Bringing power to the people
FOR close on half a century, the massive chimneys of Cliff Quay power station could be seen from all around Ipswich. One of the first sights people saw as the train from London cleared the banks near Belstead was the familiar tall structures across the River Orwell.
FOR close on half a century, the massive chimneys of Cliff Quay power station could be seen from all around Ipswich.
One of the first sights people saw as the train from London cleared the banks near Belstead was the familiar tall structures across the River Orwell. It was like a welcome home.
When I was a pupil at Landseer Secondary School in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the power station was a near neighbour, which then seemed as if it would forever be a feature of the skyline.
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A photograph which was taken at the ceremony of the “driving of the first pile” on June 11, 1945, was recently brought into the Evening Star office. This must have been an occasion of great optimism for employment and the future of Ipswich just a few weeks after the end of the Second World War in Europe.
Like many of these ceremonies it was a gathering of “suits” while the real work goes on in the background. Included in the front of the group was a young girl identified as Audrey Vowles, who was probably there with members of her family. Do you know why young Audrey was there?
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The new power station replaced the one built in Constantine Road, Ipswich. That station was built to supply power for the electric trams and for sale to businesses and slowly to domestic use. Work started there in October 1902. It seems amazing now that this Edwardian building and offices cost just £26,948. It was built by the firm S Kenney of Ipswich. The neighbouring tram depot cost a further £6,704. The tram shed is still used by Ipswich Buses. The engines and dynamos for the Edwardian station were supplied jointly by Reavell and Company and the Allgemeine Company of Berlin.
The first electric street lamp was switched on in 1909 and slowly over several decades the gas street lamps were replaced. By the 1920s Ipswich was supplying Woodbridge, Stowmarket and Felixstowe with power.
The Cliff Quay power station, which cost around £8million, opened in 1949 on a 104-acre site, part of which had been reclaimed from mud flats beside the River Orwell for coal storage and ash disposal. The Ipswich Corporation had decided to build the coal fired station in 1937 to keep pace with the demand in the town for electric power.
Work first started in 1939, but was stopped by the outbreak of the Second World War. When it opened the industry had been nationalised.
Most of the coal for the station arrived by ships to a purpose-built jetty. In the first year of operation the station burned 244,000 tons of coal. Many factories, offices and homes were also burning coal into the 1960s. With this combination plus the smoke from the power station it is not surprising that foggy days in town often used to turn into dense smog.
During the miners' strikes of the early 1970s the gates at Cliff Quay were the scene of angry confrontations as lorry loads of coal arrived.
Did you work at Cliff Quay power station or have memories to share? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or