More power to the people

The power station  in all its glory

The power station in all its glory

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Many of us can remember the massive power station in Old Portsmouth which was mostly demolished in 1981. I can remember my late father telling me that the power station extension should never have been built as it was constructed on land left to the people of Portsmouth.

Many of us can remember the massive power station in Old Portsmouth which was mostly demolished in 1981. I can remember my late father telling me that the power station extension should never have been built as it was constructed on land left to the people of Portsmouth.

Former News seller Jack Hind who knew of the covenant

Former News seller Jack Hind who knew of the covenant

It appears that he was half-right.

The main power supply to Portsmouth was begun with the laying of a foundation stone in 1892.

The location was in St Mary Street and a pub, The Bluebell Tavern, and a music hall along with several houses were demolished.

The power station was ready for business just two years later after an intense building programme where workmen worked past midnight to finish the job.

On June 6, 1894 the five Lancashire boilers with a steaming capacity of 5,000lbs produced a combined output of 559kW. Such was the success of the station that by the onset of the First World War, a further generator was installed and the output was 3,300kW.

After the war it was obvious that the site was inadequate and in 1927 a further building to incorporate a new 10,000kW machine was put up. Two years later another machine of the same power output was installed.

At the same time the Camber Dock was constructed so that colliers could deliver coal to the doors of the station.

Many of you will remember the enclosed conveyor belts passing over Gunwharf Road and the two 300ft brick-built chimneys.

The plot taken for the 1927 extension is the part that my late father talked to me about as it took in the sites of the former St Mary’s Church, Colewart Barracks and Portsmouth Town School.

In June of 1921 at a vestry meeting of the parishioners of St Thomas’s, it was agreed to demolish St Mary’s Church in Highbury Street.

It was less than a century old and was little used, but the site was sacred and had associations with the past and a decision to preserve the site and a covenant keep the land as an open space was agreed and approved.

On the site of Colewart Barracks in ancient times there was a chapel dedicated to Mary of Close, and during some alterations to the barracks some time after the new century had begun, parts of religious building were discovered.

Attached to the chapel was the then disused Colewart burial ground which formed part of the garden which the land dedicated to be an open space forever had become.

Obviously we cannot stop progress. But does land at some point become non-sacred?

I’m sure it doesn’t.

So what became of the covenant and the promise to keep the land as an open space for ever?

Was it supposed to have been returned to a garden in future years if the power station was demolished?

I would like to know the answer. ... perhaps the houses in Armoury Lane should be demolished for the return of the land to the people of Portsmouth?

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