Barking Power Station

Object number

LDVAL 2006.30.2


Small coloured photograph taken to capture the sunset over Barking Power Station. Taken from inside one of the Station buildings, and shows other Power Station buildings in silhouette in the foreground. This item was found among the belongings of William Mundy (donor's father), who worked at Barking Power Station, until the building closed in 1981.

King George V opened the coal-fired Barking Power Station in 1925 although it had been running for some months before this official ceremony. It was built to provide electricity for a large part of Essex as well as for part of Kent and, by the time its four separate sections were completed, it was the largest steam powered station in Europe with a total output of some 100 megawatts of electricity. This electricity was fed into the National Grid for general consumption.

The site, where River Road, Barking, meets the Thames, was chosen because it was easily accessible for the constant stream of coal ships bringing deliveries.

Importantly, there was no shortage of coal during World War II which allowed the crucial energy supply to continue. From 1935, emergency coal stocks were built up at Samuel Williams's Dagenham Docks during the summer for use by several of the Thames-side power stations during the winter. The station also escaped serious bombing – thought to be, in part, because of the smoke it produced which obscured the buildings themselves and offered some protection to the nearby factory of Fords.

Although the unloading of the coal and its delivery into the boilers was mechanical, there was much dirty, heavy and dangerous work to be done such as cleaning the boilers out and lagging the huge pipes. As a result, the Station did not take female employees before 1940. Until then, even the clerical and secretarial work had been done by men. Fine coal dust covered everything, including the contents of the offices.

At its height, Barking Power Station ran its own football and cricket clubs and had a darts team but with the decline in coal-produced electricity, the Station started a redundancy programme in the 1970s and finally closed in November 1981. The buildings were then demolished.

Today, another new Barking Power Station exists, sited in Chequers Road, Dagenham, beside the Breach. Construction started in March 1992 and it took 2000 people three years to build

Physical description

Small coloured photograph of an industrial scene. The lower half of the picture contains the foreground, which is in silhouette with just a few details visible in the fading light. The details visible are a shed roof in the lower right corner, factory buildings in the centre foreground with cranes and hills behind. The top half of the photograph shows a lightly cloudy sky coloured pink and purple by the sunset.






Whole length: 124mm
width: 88mm

Collection type

Social history

Alternative reference

Entry Number 1664/2 (2006-10-28)

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InstitutionValence House Museum
Collection typeSocial history