From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Willington Power Station

Power Station
52° 51' 21.6" N 1° 32' 26.6" W

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Willington Power Station is near a village in Derbyshire, in the East Midlands of England situated close to the River Trent.

Built in the 1950s, the coal-fired power stations were built on a site off Twyford Road, between Willington and Findern. The Power Station was, in fact, two almost entirely independent generating stations situated on the same site. With separate management and staff, the few facilities they shared amounted to the coal and water supply. The two stations were designated Willington “A” and Willington “B”. The Trent valley, with its obvious water supply and proximity to the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coal fields, was an ideal choice. An extensive, although already clogged, railway system was also on hand to move the coal from pit head to power station.

1954 saw the bulldozers move onto a 286 acre area of pasture land and boggy, unused scrub between the B5009 and the Derby – Birmingham railway. Marples, Ridgeway and Partners Ltd, were the company responsible for site clearance, foundations and the railway works, had a long job ahead of them preparing the site, especially the boggy land which was to form the railway marshalling yard. Thousands of tons of sand were tipped to build up the ground away from the water table. The consulting engineers Ewbank and Partners were responsible for the design, engineering, construction and commissioning of the “A” station with a legion of sub-contractors being tasked with the multitude of disciplines required in building such a station.

The “A” Station comprised four generating Units, each of 100 megawatt capacity. To service these, a pair of 425 foot chimneys apparently amounting to 5,000 tones in weight, were provided, along with just two cooling towers. The design of the “A” Station was of four “semi-outdoor” boiler units, only the burners and steam drum of which were enclosed, arranged in a square formation. By restricting the cladding around the boiler areas to a minimum significant cost saving were achieved. The design, however, was not popular with the staff who had to brave the elements all year round. Even as the “A” Station was still taking shape in early 1957, the Central Electricity Authority were exercising their statutory powers by applying to the Minister of Power to extend the Willington Generating Station with a second section to be known as “Willington ‘B’”.

The “B” station was to comprise of only two Units, of 200MW capacity, equaling the output of the “A” Station with half the hardware. Only one 425’ chimney was required for the “B” Station but three cooling towers were provided. The three structures provided for the “B” station were set at right-angles to the north of the pair for the “A” Station. The towers are 300' high and 218’ at the base. Each tower had an effective cooling surface of about 858,000 square feet. The first Unit of the “A” Station was commissioned on 17th December 1957 with Unit 4 bringing the station up to full operational capacity on 10th July 1959. An official opening ceremony was performed on 2nd October 1959 by the 11th Duke of Devonshire.

Once Units 5 and 6 in the “B” Station came on line a few years later, the whole site was providing electricity to the adjacent National Grid sub station. The water for the cooling towers being sucked out of the Trent to cool the steam prior to its return to the river meant that the Trent in the area had a somewhat higher temperature than it would naturally, making for excellent fishing.

The stations were privatised and sold off to National Power in the early 1990s and eventually closed in the mid 1990s. Although most of the stations were demolished at the turn of the millennium, the five imposing cooling towers continue to dominate the skyline of the local area. The site is earmarked for a large residential development, pending the results of a public inquiry. The construction plans have been met with local opposition, perhaps due to the site's proximity to the River Trent's flood plain.

In the mid 1990s, a pair of peregrine falcons nested in one of the site's huge cooling towers. Unlike many bird of prey breeding sites, this was widely publicised because of its impregnable location.