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Deptford Power Station, site of
Deptford, London
associated engineer
Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti
date  April 1888 - November 1889, 1900, 1926-9, 1957
era  Victorian  |  category  Power Generation  |  reference  TQ375777
ICE reference number  HEW 2287
Deptford was London’s first major power station, larger than anything then in existence. It was built for the London Electricity Supply Corporation Ltd, whose Chief Engineer, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, designed the building, the generating plant and the distribution system.
The station was designed to generate electricity at 10,000V with alternating current at 83.3Hz and 5,000 cycles per minute — thought to be too dangerous to attempt in central London, so a 1.2 hectare site at Deptford was chosen. Its location on Deptford Creek also provided cooling water and a transport route for the incoming coal.
The main building was 64m long and 59.4m wide, supported on a 1.2m thick mass concrete raft foundation. It housed the four alternators, each weighing 508 tonnes.
Coal was delivered to the boiler house on rails laid from a quay at the creek some 110m away. The boilerhouse had two squat chimneys and contained four steam engines of some 7,500kW each, with 80 boilers producing 627 tonnes of steam per hour.
Ferranti, an electrical engineer and inventor, decided to manufacture the high voltage mains cables for electricity distribution to his own design, after the first set failed. They were made in 6m lengths and then joined — of 8,000 joints, only 15 were faulty. Some cables remained in service until 1933.
The cable design consisted of two copper tubes, one inside the other, separated by insulating material and the whole encased in another layer of insulator, then placed in a protective iron sleeve. The insulator invented by Ferranti was brown paper saturated with wax.
The cables crossed the River Thames on the railway bridges at Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Blackfriars and were laid in the tunnels of the Metropolitan and District Railway.
The first electricity was supplied in November 1889. Ferranti left the London Electricity Supply Corporation in August 1891, after a series of setbacks as public confidence in the station dwindled. Smaller engines were then used instead of the 7,500kW engines. Ferranti was later awarded an honorary doctorate for his pioneering work, including the innovations at Deptford Power Station.
In 1900 the station was closed for six months for refurbishment, re-opening to growing demand for electricity. Until 1904, the electricity was supplied mostly for lighting but in 1909, the station began supplying electricity for railways.
The site’s generating capacity was enlarged with the addition of Deptford West power station in 1929 and Deptford East in 1957.
Deptford West was designed with large basements, which necessitated substantial retaining walls and block foundations. The preliminary work began in July 1926 and electricity was first generated in June 1929.
Demolition of the Ferranti station took place 1991-92, together with the removal of Deptford East station. Power generation ceased at Deptford in 1983.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Ferranti's Deptford Power Station”, Supplement to Histelec News No.25, December 2003, document in PDF available on www.swehs.co.uk
"The 132-Kilovolt Transmission System of the Central Scotland Electricity Scheme. The Deptford West Power-Station of the London Power Company, Limited" by Sir G.W. Humphreys, C.S. Berry, C.E.H. Verity, S.B. Donkin, R.E.B. Crompton, R.T. Smith, J.M. Kennedy, W.M. Selvey, R.M. Charley, R.W. Mountain and H.P. Gaze, ICE Proceedings, Vol.232, 1931, pp319-338
www.glias.org.uk
www.icevirtuallibrary.com
www.mosi.org.uk
www.portcities.org.uk
www.swehs.co.uk
reference sources   CEH Lond
Location

Deptford Power Station, site of