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 century.

EARLY DAYS

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 looms.



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.


An Iron age beehive quern which was used to mill grain, found in the nearby gravel pits.

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.

The Domesday entry in 1086 for Willington reads (translated from the Latin) as :-

'In Willington 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.

There were 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.

Along Twyford 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 1130AD.

He was 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 1660-80.

A 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.

CANAL WHARF AND MARINA

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.



The fire which destroyed the three storey warehouse by the canal in 1935.


The 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.


FARMS etc.

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 2009

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.

Pilsbury House 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.



Sycamore 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 inches.
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 Spilsbury.


St Michael’s 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 new building.


The old Baptist Chapel on Twyford Road, after the final service in 1982

The new Chapel , which opened in 1983.


The Methodist's 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.

WILLINGTON WINDMILL

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 close by.
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 RIVER, 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 abandoned.

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.


The old Ferry at Twyford which is believed to be similar to the one which was at Willington.

The bridge over the River Trent built by James Trubshaw in 1839, as a toll bridge.



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.



The last of the 18th C riverside warehouses , demolished in 2002.

Willington Power Station

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.


The pipe line used to pump waste ash from the Power Station to nearby gravel pits, near Twyford Road railway bridge in 1957.

A 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 1999.
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.


One 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 structure.


Alan Gifford
June 2011

More information about Willington Power Station below
   

A Brief History of Willington Power Station
by David Harris

The Power Station once dominated the village and was the landmark by which Willington is most often characterised. This is a brief summary of its history.

Willington 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.

The 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).

In 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 table.

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 round.

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 'B'".



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 generating station.



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 May 1995.

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.

Another 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 at Willington.

Demolition 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


Dave Harris

2002