Power Station - some hidden bits It
was on the afternoon of Thursday, 7th of August 2008 that I bought a
the London Evening Standard. Amongst the usual news, sport, views,
features, occasional pictures of Gilmour or Mason at a social gathering
and other detritus which goes to make up the capital's favourite
evening newspaper with 'standard' in the name, on page 16 was an
advertisment which seemed *far* too good to be true. Battersea Power
Station was open throughout the weekends of August, and open to all.
Should I? Shouldn't I? Why? Why not? Fuck it, I will - and I did. I
took a photographer with a much better camera than mine along with me
Like the gates to Willy Wonka's
chocolate factory at midday, they're finally open and we can go in.
Security's still standing by, just in case we try something....
closer....and bigger (I mean the power station, not that woman's hair).
g closer.....and bigger.....
But before the main attraction, how
about some meters, dials and gauges salvaged from the control rooms?
Or even a bloody great model of the surrounding neighbourhood and what they want to try and turn
Consultation period over (the jury's still out), and disclaimer signed
to the effect that if we get twatted by falling masonry we won't sue,
and we're off! So in the background, the old. In the foreground, the
new: an artist's impression of what'll be where we're standing if
things go to plan.
Following the path that was kindly set out for us (with dire warnings
of punishment should we deviate from it), we turn the corner and begin
the final approach. It's about now it begins to dawn on just how HUGE
Obvious really, but it just gets bigger and bigger the closer you get.
Luckily the sun was well placed on the towers to give that old gold
colour on the brickwork, just like you get on the 'Animals' cover.....
So just how close *will* they let us get? Going by the scaffolding
the side up and halfway up the chimney stacks, no wonder they got us to
sign away any responsibilty. I can only assume the wing on the right
was office/admin space, not to mention where at least some of the
actual control rooms for the turbines and boilers must have lived.
Might be wrong though, as they
never let us see them....
Nice of them to tell us with approximately half a mile already walked,
eh? Obviously they're banking on physical exhaustion killing us, not
burial under thousands of tons of rubble or asphixiation on clouds of
brick dust. Even with such helpful notices as these, there were still
females of the species tottering around in heels, clogs and wedges.
Personally I'd have liked to have seen someone turn up on stilts, but
No, I'm sorry. Surely that's TOO close for a building commonly believed
to be in peril? No? Oh well.
This initially looked promising in terms of unseen bits. Then we
realised it wasn't, unless pitch-black voids had suddenly become wildly
So we had to content ourselves with moving around the south towers,
until we could see right through to the other side. At least the clouds
parted for us, eh?
The situation at the base of the towers is dimmer. Rubble, weeds,
plants, smashed windows, mould, moss, lichen....dereliction, basically.
But we knew that already, didn't we? Perhaps you just didn't want to
see it like this....
Halfway up, things are better. Sort of. The windows are a bit of a
state, and there's some kind of steel framework been added to either
keep the chimney towers from falling in, or the wall with the windows
from falling out. Then again it might always have been there - the
building's only *clad* in brick. Lots of them.
Fancy a competition? Complete the sentence above in the most apt,
and amusing way. I have no idea how that came to be there or why, and
still less what prevented the scribe from finishing his question. Maybe
he got shot dead by on-site security.
Another intriuging cul-de-sac, at the base of the the south-west tower.
They like doing this to us, don't they? They build up our hopes, and
knock 'em down again.
Now, that's the south-west tower which has a temporary (well, I say
temporary, but I don't remember a time when it *wasn't* there) lift
system going all the way up it, presumably to afford access for chimney
inspection and to give important people an idea of the views of London
from the top. Which didn't include us. Sage advice too on the warning
sign: "No kids!" seems to be a good way of going about things like
sightseeing, travelling, eating, living in general....
Both south towers together, a bit more scaffolding over on the left
and.....the plane! THE PLANE!! Despite looking like a 9/11 remake, in
truth they were coming over regularly what with Battersea being on the
flight path to Heathrow. You can see why Algie the inflatable pig
caused such concern in 1976 really, can't you?
Bloody hell - it's a genuinely unseen bit at last! This lies to the
left of the tower with the lift going up it, and used to be the western
turbine hall, I think. All that
remains now are the tiles on the walls, some kind of observation
platform up at the top right, and the roof. Which is more than can be
said for the main part of the station, just over on the right. The grey
band might have been where another floor entirely was, but it's
just a (reasonable) guess.
Actually, I lied. That last picture was on a zoom of sorts; this is the
proper length of the room, revealing a crane of some kind, more
tilework and the main hall flanking it all on the right
again. Not sure what that orb-like thing at the top is though. Outside,
beyond the wall on the left....
....is more scaffolding, keeping it propped up. And as you'd expect,
the usual flora and fauna. In place of fungi, there's an old oil drum
and a sign warning any passing drivers not to go any faster than 5mph.
And this is the west side of the building, which is the one you can
sort of see if you're on the train coming into (or going out of)
Victoria station. Rather dull, is it not? Are they bands to hold the
together on the top right, or mobile phone masts?
But these are better. Having moved round to the side of the station
facing the River Thames, we find these: the two cranes which, I'd
were used to unload coal from ships to stop the lights going out in
London. They're looking a bit rusty
nowadays, and probably need a bit more than a can of WD40 to get them
going again. I wonder if they'll be used if and when building work
ever starts? If a ship's better for the enviroment than a load of
trucks, then just maybe. That aside, imagine living in those flats on
the other side of the river. Just open your curtains, and stare at
Battersea Power Station all day....
And so, round to the north towers - the ones facing the Thames
usually get adverts of naked women projected on them. Helpfully,
someone dumped a
bloody great mound of gravel in front of us - so what the base of these
towers look like, I can only guess.
I do like a starburst effect every now and again, you know. Shame that
m'colleague was temporarily struck blind as a consequence.
Guess what they're all queueing for? No, not to appear on this page.
They're waiting to get a glimpse of the main hole in the middle, which
was the boiler house. We're nearly there, don't worry....
See? We're almost in. I told you about that pile of gravel, didn't I?
Oh bloody hell. Is that all that's left? Afraid so. The roof was taken
out, and so was the floor. Obviously more steel was added to keep
things from falling down, but otherwise it's very, very empty....
If we zoom into the wall at the far end, we see....*something*. This
was about thrity feet or so above ground level. How did they do that?
And seeing as they have, they could have added some explanatory notes
to go with it. I don't know what it means, and you don't either.
Anyway, zooming back out, turning right and looking up....
....you can see how many levels have fallen in or been demolished over
the years. There's at least *one* lift in the place somewhere, but
apparently it's been stuck between floors for decades.
IIt's gritty, it's urban and it's
raw - one
tired looking chimney, some knackered window frames and that huge pile
of gravel. Lovely.
Now I know you've seen something a bit like this before, but it *is*
quite special. The temporary toilet facilities were so placed that when
one sat down to play the long game, this is the view that you had while
at stool. And what - I repeat, WHAT other bog in the world can boast a
vista like that when you open the door, eh? It makes you proud to be
Moving right back round to the south towers on the way out, my
photographer thought he'd chance his luck and jump the barriers to take
this from at least 100 metres further out than he should have been.
didn't arrest him either. Still, once again it proves what a bloody
great, and *bloody great* hulk it is. Not quite as symmetrical as I
thought it was,
but there you go....
"Don't look back", they often say. So it's just as well we didn't
them. Bye-bye, Battersea. Nighty-night.
And so say all of us. Don't we? If they can, I'm sure they will. Alas,
it probably won't be feasible any more...
Scrawled on the perimeter fences next to a bus stop on Nine Elms Lane,
this is what the average man on the street would rather have in 2009.
Can't blame him really, can you? Whether or not he gets either as a
result of Battersea Power Station's redevelopment remains to be seen.
Time will tell....
dismal effort from CJH - ably assisted by Gray and his camera