A little of Willington's ancient and modern History: -
The name of the
village is possibly Anglo Saxon but in early legal documents it has
been variously called Wilenton, Wilentone, Wilinton, Willyington,
Wilynton, Wylentone, Wylington, Wylinton,, and Wyllyington The name
'Willington' has however been generally in use since the seventeenth
In 1970, in advance
of planned gravel extraction on sites to the south west of the village,
there were major archaeological excavations mostly in areas to the
west of Meadow Lane. These indicated that the area was inhabited at
the latest by 2000BC. Traces were found of an early farming people,
known as the 'Beaker' people, because decorated red beakers were often
found in their graves. Finds included remains of houses, tools and
Two Bronze Age cremation urns dated from 1000-900BC were found in
1937 by the A38, close to the old railway level crossing. One was
6" high, 5" diameter at the top and 3" diam at the
base. The other was a little larger, but of much coarser construction
and was 10" diameter at the top. Both are at Derby Museum.
Evidence was also
found, off Meadow Lane, of Iron Age people who lived there in about
500 BC, and some pieces of iron chain, an iron sword and a stone beehive
quern were found.
In 2000 AD excavations were taking place in the then new RMC gravel
pits off Castleway. A major 'find' was a wood lined trough, of almost
80 gallon capacity, which is believed to have been used to heat water,
by throwing in hot stones from a fire. It has been suggested that
this feature dates to between 1500 and 2000 years BC . Some other
finds have been made but are still to be reported.
Iron age beehive quern which was used to mill grain, found in the nearby
The area around
Potlock Farm, to the east of the village, is also rich in archaeological
remains dating from the Neolithic period (c 3500 to 2000BC) to the
Roman period. Excavations of this area carried out and reported in
1989 and 1990 describe how 'cursus' lines, consisting of parallel
ditches and banks ran for hundreds of metres across the landscape,
possibly up to 1000 metres long. They are similar to ditches found
near Stonehenge and their original purpose is now unclear.
When the Romans
invaded Britain in 43 AD they built a road to Derwentia, ( now Derby),
which passed about half a mile to the north west of Willington, where
the A 38 now runs. They built a farmstead, with outbuildings etc.
and pottery shows they were present until about 300 AD. When they
left the Saxons moved in and the remains of their houses and hearths
have been found . Maybe these were the first settlers in Willetun,
as the village was once called.
entry in 1086 for Willington reads (translated from the Latin) as
Leofric has 3c of land taxable . Land for 4 ploughs. 4 villagers and
two smallholders now have 4 ploughs. Meadow 30 acres. Value before
1066 40s now 20s.
In the 11th century
there was a water mill in or close to the village, since in a covenant
the Abbott of Croxall granted 'free multure' (tax free grinding of
corn) for the household of Richard de Hulcrombe.
In 1290 Ralph
Fitz Herbert had an estate here ,and also at Repton , which he left
to his son Lawrence. Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent , died and left
his estate here to his son Thomas.
In 1302 John de
Took gave a messuage (house and grounds) with 14 acres of land and
60s annual rent to the St Leonard Charpel, in Potlocks. John, Duke
of Norfolk died in 1478 and left an estate in the area to his daughter,
Anne Lady Mowbray. Gerald Meynel died in 1527 and left lands here
to his son Henry whilst in 1540 George Findern, of Findern, left an
estate here to his son Thomas. In the same year Henry Meynel died,
leaving his local estate to is son John. Thomas Thacker of Repton
died 1549 leaving lands in Willington and Repton to his son Gilbert.
In 1558 John Meynel died , leaving the manor of Willington to his
son John, who in turn died in 1593 leaving his estate in the village
to his son Henry.)
By 1720 the various estates in the village had become consolidated
and the greater part of the village, including Potlocks, belonged
to the Thackers, of Repton and the Harpurs ( long before they became
' Harpur Crewe' . (para based on W Wooley's History of Derby 1720)
In 1768 there
was a major change to way land in the village was owned and used.
The 'Inclosure Awards' of that year were legal requirements requested
by the main land owners to better consolidate the existing scattered
fields they owned and divide up what was previously common land to
better meet 'modern' demands. Large tracts were re-allocated to the
major owners who were required to fence them off and hence denied
the 'serfs and villians' of the village access to land on which they
had previously freely roamed. The Awards did however better define
the roads and pathways through the village and its surrounds.
POTLOCK HOUSE AND THE CEDARS.
in fact a number of farms called Potlocks at one time in the village.
Two were demolished to build the Power Station and another still
stands on the south bank of the canal, near Canal Turn, but is
now in Findern parish.
Road towards Frisoms Lane, was Potlock House Farm. This was notable
amongst other things for having three very ancient cedar trees
in its grounds, two of which still survive and are well over 500
years old. Potlock House was a pretty Georgian House built on
the site of what was the seat of Geoffrey De Potlock, in about
an ancestor of the Tokes. The estate passed to the Harpur's and
was the home of John, second son of Godfrey Thacker, of Repton
Georgian property , Potlocks House with two of its cedar
trees, in 1957.
The original house was demolished in 1805 by John Glover who replaced
it with this attractive Georgian House, surrounded with farm buildings
and with its own wind pump. Despite a public enquiry in 1983, and
much local opposition, permission was given to demolish the listed
building in order that gravel extraction could be undertaken. No such
extraction has started in 2011.
The Trent and
Union Canal was built in 1777 and was originally called the 'Grand
Trunk Canal', the builder being James Brindley. The village was the
scene of much barge traffic and children from the boats came to this
school from time to time. Up to the 1960's there was a thriving wharf
yard at the rear of the Green Dragon public house, served by the canal
and the railway. The brick warehouse building was built in the 18th
century. It was burnt down in disastrous fire which started at 2-0pm
on July 10th 1935. The fire was thought to have been caused by spontaneous
combustion of grain stored in the warehouse. The ruins were demolished
for safety reasons in June 1936. Wharf cottage survived as a private
house into the early 1960's but was totally demolished when the village
Marina was constructed by Derbyshire CC in 1973.
fire which destroyed the three storey warehouse by the canal in 1935.
last steam train on the canal wharf, in about 1960
There were three
branch railway lines into the wharf, one of which went right up to
the wall of the cottage. The brick warehouse had its own weigh bridge
and the wharf was operated by G L White, dealing mainly in coal and
corn, into the 1960's. There was a cattle pound at the east end of
the wharf. Luggage for Repton school boys was loaded into carriages
in a siding by the embankment. There was a mobile hand operated crane,
mounted on rails, in the wharf.
The main farms
of the village were:-
Sycamore Farm, at the junction of Hall Lane with Repton Road.
Trent House Farm, on Repton Road where Calder Aluminium was.
Pilsbury House Farm, on Hall Lane,near the church .
Crowtree Farm, in Hall Lane,opposite Oaks Road.
Willington Hill Top Farm, on the road to Etwall
Dale Farm, on the road to Findern.
Brook House Farm, by the 'Molly' was Calder Aluminum Labs demolished
There was a group
of farm buildings just through the bridge arch on the Twyford Road.
In 1947 these were converted and made into a small workshop making
agricultural machinery and equipment by Mr Fryer, Mr Clayton and Mr
Collins, who bought the buildings from Mr Blackett at Pilsbury Farm.
This business continues to operate up to 2008, initially owned by
Mr and Mrs De Vallis, as Acres Engineering. This has now ceased trading
in the village.
Farm was so named in 1900 when a Mr Gould, from Pilsbury in north
Derbyshire, took over the tenancy. Previously it had been called Acacia
Farm, there being several old acacia trees in the gardens of the house..
Trent Farm House
was on the site of Calder Aluminium and was demolished in the early
1970's. All that remains is part of the front wall which forms part
of the boundary to Repton Road.
Sycamore Farm, on Repton Road, was a working farm until 1996.
The adjacent farm buildings were demolished early in 1997 and Sycamore
Close built on their site, although the farm house survives.
Dale Farm on the Findern Road is also known locally as Spalton's
Farm, after Jack Spalton who farmed it in the 1950's. Jack was Chairman
of the Parish Council for many years. In the 19th century it was
famed as a horse stud farm. This is the last working farm in the
village, still is being operated by his daughters Joan and Janet.
Farm , off Repton Road, just after it ceased working in 1997.
Churches and Chapels.
The Parish Church of St Michael (Grade 2 Listed) is on the corner
of Hall Lane and Repton Road. Its origins are obscure, there is
no mention of a church in the Domesday Book entry for the village
but William the Conqueror bestowed the manor and church over to
the Abbey of Burton, confirmed in 1185AD by the Pope Lucias III.
It is clear that only fragments of the present church date from
that time, including the tympanum above the doorway on the south
side. In 1824 it was still a simple building, the nave being 42
feet long by 15 feet wide and the chancel 23 feet by 12 feet six
The north transept and the tower were built between 1824 and 1827
and the pinnacles on the tower were added by the Rev Francis Ward
Michaels Church, as seen through the gates off Hall Lane
There are three bells in the tower but these are not now used. One
carries the inscription 'T Mears, of London, fecit 1827'.The organ,
which was restored in 1999, was installed in 1924.
The northern entrance which was used for many years, was closed off
and an ancient entrance at the southern end re-opened, together with
a new porch and pathway across the church yard. There are a number
of vaults dating back to mostly the 18th century although one tomb
carries the date 1669. The church registers are believed to go back
to the year 1680.
A story is told that prior to the building of the Baptist church on
Twyford Road, their baptisms took place at the Ford on the River Trent,
off Ford Lane, but this has not been confirmed. However the 'new'
Baptist Chapel on Twyford road was certainly built in 1858. A commemorative
plaque high in the wall, on the south side celebrated its opening.
In the 1880's the Baptists had to use the station waiting room for
meetings on Sundays, because the Chapel was full with Sunday School
children. A small room at the rear of the Chapel was also used as
a school room toward the end of the 19th century. In 1965 Mrs Mary
Griffin, a chapel member, had the two terraced cottages (23-25 Twyford
Road) she owned condemned, they only had single walls and no toilets.
She bequeathed the land they stood on to the chapel with the idea
that one day there would be a new free church built there. The Old
Chapel was eventually demolished and replaced by a modern brick building,
the first service there being on May 22nd 1983. The original 1858
date plaque from the Old Chapel was built into the west wall of the
old Baptist Chapel on Twyford Road, after the final service in 1982
new Chapel , which opened in 1983.
Chapel, on Repton Road, was opened in 1835 (Glover) and closed almost
150 years later in 1974 . Shortly afterwards it was converted into
a private house.
On the 9th January
1710, Sir John Every, baronet of Egginton Hall, conveyed to Thomas
Carter, of Derby:-
'a piece of enclosed ground on Egginton Heath, of some four acres
also the wind mill thereon'
Burdett's map of 1767 depicts 'Windmill House', close to what is now
the A38 and somewhere on what was the frontage to Burnaston Aerodrome,
whilst Greenwoods map of 1825 has 'The Round House ' marked in the
same location. The exact postion is not however clear. The Enclosure
award of 1768 for Willington refers to a field in that area called
'Tween Mill Gate', perhaps confirming the one time presence of a mill
It is probable that such a mill was in fact a wooden structure, known
as a post mill and may well have dated back to Elizabethan times.
The round house is the name given to a brick enclosure round the base
of such mills.
Note This site certainly predates Findern tower Windmill.
THE FORD AND THE TRANSPORTATION OF GOODS
At some time in
the 14th or 15th Century it appears that the course of the Egginton
Brook, which had previously flowed past or through the village, to
join the River Trent about a mile to the east, near the settlement
then known as 'Potlocks' became integrated with the Trent itself which
had, until then, meandered across the flood plain towards Repton .
This probably occurred during flood conditions when the Trent must
have broken into the course of the brook. Potlocks village was subsequently
The ford across
the river was off Ford Lane, adjacent to the road presently called
Ferry Green, was probably built in the 1600's when Lord Paget of Kings
Newton constructed a navigable channel up the Trent from Wilne to
Burton. The boats were hauled up the river by teams of ten men! Unfortunately
the Trent silted up at the confluence with the River Dove and Willington
became the highest Navigable point on the River. It certainly was
ancient when it was closed by act of Parliament when the new toll
bridge was built in 1836. The ford was in fact a stone faced carriage
way, which was partially deliberately destroyed when the ford was
closed down to prevent its further use. However parts of the masonry
were found in the water by a diver, in 1996 when the river was low.
A little distance
towards Burton, along Meadow Lane, there was a ferry, with Ferry House
alongside, which connected to Tanners Lane in Repton. It was probably
a chain ferry, similar to the one which operated at Twyford until
the middle of the 20th century. The Willington ferry was closed when
the new river bridge was built in 1836, the owner being paid over
£2000 in compensation. The ferry house was demolished and the
area is now covered by gravel pits.
old Ferry at Twyford which is believed to be similar to the one which
was at Willington.
bridge over the River Trent built by James Trubshaw in 1839, as a toll
During the period from about 1680 to 1805 when the river was used
for transport, both up and downstream, a number of wharves and warehouses
were built on the Crewe and Harpur lands, along the river bank towards
the ford. A road along the bank off Bargate Lane was known as Warehouse
Road. Amongst the uses by river traffic was the movement of flint
to , and pottery and from, Stoke on Trent to London, via Gainsborough
and the River Trent. Cheese, china and iron wares were also exported
via the Humber but the trade ceased about 1806 soon after the opening
of the canal in 1777. Some traces of the wharves still remain although
an 18th C wharf building by the river, off Hall Lane, was only demolished
as late as 2002.
last of the 18th C riverside warehouses , demolished in 2002.
For more than
50 years Willington Power Station was a dominant feature of the skyline,
with its tall chimneys and five huge cooling towers. For many locals
when travelling by road the sight of the these said clearly that they
were approaching home!
The building of the coal fired Power station and the associated Sports
and Social Club commenced after a public enquiry in 1956 involved
the demolition of two farms and the clearance of a large wood, famously
known as Potlocks Wood, adjacent to Twyford Road. The station was
cooled by water taken from the River Trent and there were five large
cooling tower, which dominated the landscape, which were used to ensure
the waste water, which was returned to the river, was sufficiently
cool so not to affect the local environment. Initially there were
4 x 100MW boiler units built by International Combustion Ltd ('A'
Station) which were adjacent to the road , then B5008 later B5132.
These were supplemented by the building of 2 x 200 MW Babcock boilers
in 1963 behind the A Station.
The station was formally opened on 2nd of October 1959 by His Grace
the eleventh Duke of Devonshire. A twin16" diameter ash disposal
pipeline ran down the railway embankment and crossed under the Twyford
Road on its way to fill the in the gravel pits off the Repton Road,
with pulverised fuel ash from the power station. Ivy cottage, close
to the bridge, had to be demolished as a result of this causing vibrations.
The twin ash pipes initially ran to Clay Mills gravel pits beyond
Highbridge, crossing the Egginton Brook on a steel space frame bridge.
Later the lines were truncated to fill the so called Repton gravel
pits at Willington, but the eventual demise of the Power Station meant
this work was only partially completed, the remaining pits being taken
over in 2006 to form the Derbys Wildlife Trust's increasingly famous
Willington wild life reserve.
pipe line used to pump waste ash from the Power Station to nearby gravel
pits, near Twyford Road railway bridge in 1957.
view of the Power station , as seen from Twyford Road in 1992.
The 'A' station operated without major incident until September 1994
and that part of the station closed down in May 1995. 'B' station
operated for a few more years and finally ceased generation 30th March
Note The original design life of both boiler units was only 20 years
and they operated for well over 30 years.
Work to clear the site started during 2000 and on June 29th the two
'B' station boilers and one chimney were demolished all at the same
time, by explosive charges. This was followed in August by the demolition
of 'A' station, again by explosives.
of the boilers from B station collapsing after explosive charges
were detonated in 2000.
A major feature
which has dominated the skyline of the village for almost forty
years, the twin chimneys of the station, were demolished, in simultaneous
blasts, on the 3rd of October 2001. The next major demolition, again
by explosives, was on the 23rd November 2001, when the structure
of the turbine house was flattened. Only the five cooling towers
now remain standing in 2011.
RWE (NPower) the current owners of the site, after various failed
planning attempts to build up to 1000 house on the site, are currently
in the process of seeking permission to build a new gas fired station,
making use of the adjacent switchgear installations and other infra
information about Willington Power Station below
Power Station once dominated the village and was the landmark by which
Willington is most often characterised. This is a brief summary of
Power Station was, in fact, two almost entirely independent generating
stations situated on the same site. With separate management and staff,
the few facilities they shared amounted to the coal and water supply.
two stations were designated, logically, Willington "A"
and Willington "B", the former occupying the part of the
site closest to the A5132 (although then known as the B5009).
the post-war years Britain saw a sea change in the way electricity
was produced. The National Grid had been devised in the 1920's and
this allowed the removal of comparatively small 'town' generating
stations to be replaced with purpose built establishments, linked
together to deliver power wherever it was required.
While the location of the customer was no longer a high priority in
siting a power station, ready access to raw materials of fuel and
water certainly were. The Trent valley, with its obvious water supply
and proximity to the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire coal fields
- which were then though inexhaustible - was an ideal choice. An extensive,
although already clogged, railway system was also on hand to move
the coal from pit head to power station.
Small, previously unheard of, villages and hamlets became well known
landmarks; High Marnham, Staythorpe, Radcliffe & Drakelow to name
a few. Willington was one of them too.
The beginning of 1954 saw the bulldozers move onto a 286 acre area
of pasture land, a small covert and boggy, unused scrub between the
B5009 and the Derby - Birmingham railway. No buildings were at peril
- at least not yet - but Marples, Ridgeway & Partners Ltd, the
company responsible for site clearance, foundations and the railway
works, had a long job ahead of them preparing the site - especially
the boggy land which was to form the railway marshalling yard. Thousands
of tons of sand were tipped to build up the ground away from the water
The consulting engineers Ewbank and Partners were responsible for
the design, engineering, construction & commissioning of the "A"
station with a legion of sub-contractors being tasked with the multitude
of disciplines required in building such a station.
The "A" Station comprised four generating Units, each of
100 megawatt capacity. To service these, a pair of 425 foot chimneys
(each reportedly amounting to 5,000 tones in weight!) were provided,
along with just two cooling towers.
Hailed as a revolution of the time, the design of the "A"
Station was of four "semi-outdoor" boiler units, only the
burners and steam drum of which were enclosed, arranged in a square
formation. The outdoor part of the design was indicative of the austerity
of the period, by restricting the cladding around the boiler areas
to a minimum significant cost saving were achieved. The design, however,
was not popular with the staff who had to brave the elements all year
Even as the "A" Station was still taking shape in early
1957, the Central Electricity Authority were exercising their statutory
powers by applying to the Minister of Power to extend the Willington
Generating Station with a second section to be known as "Willington
The "B" station was to comprise of only two Units, albeit
each of 200MW capacity - equalling the output of the "A"
Station with half the hardware. Only one 425' chimney was required
for the "B" Station but three cooling towers were provided.
Of course the cooling towers are the largest and therefore most distinctive
features of an power station. The three structures provided for the
"B" station were set at right-angles to the north of the
pair for the "A" Station. The towers are 300 feet high and
have 145' diameter at their tops, 122' at their "throat"
and 218' at the base. Each tower had an effective cooling surface
of 858,000 square feet.
By the end of 1957 the "A" Station was nearing completion.
The construction had not been without its cost - three workers lost
their lives in falls, a hazard faced daily by the transient population
of builders who moved from site to site on this work during the 1950's
and 60's. The first Unit of the "A" Station was commissioned
on 17th December 1957 with Unit 4 bringing the station up to full
operational capacity on 10th July 1959. An official opening ceremony
was performed on 2nd October 1959 by the 11th Duke of Devonshire.
Such was the demand for electricity (calculated to be doubling every
ten years at that time) the capacity of the four Units of the "A"
Station were up-rated to 104 megawatts. The net effect of this was
to significantly reduce the spare capacity of the station - meaning
the plant had to be driven hard almost all the time.
Once Units 5 & 6 in the "B" Station came on line a few
years later, the whole site settled into its work-a-day job of providing
electricity to the adjacent National Grid sub station. The water for
the cooling towers being sucked out of the Trent to cool the steam
prior to its return to the river (the same water probably went through
the process half a dozen times before it reached the Humber!) meant
that the Trent in the area had a somewhat higher temperature than
it would naturally, thus making for excellent fishing.
Ken Lucas writes:
"I served my time as an electrical fitter at Willington from
1965 to 1969 and remember that the exciter on one of the B station
units no.6 I think (the one on the left as you looked out of the workshop
window towards the coal plant) had burnt out and was going to be away
for repair for many months. Someone Don Eddison I think came up with
the idea of using a diesel loco to supply the excitation for the unit.
The links from the loco generator to the shunt drive motor were removed
and cables were run to the alternator excitation terminals. A set
of loco controls were installed in the plant control room to allow
raising and lowering of the speed of the diesel and thus the excitation.
The loco was actually moved 2 inches per day back and forth to prevent
brunelling of the wheel bearings.I seem to remember someone calculated
by the amount of fuel used and the average revs of the diesel that
the loco would have traveled twice around the world had the loco been
in normal service. The loco was called THE ROYAL PIONEER CORPS. I
think it was a D class loco. I had my picture taken on the footplate
which later appeared in the company news paper that used to be called
the Power News."
Coal for the boilers - a million tons a year, just for the "A"
Station - found its way into the railway sidings, through a specially
constructed connection at Stenson Junction. The 19,000 yards of sidings
could store wagons containing 7,000 tons of coal. The Central Electricity
Generating board, as the nationalised industry had become known, owned
two 204hp diesel shunters for moving the coal wagons from the yard
into the coal tipplers - where a chain 'beetle' would drag the truck
in then back out after it had been tipped onto its side and its contents
emptied onto a conveyor. Coal was either fed straight into the station
bunkers or stacked on a large area of ground to the north of the site
- almost over shadowing the nearby Findern primary school.
A largely overlooked waste product of power station operation is ash
from the boiler. In the case of Willington, the geography of the area
was fortuitous in that gravel extraction from the alluvial flood plain
of the Trent was (and still is, of course) widespread. Thus there
was a readily supply of large holes in the ground in need of filling
in. the trouble was that the majority of the gravel extraction of
the time was taking place on the other side of Willington village,
closer to Burton. The solution, rather than transport this ash by
lorry through the village - with the attendant nuisance that would
create - was to build a pipeline.
This prominent feature was buried underground through the village,
but otherwise snaked its way along the south side of the railway
- with the need for ramps and ladders wherever public footpaths
encountered it! Although a generally successful method of transporting
the ash, it was not without its problems. Around the point the pipeline
disappeared underground a house called Ivy Cottage stood. This was
the first building on the left after passing under the railway bridge
on Twyford Road. Despite significant efforts by the CEGB to cure
it, this section of the pipeline was troubled by considerable vibrations
- with consequent nuisance, and even damage, to the nearby house.
The solution was that the CEGB bought the property and demolished
it. The detached garage of Ivy Cottage survived until 2002 before
being demolished to allow a new house to be built on the site.
Perhaps as a testament to the solid nature of the work the power station
achieved, there were few notable events. The "big freeze"
of 1962/63 was to place great strain on the system - with the link
between the station and the National Grid freezing and tripping out
- leaving the station "all revved up with nowhere to go"
- an undesirable state of affairs. Even the coal in the railway wagons
was frozen solid, so that when they were tipped upside down to empty
them their contents remained fast! In 1973 the "A" Station
won a CEGB award for its exceptionally high availability during the
winter - 98.56 per cent.
The 1980's was to prove a significant decade. In 1981 British Rail
introduced a new system for handling the coal delivered to power stations.
The practice of bringing wagons of coal to the power station for the
CEGB to empty them into their tipplers at their leisure was inefficient
- as was the reverse procedure at the collieries. The solution was
the "merry go round" system where a fixed formation of coal
hoppers would shuttle back and forth between colliery and power station
being loaded and unloaded via 'drive through' bunkers in a heavily
automated process. At a stroke, therefore, Willington's eleven through
sidings used to store coal wagons until they were needed became redundant
- as did the two shunting locomotives. Whilst most of the sidings
were soon torn up and taken away, the shunters remained on site -
apparently seeing little or no use in the later days.
The miner's strike of 1984 saw railway deliveries of coal suspended
for the duration. A token picket line of welsh miners under the railway
bridge at Findern (referred to as the picnickers at the time, such
was the laid back nature of their presence!) was sufficient to prevent
the railway unions from delivering. Lorry drivers had no such compunction
and coal stocks were maintained by a procession of 30 tonne tippers.
Given this was before the A50, it pushed the capacity of the A5132
to its limit.
Several open days were held at the power station during the 1980's
and were always immensely popular with locals and not-so locals alike.
Visitors from far and wide - including tv crews and press photographers
- were attracted to the cooling towers. All to crane their necks and
peer through binoculars at a pair of nesting peregrine falcons. Apparently,
to a falcon, a nesting box high up on the side of a cooling tower
is a more than adequate substitute for a remote cliff face.
Arguably, the Beginning of the End arrived at Willington on 16th
August 1989 when Privatisation saw the power station become part
of National Power PLC. Ironically, this event was heralded with
bands and fireworks. Without getting too political, the crux of
privatisation is that there is no stone left unturned in the pursuit
of a profit. If an asset is weak it will be cast aside with thought
only for its scrap value. 27th January 1993 saw Unit 3 of Station
"A", having the highest hours at 179,579, shut down, followed
a few months later by Unit 4 with 174,343 hours. At this time, the
station was operating on short term contracts selling its electricity
to National Grid PLC at fixed prices - but this was only a short
term expediency until National Grid could upgrade their installation
at Willington to allow it to operate without input from the adjacent
With the expiry of the last of the short term contracts, Willington
Station "A" was finally "de-synchronised" from
the National Grid with due ceremony at 1830hrs on 30th September
1994, the Unit concerned being the oldest - No.1 - having operated
for 173,464 hours. Closure was a formality and took place on 31st
Meanwhile the "B" Station was still going strong. Local
rumour had it at the time that the policy of National Power was
to run it into the ground - in other words to run it at full capacity
with minimal maintenance until something broke. This certainly seemed
to be borne out by the amount of coal the station was receiving
at this time - as much as any other period in its history according
to observers on the railway.
clue to this policy is available in the Internet from the Office of
Electricity Regulation ("Ofgem") - the Government's means
of keeping some control over the once Nationalised industry. This
wordy document, in a nutshell, illustrates that as a condition of
its licence, a private electricity generator must justify why it wants
to close a generating unit - more specifically, why a competing company
can't take it over, such are the priorities of privatisation.
Thus, in September 1997, National Power notified Ofgem of their intent
to close Unit 5 at Willington, leaving just Unit 6. It was reported
that Units 5 and 6 had operated for 162,000 and 161,000 hours, respectively,
being due for a major overhaul in 1998 and 1999. Their case was strengthened
by the fact that Unit 5 had "suffered extensive damage to the
HP/IP turbine which has adversely impacted on both capability and
thermal efficiency and hence economic viability of the unit "
(NP 30 September 1997).
Ofgem appointed a company of independent assessors to investigate
National Power's plans - and it is this report which is publicly available.
The assessor performed a series of complex calculations based on a
cost/benefit ratio and concluded that "the closure criterion
is generally satisfied for Unit 5. The closure of the power station
was not proposed by National Power; but we conclude that the closure
criterion is generally satisfied for the whole power station".
So did National Power intend to close the whole site? Probably not,
the assessor's concluded; "National Power appears to be resisting
closure of the full station in favour of closure of the unit that
requires imminent overhaul. National Power's case for the closure
of only one unit appears to be based mainly on the availability of
constraint payments for the remaining unit. However we believe that
these payments are unlikely to materialise. The reluctance to propose
full closure of Willington Power Station may relate to a strategy
to retain ownership and operation of the site, and thereby to deny
the site to other users and, in particular, a competing generator".
It was also revealed in this report that National Power had recently
bid for and acquired a 72 per cent shareholding in Hazelwood Power
Station in Australia. The Hazelwood generators were reportedly in
poor condition compared to those at Willington and a part of the success
of the bid to run the Australian power station was the identification
of the use of the Willington Unit 5 AEI Generator. They therefore
intended to ship the generator stator and rotor from Unit 5 to Australia
to provide spares cover for Hazelwood's needs.
Consequently the end of Willington was in sight. Unit 5 was allowed
to close as proposed on 31st March 1998, leaving just the sixth and
last unit to struggle on. By now down-rated to 188Mw, Unit 6 took
its turn to be de-synchronised a year later on 31st March 1999 - thus
ending the 41 year, 3 month & 14 day history of electricity generation
commenced later the same year - in November 1999. A specialist company
called Abel Ltd wining the contract. By now the site was the property
of Innogy Holdings PLC - whether by amalgamation or takeover, this
is what National Power has become.
The demolition of the majority of the site left the most distinctive
features standing - the cooling towers. These remain for the new owners
of the site