Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Didcot Power Station

They began building Didcot Power Station in 1964, I remember seeing the pylons being constructed either side of the Road as I went to school on the bus to Reading. In the distance from our village you could see the building being constructed. The one thing people from the area will remember is the fact you could see the stack for miles around, a sure sign that you were not far from home if you were travelling from your holiday  
The photo above from 1966 looks like it is taken of the place where the South Towers are going and built on where the old POW camp was from the Second World War

This photo was sourced of the internet and shows the cooling towers being built.
They could be the North towers

The towers in 1968 with the stack over on the right, one of the things I remember as a kid seeing built.
 A year later the Turbine Hall was well on the way to being built
A year Later it looked like this
 The turbine hall in 2013 just before it closed. This is how I remember seeing it around 1972 when I went on an open day to look around. One thing I remember is going past the Milling Machines that ground up the coal to dust so it could be injected in the boiler. We were told the sprinkler system that was they to extinguish fires would drown you if you were unfortunate to got caught in it. 
Photo taken by Martyn James Bull
When I left school the option for an apprenticeship at Didcot Power station   was not on the cards but when I finished it was one of the places I could have gone to work, in fact years later I did go for a job there but noting came of it, too many people after the same job.
Over the years I took many photos of the power station though none from the time it was being build during the 20th  century.
You passed by it on the way to Bristol and it looked powerful with all the steam coming off the cooling towers.

The power station from Upton in December 2008 during the winter

On the way down Hagbourn Hill by the junction with Upton road you could not help see the it in the distance across the plain.

 The power lines as you passed them on the way from Appleford to Sutton Cortenay November 2011

A different view from opposite on Haddon Hill in October 2010  
Nearby on Great Western Park the the cooling towers and stack look enormous in November 2011

You got a good view from a local landmark Wittenham Clumps in 2013. when this photo was taken it had been closed for three months

A year later the first three cooling towers were due to be demolished, this would be the last photo of them from Hagbourn Hill

I went around to the power station to get one last look at the huge towers, the next tome I came here they would be gone

A week or so before the even I went to the top of Cholsey Hill to get a photo of the power station with the sun going down.
It would be one of the last sunsets it would see

A few days before the demolition I took a last photo of the towers in the sunset

Two days later the cooling towers were coming down, the time we were told was about 3am.my sons and I arrives around two where I took this photo. The police had told people to stay away but but I do not think that the hundreds of People who had come along to watch where I was along the London Road outside Harwell were concerned at what they said nor the people on the hillside behind

3am came and still no news even though people with phone were constantly updated everyone else

The just before 4 am  we noticed one of the towers move, the glow you see is the explosion. The other two towers quickly followed the first

in the space of less than a minute they were all collapsing 
 and by the end of the minute all three were just dust rising in the air.
 A few hours later I went back to the same place and took this shot of the stack & boiler house

I even went down to the site and took a photo through the fence
All that remained was rubble of the towers that had been there.
That was it the view had change a little for the first time in over forty years, noting changed with the scene for a few years then a tragedy happened at 16:00 hours on the 23rd part of the boiler house which was being demolished collapsed killing three contractors who were inside

I remember seeing the place like the photo above on my way to work in the morning,  going home that day and seeing part was missing and thought I did not think they were demolishing part today. It was not till I saw the news that I found out what happened
You can see part of the collapsed building poking out beside the stack

A couple of weeks later T took this from a path outside Appleford, the damage was clear to see
  Under all this steelwork lay the bodies of the men who had been trapped in the collapse, Five months later in July the brought the rest down by explosive, I  saw the dust as it came down while we were diving home from Henley on Gangsdown hill. The relatives had wanted the bodies retrieved but the contractors could not justify placing more men in danger. The end of August the found the first body, the second a eight days later in September, the third was found a week later. Each time the person was taken away form the site a guard of honour stood in science as they went by.
In August 2019 the reaming three towers were due to be demolished.

I took one last shot of the towers a couple of evenings before

The morning of the demolition the sun was just rising when I got there
 It shone on the towers one last time

at one minute  past five the first tower started to move followed quickly by the second and the third started to lean
 On the way down the first and second could be seen distorting as they fell
 The third looked to come straight down while dust came out the middle of the others
 As the third neared the ground dust was rising from the others
 Then all that was left was rising dust, the landscape changed again
 Across on Wittenham clumps you could see the crowd watching there
The sun came out and shone on the graves  of the towers while the last of the dust settled
 All that was left was the stack.
In February 2020 we had gales with some really strong winds, the stack was due to come down and I thought it would be cancelled but at 7:30 in the morning it was bought down. I did not go to watch I felt it was too dangerous in the high winds as it was later in the day I was nearly blown over getting this photo.

Days later I went back for another photo and this time it was not so windy

 The Stack had once stood a little to the left of the stack you see the old  cooling towers right & left with the boiler house just to the right of the stack. One of the tallest landmarks in the UK was gone what is there now is not noticed. What will become of the land where the old power station once stood no doubt will become a housing estate with I hope a memorial to the poor souls who lost their lives while demolishing the building.

A last look at the power station from Cholsey Hill

From Hagbourne Hill to where the Power Station once stood


  1. I looked up the Didcot Power Station and saw that it was a natural gas/coal powered station. I reminded me of the nuclear power stations we used to have here in our state in the 70's and 80's. I know nuclear power is supposed to be "clean" and efficient but it still makes me nervous, especially after Chernobyl and the tsunami in Japan. Very interesting photos and the countryside is just beautiful.

    1. We have a place called Harwell that was were they did all the experiments on nuclear power back in the 1950's & 60's, it is still there 10 mile from where I life with three reactors being decommissioned. It only as safe as the people who build and use it

  2. That's quite a comprehensive story and a fine series of pictures that complement the sad tale. It seems strange that our grandkids will never power station cooling towers and see the way they worked.

  3. Interesting how sunlight reflects of buildings even stacks