Power Behind Power

Lara asks:

Will you or any of your readers know who owned Greenwich Power Station in the early 50s? My Grandad worked there and I would love to find out about the work he did there.

UK Power Networks who run the station were unable to help as the station has been owned by many companies over the years.

The Phantom replies:

I have a really terrible filing system for the Greenwich ephemera that people have been kind enough to pass my way over the years – basically it’s all nice and flat, protected in bits of plastic and in no order whatsoever. One of these days I’ll properly file it but for now it’s just seven box files of bits of paper, so it took a while this morning to track down the two documents I knew I had somewhere…

And after all that, annoyingly for this question all the literature I have about the power station focuses on the technical side of it rather than the history. Fascinating though it is (and at least it reminded me to write to TFL to see if I can get permission to PDF-ise two documents – the properly-published Modernisation of Greenwich Generating Station from 1971 and the rather less official mimeographed 1974 London Transport Executive Greenwich Generating Station – I’ve had no response in the past, so don’t hold your breath…) it’s not much good for dates and historical facts.

So the short answer is that as far as I know it was owned by London Transport, or whatever they were called at that time. Certainly it was run for the trams, but whether LT actually owned the building or not I just can’t tell. Peter – do you know anything about this?

My best suggestion (other than to pick Peter’s brain…) is to ask Greenwich Industrial History Society and I did find this little article which, although it doesn’t mention any owners, does seem to imply that it was LT themselves.

But I am very grateful to know about UK Power Networks. After years of trying to get TFL to open the power station for Open House, I now have someone new to badger. It tops the wish-list every year – and I still live in hope that one of these days we’ll get it opened for tours…

9 Comments to “Power Behind Power”

  1. Mary says:

    Its always been owned by whoever was running the trains or the trams or whatever, or some subsidiary company to them – but Lara – are you sure it was that power station. There was another one on the Peninsula, usually called Blackwall Point Power Station – and of course two more just over the Creek in Deptford.
    GLIAS published an article about the LCC one (the one still there). I could let you have a copy if you want

  2. Tracey Sparling says:

    Hi Lara, I work for UK Power Networks and wanted to clarify that this company doesn’t own Greenwich Power Station. We’re a distribution company rather than one which generates energy, so we own the smaller substations across London which help deliver power to homes and businesses. Good luck in your search.

  3. Oh – that’s a shame – I’ve just sent an email to your customer services asking if we can have an Open House day there. Ah, well. The search continues.

  4. Lara says:

    Hi Mary,

    My aunt says he did for sure, and he lived in Circus Street so I am pretty sure I am right! He was an ‘Engineers Fitter’, is that a power station job??? :-)

    Thanks again Phantom, two posts in a row inspired by me! Woo hoo!

  5. Lara says:

    Hi Tracey,

    This is the email I had back:

    “Dear Lara,

    I’m sorry but we don’t hold employee records from that long ago. The company has changed hands many times since deregulation.

    Sorry we can’t be of more help.

    Kind regards

    Customer Relations, UK Power Networks”

    They didn’t state that they didn’t own the power station, not that it matters anyway! :-) . Also, I got an email reply the next day, good customer service!

  6. Lara says:

    Btw, I Googled ‘did london transport own greenwich power station’ and found this: http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/assets/downloads/Greenwich.pdf


  7. Stephen says:

    I’m afraid Tracey above is not quite right.

    Although the power station in Greenwich is still owned by London Underground, it is operated by UK Power Networks Services Powerlink Ltd as one part of a 30 year contract with LU.

    The relevant part of their website, where they confirm they operate and maintain Greenwich, is:

    They give a contact email address and fax number.

    Hope that helps!

  8. Eric says:

    I started there as an 18 year old in 1972, just as the old steam turbines were being run down and removed.
    The building was built and owned by the LCC tramways, which then was taken over by the London Passenger Transport Board (LTPB)in 1933. it has been passed down through the LTPB’s successors, Londn Transport Executive, London trnasport Board, back to an Exective, then to London Underground and is part of transport for Londons Assets, although leased to UK Power Networks under a PFI agreement.
    All power stations would have been self sufficient for repairs etc, so that an Engineers Fitter is a perfectly possible occupation.

  9. Eric says:

    Try the London Transport Museum for information about records of your relation. There was a magazine “LT News” which would have listed staff reitements etc, and I am sure that the museum would have held copies.
    I would think that UK Power Networks have no interest in the buidling or its history, except as a money-making concern.