IMG 9476 - Central London's unique power stations

London architects Peach & Reilly created of some of London’s most iconic industrial buildings, including several exquisite electricity generating stations. Charles Stanley Peach, who was originally from Scotland, created designs as a combination of practical plus beauty. Many thought his structures far too elaborate for the heavy work they had to do. Ironically the most famous structure designed by Peach is Wimbledon’s Centre Court, built 1920-21.

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Aerial showing the original Centre Court during construction works for the new roof.

Here’s an in-depth look at some Central London power stations, mostly of Peach & Reilly design:

1) Duke Street Transformer Station, W1

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Duke Street station’s early days – trees on the original roof garden can be seen.

This is still to be seen in Duke Street, just behind London’s busy Oxford Street. Duke Street transformer station was built in 1904 to a baroque style, and has to be one of the most unusual electricity stations in the country.
Peach was urged to include a park into the design. The Italianate Gardens were opened in 1906 and shut by 1980. Restoration work enabled them to re-open in 2007 and they are known as Brown Hart Gardens.

Recent additions in 2013 included a cafe and wheelchair lift, whilst the transformer-station itself was upgraded the following year. A new power supply route was laid to link with the sub-station in Carnaby Street.

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2013: A new cafe opened & an accessible lift provided for disabled people.

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Dont sit back too far or you get wet! Unusual seats with a water feature as a backrest.

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Night scene at Brown Hart gardens atop the electricity sub-station.

2) Davies Street, off Oxford Street, London W1
One of several power stations situated within residential buildings! This was almost right on top of Bond Street tube station. Again this was a design by Peach & Reilly built in 1890-91 and rendered in Queen Anne style. Clearly the chimney was a standard as similar styling could also be found at Peach & Reilly’s St Johns Wood facility (see below). It was built for the St. James’ and Pall Mall Electric Light Company. This company was set up in 1888 in response to the dissatisfaction with the nearby Grosvenor Gallery who had a small generating station in Bond Street.

Some sources describe this station as Mason’s Yard Electricity Generating station. They also attribute the address as Duke Street. Actually these such sources (including the RIBA) have their knickers in a twist! The Mason’s Yard in question in fact is off Duke Street St James (on the other side of Piccadilly). This was in fact the St James’ company’s headquarters whilst it’s generating station was no doubt sited in Davies Street!

The St. James’ and Pall Mall Electric Light Co merged with the Westminster Electric Supply Co in 1897 to form the Central Electric Supply Company.
The site is now the West One Centre/Jubilee Line ticket hall which borders Davies Street/Oxford Street.

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1960’s view of the residential block with its power station – evident by the chimney! Source: British History

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Same location today – The West One Centre on the site, Davies Street W1.

The west side of the block around the power station – Cavendish Buildings still stands. It was built in 1889 as ‘working class housing’ for the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company one year before the power station.

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Cavendish Buildings, on the west side which has outlived the power station.

3) Lodge Road, near St John’s Wood, London NW8

Peach & Reilly designed the St John’s Wood station for the Central Electricity Supply Co. Opening in 1904, it was said to be the grandest power station in the UK and showed functionality did not have to be the final word in power stations.

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Aerial view of Grove Road power station showing part of the huge Marylebone canal and railway interchange.

The huge power station was built on the site of North Bank, a once exclusive Georgian estate designed by John Nash. It’s most noted residents included George Elliot (Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch), T. H. Huxley (whose theories on evolution pre-dated Darwin),  and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein.)

Grove Road was used for a fashion shoot by Terence Donovan entitled ‘Thermodynamic’ specially for Man about Town magazine in 1960

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Terence Donovan’s Thermodynamic fashion shoot at Grove Road

One unusual aspect at St John’s Wood was the Central Electricity Generating Board’s Fish Research Laboratory. The picture below shows a man angling for Tilapia in the power station’s fish pools in freezing weather, the water temp being 27c!

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Fishing at St John’s Wood power station – New Scientist 31 Jan 1963 p227.

The power station was finally demolished in 1973 and replaced by a gigantic electricity sub-station which still exists, having been extensively modernised in recent years.

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Elaborate style for the St John’s Wood station.

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The same site today – A Lodge Lane view of the electricity station in 2015.

Practically next door to Grove Road was another power station, owned by St Marylebone Borough, and it was a very large structure which supplied most of the Borough of Marylebone.

5) Randolph Mews near Little Venice, London W9

Just behind the Regent’s Canal in Blomfield Road is little known Randolph Mews. Even less known is a red brick structure once a sub-station belonging to M.E.S. Co. Ld., a electrical company more widely known as METESCo.
The nearby Randolph Mews ‘MESCoLd’ building was built in 1927 and certainly rates as one of London’s most unknown historic buildings. Its omission is very clearly noticeable amongst almost all of the learned London guidebooks!

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The M.E.S. Co. Ld. (METESCo) former sub-station in Randolph Mews.

This building certainly makes a change from what seems a sea of cream coloured Victorian mansions in Little Venice (as well as those awful modern garages that characterise the south side of Randolph mews!)

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Another view of the METESCo former sub-station near Little Venice.

Extensive bomb damage in WWII demolished much of Randolph Mews, as well as many other parts of Little Venice. Fortunately the METESCo building came through the second world war pretty unscathed