control room very much like the one pictured in the last ‘photo of the blog. It was him and a couple of security guards at the entrance in that cavernous place. Everything was automated, mostly. He checked and noted activity on the dials, reporting any anomalies.

    He said the lifts used to mysteriously spring into life in the depths of the night shift, and this made my hackles rise as a young lad! Probably only said it to wind me up.


  • Andy Patrick

    My Dad was a shift supervisor at Lots Rd. He worked there from the late forties when he left the navy until he retired in 1985. My mum’s dad also worked there and was there during the general strike. As a kid in the sixties I remember going round the old boiler rooms with their abandoned heaps of coal and going up onto the roof to look out on the Thames. There was a large model of the power station kept in a room up near the roof, I wonder what became of it. I can remember my dad telling me they were going to demolish one of the chimneys and about the drowned bodies that came up on the screens every now and then.

  • Tristn Lewis

    I remember John Patrick. My Father was the Operations manager (Don Lewis)

  • David Hogan

    Just for the record Lots Road continued to supply The London Underground System until October 2002. I was the last Control Engineer to shut down the last Turbine. Last operational day being 1st November 2002. Then six months of decommissioning took place, at the end it was handled over to developers. 15 years on the site is still a mess !

    David Hogan

  • Terry Bridson

    Yes i worked as the last crane driver, and i met so many friends.it was a sad day when the power station closed down and we had to say “goodbye”.i worked there for 19 years. my father-in-law (Bob Lane) also worked there as a fitter/turner for 26 years. I returned back for six months to do the decommissioning.

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