Portishead power station

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Portishead power station
Portiishead power station.jpg
Portishead B Power Station awaiting demolition in 1989.
LocationSomerset, South West England
Coordinates51°29′28″N 2°45′18″W / 51.491177°N 2.755053°W / 51.491177; -2.755053Coordinates: 51°29′28″N 2°45′18″W / 51.491177°N 2.755053°W / 51.491177; -2.755053
Commission date1929
Decommission date1982
Operator(s)Bristol Corporation Electricity Dept.
Thermal power station
Primary fuelCoal
Tertiary fuelOil-fired
grid reference ST476771

Portishead Power Station refers to a series of two coal and oil-fired power stations. They were built in the dock area of Portishead in Somerset, South West England.

The original Portishead power station was built by Bristol Corporation's Electricity Department and it started generating in 1929. It was later expanded and renamed Portishead A Power Station; and Portishead B Power Station opened in the early 1950s. Both power stations were coal-fired; however Portishead B Power Station, as built, had one-third of its boilers oil-fired and two-thirds coal-fired. Both power stations were later converted to fully oil-fired operation.

They closed in the late 1970s and early 1980s respectively. The power station and dock area have since been demolished and cleared. The sites have now been redeveloped: the site of the two power stations is now occupied by housing and the dock has become a marina.

Portishead A power station[edit]

The first Portishead power station was built by Bristol Corporation's Electricity Department, as the Council's earlier power stations, the first at Temple Back, Bristol (opened 1891) and the second at the Feeder Canal, Bristol, became inadequate to meet the demand.[1] Construction work at Portishead Dock started in 1926; and the station began generating electricity in 1929.[2] With the creation of the Central Electricity Board (CEB) in 1926 and the establishment of the 132 kV National Grid, Portishead Power station, when it opened, remained under the day-to-day control of Bristol Corporation; but was also subject to control by the CEB. It supplied power to the national grid;[3] and in 1931 its installed capacity was advertised as being in excess of 100,000 horsepower (75 MW).[4] In 1937 its original six short chimney stacks were replaced by a 350 feet (110 m) high stack.[2]

In 1947, the British Electricity Authority (BEA) was established, with the nationalisation of the UK's electricity supply industry, through the authority of the Electricity Act 1947. The BEA took over the operations of over 600 private power companies and local council electricity power stations to form 14 area boards. Portishead Power Station ceased to be owned by the Bristol Corporation and was now operated by the BEA. Generating capacity at Portishead was increased in 1948 and a second 350 feet (110 m) stack was added.[2][5] By 1949 the station could generate 240 MW of electricity.[2]

After the Second World War, when building work on the new Portishead B Power Station began, the original station was renamed Portishead A.

Portishead B power station[edit]

The BEA started building the Portishead "B" power station in 1949 on part of the site of the Great Western Railway's original Portishead railway station; which was closed on 4 January 1954 and demolished.[6][7] A replacement railway station was opened some 400 metres nearer the centre of Portishead.[6]

The B power station was built with twelve steam boilers: eight were coal-fired and four oil-fired.[8] The new power station began generating in 1955; however, in 1954 the British Electricity Authority was replaced by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). The CEA itself was abolished in 1957 and both power stations came under the control of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). They remained under the control of the CEGB until their closure and demolition.


The power stations took coal from the Somerset coalfield and from the south Wales coalfields. After 1966, Lower Writhlington and Kilmersdon pits - both located on the Bristol and North Somerset Railway - were the only remaining working pits in the Somerset coalfield, with Portishead power station as their main customer. Coal transported to the power stations by train entered the site along the Portishead Railway. Opened on 12 April 1867 as the Bristol and Portishead Pier and Railway Company, the line was extended to the dock on 5 July 1879.[9]

Welsh coal was also brought across the Bristol Channel from the South Wales coalfield by a fleet of boats.[5] The Dock Master reported that 2,000 tonne per day was imported from South Wales for the A station through Portishead Dock; and that this was expected to increase to about 5,000 tonne per day when the B station came into operation.[10]

Condensing water was taken from the Bristol Channel.[5]


The CEGB fully converted the two power stations to burn oil when collieries in the Somerset coalfield closed. The two Radstock pits ceased production in September 1973 and the last train load of coal arrived at the station on 16 November 1973. The price of oil rose steeply in the 1970s (see 1973 oil crisis and 1979 oil crisis) and the two power stations were little used after these events. By this time Hinkley Point A nuclear power station and Hinkley Point B nuclear power station had come into operation, reducing demand for electricity produced from burning coal.

Closure and demolition[edit]

Portishead A Power Station ceased generating electricity on 15 March 1976. By this time its generating capacity had fallen to 96 MW.[11] The first of its two chimneys was demolished in September 1981, followed by the second in August 1982. The B Station closed in 1982. Its two 383 feet (117 m) chimneys were demolished in October 1992.

An area between the site of the power stations and Royal Portbury Dock which was used to dump the waste is being turned into a nature reserve known as Portbury Ashlands.



  1. ^ Winter (2005), pages 11–18.
  2. ^ a b c d Crowhurst (2001). Chapter 4: Portishead at Work.
  3. ^ Hannah (1979).
  4. ^ Winter (2005), "Bristol Corporation Electricity Department advertisement", Page 19.
  5. ^ a b c Winter (2005).
  6. ^ a b Butt (1995), Page 188.
  7. ^ Crowhurst (2001). Chapter 3: The Railways.
  8. ^ Winter (2005), page 110.
  9. ^ Awdry (2000), Page 19.
  10. ^ Farr (1954), pages 45—46.
  11. ^ Mr. Redmond (16 January 1984). "Coal-fired Power Stations". Hansard. Retrieved 1 September 2009.


  • Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0049-7. OCLC 19514063. CN 8983.
  • Butt, R.V.J., (1995. The Directory of Railway Stations. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1.
  • Crowhurst, Ken, (2001). Images of England: Portishead. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2240-5.
  • Farr, Grahame (1954). Somerset Harbours: including the Port of Bristol. London: Christopher Johnson Publishers Ltd.
  • Hannah, Leslie, (1979). Electricity before Nationalisation: A Study of the Development of The Electricity Supply Industry in Britain to 1948. London: Macmillan Press Ltd. ISBN 0-333-22086-2.
  • Winter, Michael T., (2005). The Portishead Coal Boats: A History of Osborn & Wallis Ltd, Bristol. Lydney: Black Dwarf Publications. ISBN 1-903599-13-X.

See also[edit]