As part of my recently finished BA Photojournalism degree at Staffordshire University, I worked on photographing a number of decommissioned power stations and the people and environments that surround them.
Titled Towers, my major project was featured as part of the Staffordshire University degree show on the 8th June 2018 and ran as part of the exhibition until the 16th June 2018.
‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘, or so the saying goes. One person’s ugly may be the jewel of another person’s eye. Our own definition of beauty is unique and as individual as every person.
Towers is a project documenting decommissioned cooling towers in the heart of England, exploring the relationship between these industrial giants and the communities who live beneath them. To some people in these places, the cooling towers have blighted the landscape since their construction. However, over time, the towers have become just an imperfect part of their daily lives, and also one of their community’s most defining features.
Cooling towers are a monument to our nation’s industrial past. Now that the threat of demolition awaits, those living beneath them have begun to stand up and protest for what they see as their own; their (large) pieces of heritage on the green, green grass of home.
As one resident of Rugeley, Staffordshire, described of the town’s ‘B’ power station cooling towers:
‘They look rather forlorn, but I can never get lost finding my way home from anywhere within a 20 mile radius‘.
Willington, Derbyshire. The power station here closed in 1997 and, since then, all that has remained are the cooling towers. Some of the cooling towers are of a pre-nationalisation type, constructed in the 1950s. These are of a thinner stature but remain a hyperboloid design. Plans for the site have been floated, including the construction of a gas-powered power station on the site using the cooling towers, but as yet there have been no formal plans submitted.
James Clarke Road, in Willington, has since the construction of numerous new homes. The view of the cooling towers at this location has now been obscured rather by these new developments. It could be suggested that it is the done-thing in the present day to remove traces of our heavy industrial past, but they still creep through.
Ferrybridge, Yorkshire. Ferrybridge ‘C’ power station closed in 2016, having suffered with the demise of the coal industry and the tax on coal imports to Immingham and Liverpool. Previously, a cooling tower collapsed in 1965 and a fire on an out-building occurred in 2014.
Seen from St Edward the Confessor church, Brotherton, the cooling towers at Ferrybridge lie dominantly on the landscape. The 900-year-old church in the foreground has recently had work done on the roof thanks to National Lottery funding.
On the entry road to Brotherton, off the A162, a horse in its field renders a nice foreground with a complete background of all eight towers that make up the Ferrybridge power station site.
The River Aire threads between Brotherton and Ferrybridge, and a small lane and footpath lay on the bridge that leads to the B6136, adjacent to the GMOS Ferrybridge complex. The identity and whereabouts of Jimmy remain unknown.
A further walk up the B6136 leads to the main entrance to Ferrybridge ‘C’. Opposite the gates lies Pollards Fields, home to Mrs Barham since 1979.
“We don’t tend to notice them anymore. We’ve lived here since 1979, we’ve even seen seen a fire there. The new owners have come in and taken over everything, so it has started to change but they’re still part of us. We think that they’re just giant pepper pots!”
Castleford Lane, Ferrybridge, sees a regular bus service operate past the power station site, connecting residents with Pontefract and Knottingley. The size and dominance of these towers is brought to attention when viewed from a reasonably close proximity at street level.
Ferrybridge Fisheries, home to pies, chips and, of course, fish.
There is no more dominant view of the cooling towers at Ferrybridge than from Wentcliffe Road. The ascent to the top of the road provides a landscape view with the horizon formed of concrete.
Rugeley, Staffordshire. Rugeley ‘B’ power station was closed in 2016, similarly to Ferrybridge. Brereton & Ravenhill Parish Council’s building is overlooked by these towers, and the council are directly involved in the planning applications for the proposed work on the site.
Members of Brereton & Ravenhill Parish Council discuss the planning applications for the Rugeley power station site. Asked whether there was a case for the towers to be saved from demolition, Councillor Jones said:
“There is a sense of ownership and that is completely understandable. That is why we are so keen to preserve historic buildings. That sense of ownership is not going to get any money in however, and that is the only thing that could save them.”