Fawley Power Station

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Located about ten miles away from where I grew up, is Fawley Power Station. No longer in service, this oil-fired power station employed more than 700 people at its peak. It’s huge chimney dominates the local landscape and can be seen for miles.

Commissioned in the late 1960’s, Fawley began generating electricity in 1972 and stands testament to Britain’s era of nationalised industries. It’s ambitious design included a number of distinctive and unique architectural features such as the flying-saucer-shaped control building and the zig-zag glass cladding on the outside of the boiler house.

Underneath Southampton Water, a two-mile-long tunnel was dug, mostly by hand, to house the high voltage electricity cables, negating the need for pylons. The tunnel was ten feet wide and a small electric railway was installed to carry away excavated dirt. The Irish and Scottish mining crews were paid piecework depending on their output, working long shifts to make as much progress as possible and thereby increase their wages. Their work was difficult and fraught with risk. Miners used decompression tanks before entering which adjusted them to tolerate the high-pressures beneath the seabed. If injured, no miner could go straight to hospital as decompression had to take place, lasting about three quarters of an hour. Sadly there were fatalities. One miner fell in the shaft and another accident was said to have involved an improperly closed airlock.


Unfortunately, Fawley went online just before the 1970s oil crisis, was deemed too expensive to run and was never used to full capacity as a result. Since closing in 2013, it’s become all the more alluring, especially for television and film crews who come for its retro interior monitors, buttons and dials. Currently, its fate hangs in the balance as plans are afoot to transform it into a “residential and commercial waterside community.”

It’s funny that I associate such an industrial building with comforting feelings of home. I’d miss the looming presence of its tower if it was demolished, although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it belching black smoke. These photographs were taken on a recent visit. I’m glad I’ve gotten the chance to shoot it, before the Fawley I grew up with is gone.

For more images, go to my Flickr.

Sources of information include C20 Society, Ian West and Power Stations of the UK.

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