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18/05/2010

Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea, London


This is a photo taken from the River Thames and shows Lots Road Power Station is a disused coal and later oil-fired power station at Lots Road in Chelsea, London which supplied electricity to the London Underground system. It is sometimes erroneously referred to as Fulham Power Station, a name properly applied to another former station a mile up river. The station was commissioned by the Metropolitan District Electric Traction Co (which was soon to become part of the Underground Electric Railways empire of Charles Yerkes) in order to provide power to the Metropolitan District Railway (now known as the District Line). The station allowed the District Line and Circle Line trains to change from steam haulage to electric. At around the same time the Metropolitan Railway built their power station at Neasden.
The station was built end-on to the Thames, on the north bank of the tidal Chelsea Creek. Permission for the station was granted in 1897 and construction started in 1902 and completed in 1905. The station burned 700 tonnes of coal a day and had a generating capacity of 50,000 kW. At the time it was claimed to be the largest power station ever built and would eventually power most of the railways and tramways in the Underground Electric Railways group.
The station was re-equipped on several occasions. The modernisation undertaken in the 1960s converted the station to 50 Hz generation and from burning coal to using heavy fuel oil. The number of chimneys was reduced from the original four to two. But between 1974 and 1977, with the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea, the boilers were converted to run on gas, with the option of oil firing if required. The station later worked in conjunction with the ex-London County Council Tramways power station at Greenwich to supply the London Underground network.
The station unwittingly played a part in the birth of commercial radio in the UK. When the first two stations opened in October 1973 (LBC and Capital Radio), the site for their medium wave transmitters was not complete. As a result, a temporary 'Tee' antenna was strung up between the two chimneys (transmitting LBC on 417m (719 kHz), and Capital Radio on 539m (557 kHz)), until the permanent site at Saffron Green was ready in 1975. Some years later the site was used again, on 720 kHz, for a low power MW relay of BBC Radio 4's LW service.
In the 1990s, it was decided that rather than re-equip Lots Road, it would continue to operate until the machinery's life was expired. It remained in operation until being shut down on 21 October 2002. Since then, all power for the tube system is supplied from the National Grid. The property company which now owns the site wishes to convert the station into shops, restaurants and apartments, as well as constructing additional buildings - including two skyscrapers - on the adjoining vacant land. The scheme was delayed because Kensington and Chelsea Council refused planning permission for one of the towers. The other, which is actually the taller of the two, was granted permission by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, but the developer was unwilling to proceed without permission for both towers. On 30 January 2006 the Secretary of State granted planning permission for the development. As of 2007, the developer hoped to complete the scheme by 2013.

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