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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2005, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Battersea's ex-workers tell their stories
More than two decades after Battersea Power Station produced its last electricity, a handful of former workers returned to its stripped out shell.

They recounted life working in the noisy turbine halls and boiler house, and pondered its future as the centrepiece of a vast shopping, conference and accommodation complex, due to open in 2009.

BRIAN PEACOCK, 58, TURBINE HALL OPERATOR, 1965-83

I was proud to work here because it was history. It didn't matter where you went in the world, if you said you worked at Battersea Power Station people would talk about it - well, it was either that or the dogs' home.

Brian Peacock
Brian: 'Proud to work here'

I looked after the turbines, running them up to pick up the load and shutting them down - it was something you got used to, you could do it blindfolded. You had to be prepared, get them set up ready and monitor them.

It was great working here, a pleasure. I knew so many people it was like having a family. We played football, went fishing, had discos in the sports centre.

The closure was sad - as over the course of the few years before, your friends were leaving.

Looking at it now, it's saddening, it's just like a carcass compared to what it was - a hive of industry. Let's just hope it can be built up again.

The plans are good. I am amazed that they are going to be able to do it so quickly. It's a massive project and I hope it will succeed. They need something like this to pick up the area.

PETER ALDRIDGE, 78, ELECTRICAL MAINTENANCE ENGINEER, 1956-80

I worked all over the station, fault-finding. We'd go to find the problem, write down what needed to be done.

Peter Aldridge
Peter: 'There was a huge inquiry'

Your lights might go at home, but in a power station that's a huge task. This place was the biggest generator of electricity, right up to the early 1960s. It wasn't unusual for people to do 10 miles a day. That's why I'm now in the ramblers!

In April 1964 the whole station almost blew up in a fire. BBC 2 was due to start broadcasting that night, it had to be cancelled.

After that, there was a huge inquiry and a lot of work done. There were a lot of black-outs.

When we first started we didn't have helmets or ear plugs, I used to carry a tin around with me with cotton wool in it for my ears.

RONALD ASHE, 75, ELECTRICAL FITTER 1956-65

It was a hard start. I'd come straight from the West Indies, straight into the power station, doing jobs an English person was doing. They didn't think I had the know-how.

Ronald Ashe
'The ultimate modification': Ronald

It was an improvement in my status to move here. This of course didn't go down well. One man never spoke to me from the moment I came here to the day I left. He had his reasons... One gave me the impression he was a National Front member.

I made them see what sort of person I am, I get most people to understand me.

The power station was the ultimate modification. The plans are very good - when you look at the situation they're in at the moment you can't imagine what it would grow into.

ROGER FLAHERTY, 59, ASSISTANT CHARGE ENGINEER 1971-74

Working here was great. I was a young engineer - 25 - quite an exciting time of my life. Great people here, great atmosphere and very much hands-on. I learned a lot.

Roger Flaherty
'It was hands-on': Roger

If you go to a modern power station, you'd be standing around like this and its all little buttons and touch screens, whereas here, it was hands-on."

In the station there was open-grate flooring, you could be up on the 30-40 metre level and some people couldn't handle it. When you used to take visitors around they would just freeze as if you looked down at the floor below, what you were standing on just blurred.

It could be a bit hairy when you got things going wrong and it would be my job to sort that out. If there was a problem, some sort of klaxon would sound, you'd come up to it here in the control room, see (what was wrong) by the light grid.

ALAN DRURY, 73, BOILERHOUSE ENGINEER 1959-1983

It is vast, this enormous place. I didn't realise when it was a station - with walls, structures, machines - that it was so huge a space.

Alan Drury
'It was noisy': Alan

It was noisy, Turbine Hall B was the loudest because it had a solid roof. Only in later years were we issued with hearing defenders - really my hearing is remarkable.

Whenever we had the steeplejacks up the chimneys we had to monitor the storms, and if there was a storm coming, tell them to come down.



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