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London writer Ben Pedroche chooses his five secret London spots

Posted at 3:57 pm, October 15, 2013 in Outdoor London, Photos of London, Secret London
Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea

There’s so much to love about London, but we’d never considered its derelict buildings part of its charm. But look at them in a new light and think about the history they represent and these ghosts of productivity and pretty darn magnificent after all. Ben Pedroche’s book ‘London’s Lost Power Stations and Gasworks’ explores some of the city’s empty giants, how they came to be, and how they came to be empty. Here are five of his favourites.

Lots Road Power Station, Lots Road, Chelsea (pictured above)
‘Long before the introduction of the National Grid, London’s underground railway companies had to provide their own power to run their electric trains. The United Electric Railways Company of London built a huge power station at Chelsea Creek, which was used to power what today are the District, Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern lines. It later went on to power the entire network from the 1930s, until being taken out of use in 2002 when its boilers reached the end of their lifespan. It has been derelict ever since, although redevelopment work has recently started at the site. It’s not as famous as a certain other disused power station not too far away at Battersea, but it casts an imposing shadow over one of the most affluent areas of London. Close by can also be found the remaining Victorian gasholder frames at the former Imperial Gasworks, Fulham.’

Millennium Mills, North Woolwich Road

Millennium Mills, North Woolwich Road
‘The intense redevelopment of the Docklands is most visible in a place like Silvertown. Crossrail will soon run through it, the Emirates Air Line goes over it, and it’s been transformed by the success of the ExCel centre, the Docklands Light Railway and London City Airport. But slap bang in the middle you can also find the abandoned Millennium Mills building; a massive former flour mill closed in the early ’90s. It’s currently an awkward white elephant for developers, and it’s future is unclear. It has popped up in TV show ‘Luther’ and many films, and was given the Shepard Fairey treatment in 2012, just before the Olympics. Next door is the failed London Pleasure Gardens, itself also now well-and-truly abandoned.’

Heygate Estate, Walworth Road
‘The grimy aesthetics created by urban decay provoke fascination in many of us. We enjoy looking at photos of street art, dereliction and the darker side of street life, but it’s not usually the type of environment we’d ever want to actually live in. The Heygate Estate in Walworth pretty much sums this up. An immense, sprawling former council estate, it’s been one of London’s most infamous derelict sites for years, even before the last of its residents were forced out. Equal parts loved and hated, it’s been used as a backdrop for several films and music videos, and is currently in the early stages of major redevelopment. It’s best viewed from the platforms of Elephant and Castle mainline railway station.’

Bromley-by-Bow Gasworks

Bromley-by-Bow Gasworks, Twelvetrees Crescent
‘No urban landscape is complete without the inclusion of a rusting old gasholder frame. In Bromley-by-Bow you can find a former gasworks site that has an incredible seven preserved gasholders, today used for balancing and storage. Get closer to them and it becomes clear just how ornate the metalwork is, reflecting how in Victorian London even the dirtiest of industrial structures were designed with style in mind. It’s just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Stadium, and is one of several former industrial sites that managed to survive the mass clean up of the area in the run up to the Games. Also see Abbey Mills Pumping Station nearby. Dubbed the ‘Cathedral of Sewage’, it was built in the 1860s as part of London’s pioneering Victorian public water mains network.’

The Euston Arch, Euston Road
‘Euston station could hardly be described as an architectural masterpiece, particularly when compared to the beautiful St Pancras station a little further along Euston Road. Go back 60 years, however, and the station boasted a distinctive feature that made it stand out from London’s other railway termini. On what today is the bus terminus outside the station, there once stood the Euston Arch; an inexplicably large stone structure that served as a gateway to the railway line behind it. Built in the 1850s, it was 70ft high and was constructed by the station’s owners at a time when each railway company competed to have the most extravagant terminus building. It was demolished in 1961 despite much protest, and there is a campaign to have it rebuilt.’

Find more from Ben at Do Not Alight Here or follow @Ben_Pedroche on Twitter

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