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Power Station (305)

Built: 1951
Decommissioned: 1993?

As the scientists and engineers started desiging the new Pyestock, the site's appetite for electrical power was obviously foremost in their minds. A 45MW feed (at 33kV) was available from the Weybourne Lane substation, but there were concerns about the stability of this load during peak hours. Therefore, one of the first buildings designed and built was the Power Station. It would provide electricity for the establishment to bolster the existing supply and, as the generating equipment was itself a turbine, allow further experimentation and investigation. The Power Station was effectively another of Pyestock's gas turbine testing cells.

It was sheer testament to the scale of Pyestock and the size of the other buildings, that its Power Station was not a dramatic, obvious structure. A visitor driving up the tree lined The Fairway could have missed this foreboding blockhouse as it was screened by mature trees (a thoughtful leftover from the Bramshot Golf Course). As the trees gave way to the Fairway Transformer Park, the visitor would have observed three huge buildings forming its perimeter: the Power Station, Admiralty Test House and the Battle Test House. The Power Station was not a small structure, but given the huge size of its neighbours, it was perfectly in keeping and wasn’t conspicuous.

The stepped northern appearance of the Power Station as seen from the front of the Battle Test House.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

However, it had a more noticeable architectural flair than its rectangular, blocky neighbours. The front of the building resembled a sequence of steps: the lowly drawing office jumping up to the glass-fronted offices, again leaping to the full height of the turbine hall and the loading bay with its glass skylight (an architectural feature matched by the later Cell 4). Whilst the main part of the building was of brick steel frame construction, a brick built annex on its west side gave the symmetrical building an odd appendage, the two linked by a glass-enclosed walkway.

Internally, the building was dominated by its turbine hall. A crane on runners allowed equipment to be installed and removed with ease, the large components being dropped off in the loading bay, with large doors situated to the west. The north of the building was fronted by two stories of offices, whilst the brick annex housed cable connections and switchgear on its lower floor, with a battery room, more switchgear and various transformers above.

The turbine hall, looking north, from the crane gantry. The Parsons generator can just be seen in the bottom of the frame, occupying the position of the HP generator. The space further along the turbine hall was for the LP generator.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Despite its 1950s utilitarian nature, some modernistic architectural flair could be found within the building. The upper level office corridor featured distinctive circular skylights, leading the way down to a mezzanine floor. This lead to the glass enclosed walkway between the Power Station main building and its annex and in turn lead into the control room. Unlike many of the control rooms at Pyestock, it was never altered and retained all its original 1950s features: a Ken Adam's style segmented and curved skylight, bisected octagonal green control panels, single wooden desk, complete with herringbone parquet hardwood floor. Walking from the futuristic corridor down into the impressive control room was like entering a Bondian liar. With the offices now stripped and empty, the drawers in this lone desk yielded delights, such as the original schematics, neatly folded and sensibility filed away.

The power station control room looking south west.
23|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

Whilst some of the building retained its original features, others were long gone. The original plant, a 10MW Gas Turbine Generator set by Parsons, was probably the site's first guinea pig gas turbine (and generating electricity as a fortuitous byproduct). Removed after several years service, the Parsons was replaced by a 12.75MW Steam Turbine Alternator from Bellis & Morcombe, powered by steam from the Battle Test House. Whilst the heavy plant often changed, other equipment in the turbine hall remained in-situ including the AEI control panel (dating from 1960-1967) and the amazing Ordasign control illuminated panel which resembled a ship’s telemotor.

The first floor of the turbine hall looking south. The back of the Parsons generator can be clearly seen, along with the crane gantry positioned over the loading bay beyond. To the left is the classic 'telemotor' style illuminated control panel.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

As Pyestock grew, the contribution provided by the Power Station became less significant, but was still utilized. A 132MW supply was taken from the Pondtail, Fleet substation, primarily to supply additional power for the Air House and Cell 3, but the Power Station was still connected to the ring main, as evidented by dials and warning lights in the Air House control room. But it was only a fractional top-up, and in the early 1970s, Pyestock had to negotiate with the CEGB when Cell 4 was powered up.

If reliant on steam, the Power Station would've been mothballed when the Battle Test House closed in 1993, the latter's steam boilers no longer economic to repair. Despite the omnipotent pigeons who took over the turbine hall, and ignored the incessant rattling of the loose steel roof, the Power Station is little unchanged since its construction, and provided a tiny glimpse of how Pyestock looked in the early 1950s.

Power Station Walkthrough...

Power Station exterior looking north east The southern facing wall of the Power Station The eastern flank of the Power Station The Power Station from the Plant House The south west corner of the Power Station Walking north into the gap between the Power Station and its annex Northern view of the distribution and wiring in the ground floor of the annex Looking south on an elevated walkway by the annex Siemens switchgear in the southern upper level of the annex The battery room looking south east
Detail of the battery room Looking south down the corridor with switchgear on the left Northern approach to the back of the control room Entering the control panel access corridor. This is the northern section Control panel access corridor looking south. The main control room is behind the panels to the left Entering the control room from the northern access door The control room looking northwest The control room. A low level view looking northwest Low level south view of the control room including the skylight North eastern view across the control room looking towards the bridge
Western view looking into the control room from across the bridge The office corridor looking east with the control room behind Looking northwest in an office of the Power Station Turbine hall looking north from the elevated position of the crane gantry Elevated view of the Parsons generator Closer view of the generator auto-start control panel End view of the Parsons generator and its AEI control panel Control panel and indicator for the other generator Closer view of Clifford & Snell's Low level northern view of the turbine hall
Standing in the loading bay looking north east. Note ganty crane where previous elevated shots were taken The ground floor of the turbine hall moving north Ground floor of the turbine hall looking north Southern view of the ground floor of the turbine hall

Further Reading