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Battle Test House (543)

Built: 1951
Decommissioned: 1993

Whilst many of the buildings at Pyestock were designed and built for one function and remained unchanged during the site’s life, the Battle Test House was probably unique as it was repeatedly extended with additional facilities. Even its odd nomenclature was giving nothing away, adding to the building’s mystique.

The Battle Test House was constructed as the third and last of the buildings clustered around the Fairway Transformer Park. Its original function was the site’s boiler house. The two original boilers were taken from HMS Namur, a Battle class destroyer, which was surplus to Admiralty requirements at the time (and also gave the building its name).

The boilers were made by "J Samuel White" to a three drum 'A' configuration. Their odd shape could be just be discerned through the wall of glass which made up the south of the building and their huge mass made the interior of Battle cramped and claustrophobic.

The south facing windows of the Battle Test House as seen from the Power Station offices.
23|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

As Pyestock gradually expanded, the Battle Test House also grew in size. A few years after its construction, a third boiler was installed: a five drum marine boiler manufactured by Yarrow. (This explains the confusion between reports which state Battle has either two or three boilers).

Historically the superheated steam generated was used to drive the steam turbine in the Power Station and provide steam for heating the other buildings scattered around the site. The Plant House designers considered using steam turbines for their main plant, thanks to the boiler capacity in Battle, but decided against this solution due to the large quantity of water required for condensing purposes. However when the Air House was constructed, the steam supply from Battle was utilised: not to run the turbines, but simply to give the compressor/exhauster sets a kick-start.

The western side of Boiler #1 looking south.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

In 1953, the Compressor Test Facility was added to the northern side of the building. It comprised of two test beds either end of a 14,000 horsepower double ended steam turbine (manufactured by the Brush Electrical Engineering Company). This test chamber was so important, that the building became temporarily known as the 14000 HP Turbine Test House, but reverted back to its original name at a later date.

A further extension in 1956 added a Turbine Test Facility to the north west of the building. This single test bed was fitted with a 25,000 horsepower Heenan and Froude dynamometer to absorb the power from the turbine under test. Thus with its boiler house, and two testing cells, the Battle Test House eventually became one of the most diverse buildings on the site.

The south western control room features this lone control panel.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

By the 1990s, the Compressor Test Facility was the final user of the boiler’s steam. (The Power Station had switched to a diesel turbine or had closed, the heating of the rest of the site was changed to localised boiler systems, and the Air House compressor/exhauster sets were modified to start with electronic pulse equipment). The old naval boilers were now over fifty years old, and whilst a second-hand bargain in the 1950s, they became the building’s Achilles heel: a projected maintenance bill of one million pounds meant that the boiler house of Battle closed in 1993.

The boiler house today shows evidence of its many years of disuse with its rusty boilers and generations of incumbent pigeons, which is in direct contrast to the building’s offices which remained in use until Pyestock’s closure. Whilst most equipment is still in-situ, the Turbine Test Facility has been completely stripped, with most equipment ripped out of the test cell leaving a nasty mess of bent metal and sheered piping. But whilst Battle Test House doesn’t have the industrial splendour of many of the other buildings, its cramped and confined interiors gives it a unique feel within Pyestock.

Battle Test House Walkthrough...

The northern side of the Battle Test House Battle Test House's cooling tower. To the right is its water pumping house Approaching Battle Test House from the west Ground floor of Battle Test House moving east from the entrance door Looking south to the fuel oil storage tank #2 Western side of boiler #1. Note the view of the Power Station through the window Control panel for boiler #1. It's situated on the main corridor behind the boiler. Looking east Ancient telephone communicator on the main corridor. South east view towards the back of Boiler #2. Note the boiler #2 control panel in the background Western side of boiler #2 looking south Remains of the Turbine Test Facility in Battle. View south west
Remains of the Turbine Test Facility in Battle. View north east First floor catwalk above the boilers, looking west. The doors to the control room and the Compressor Test Facility are on the right of shot Elevated southern view of the western side of boiler #2 Southern view of one of the offices in the Battle Test House Control room, first floor of Battle Test House, southern view Upper floor of the control room, southern view View down to the first floor of the control room Western view of the Compressor Test Facility of Battle Test House Looking south across the testbed and back into the boiler room Sensors and controls along the northern wall of the Compressor Test Facility of Battle Test House
Looking south from the first floor gantry over the fuel oil storage tank #2 Southern elevated view of the west side of boiler #1 End of the gantry, view south west, looking towards Boiler #3 control room Boiler #3 control panel, southern view

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