July 27 2011: Watercolour Showing Willington Power Station by Cyril A Farey & Adams (1953)

In contrast to the representation of engineering in the monochrome photographs that accompanied Harry Martin’s 1968 feature on the construction of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, here we find a less obvious fusion of industrial and pastoral aesthetics in a watercolour of Willington Power Station, in Derbyshire, seen as a kind of idealised Garden City entirely at home in the tranquil landscape. With its first phase of development completed in 1959 (Willington A) and a second in 1962 (Willington B) the complex was finally retired from the network in 1999 – though five cooling towers were spared demolition and remain, as monumental follies standing like earthworks or pure sculptural forms on the otherwise levelled site.*

What’s intriguing about this image – a photographic reproduction of an original painting made in 1953 – is that it pre-dates the construction of Willington itself. According to the signatures along the bottom edge it was produced by Cyril A Farey & Adams on behalf of the chartered architects Farmer & Dark and consultant engineers Ewbank & Partners. The reproduction was probably made as a promotional item by The British Electricity Authority either during early planning stages, around 1953, or as a commemorative souvenir when the complex was completed in 1959.  In other words, we’re looking at a visualisation of Willington A before it existed: an image that has already outlived its own subject by more than a decade.

*Footnote: A proposal to build a new gas-fired power station at Willington remains on the table at the time of writing.


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