08 December 2014
How to run a power station
Have you ever wondered where the electricity from your plug sockets actually comes from? Electricity shortages were a fact of life in postwar Britain, with power cuts and voltage reductions a regular occurrence. The hodgepodge collection of existing power stations couldn't keep up with the fast rising demand for electricity and the British Electricity Authority and its successor, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB), embarked on a massive programme of power station construction. Between 1948 and 1988 over 100 power stations were built in Britain, the large majority of them coal fired. As equipment became more capable, the stations became larger, turning into immensely powerful castles of generation that still provide a large proportion of Britain’s electricity needs today.
Image: Matt Casswell filming Granville Camsey at Rugeley B, Staffordshire (© British Library)
Amongst these stations is Rugeley B, a 1000 megaWatt station built on the River Trent in Staffordshire in the 1960s and 1970s. Last year a few of us from National Life Stories got to spend the day at Rugeley to do an interview with Granville Camsey, the station's manager in the 1970s, and his modern day equivalent, David Leich, as part of An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry. As you can see from this video, making electricity on a large scale relies on a mix of people and big technology - it's absolutely vast inside and an incredible place to visit.
Clip: Granville Camsey compares running a power station in the 1970s and today. (© British Library)
To listen to more interviews from An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK, please visit British Library Sounds http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Industry-water-steel-and-energy