Home » Human Life » The Rise and Fall of the Brunswick Power Station at Blackwall

The Rise and Fall of the Brunswick Power Station at Blackwall


The above picture from regular contributor Eric Pemberton was a reminder to tell the story of the Brunswick Wharf Power Station, it was for a short time between the 1950s and 1980s  one of the most prominent landmarks in this part of London.

The Brunswick Wharf Power Station was first conceived just before the war in 1939, it was part of a scheme to build five new generating stations in the South East region. Poplar Borough Council was keen to see a local power station in this area and informed the Central Electricity Board that the PLA was willing to sell a 16½ acres site at Blackwall.


East India Docks before development 1947

The plans were for the new station  to be built on the site of the East India Export Dock, with Brunswick Wharf providing a frontage to the River Thames. Its was considered the site had a number of advantages, there was an abundant supply of water for condensing purposes, deep-water berthing facilities, plenty of space for coal storage, facilities for the disposal of ashes and good rail links.


East India Export Dock filled in 1948

For all the advantages, there were objections, the London County Council was concerned about pollution and the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office and the Air Ministry both made strong objections on strategic grounds feeling that the construction of a new generating station in the docks area would be vulnerable to attacks. Despite the objections, the decision was made in 1945 to purchase the land and build the power station. The difficulties of the post war years led to delays and it was not until 1952 that the station began to supply electricity, and was not fully completed until 1956.

EAW0 1950 (2)

Photographs from the Britain from Above website show the construction including the filling in of the East India Export Dock.

EAW0 1950 (1)

Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1950

The design for the power station was very similar to Giles Gilbert Scott’s at Battersea Power Station which seemed a rather attractive but dated design for a modern power station. The boilers were designed to be fired by coal, .It was estimated that each boiler consumed 36,700lbs of coal per hour.


Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1953

The dangerous levels of pollution in London in the late 40s and 50s led for a call for power stations to be built away from the city and probably explained why the boilers were converted to burn oil in 1970. However, the rising cost of oil made the station increasingly expensive to run.   The 1970s saw the electricity supply industry with considerable spare capacity and the CEGB began to consider how to phase out the less economic stations. Brunswick Wharf was one of those targeted and closed in 1984. The site was sold in 1987 for redevelopment and the power station was demolished during 1988–9


Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1962

The Brunswick Wharf Power Station had a relatively short working life but became a landmark for the area. It is interesting to remember that the site of the Power station was not only on top of one of East India Docks but also covered the site of the Blackwall Yard which had been famous from the Tudor times.



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