Great Britain

Bradford's wooden cooling towers were quite a sight

WHEN people think of cooling towers they imagine tall, curved concrete structures.

Few would suggest that wood would be used to build them.

Yet Bradford Power Station, also known as Valley Road Power Station, had 12 cooling towers made from wood.

With distinctive shapes, these Davenport Towers were so called as they were constructed by Davenport Engineering who were located in Harris Street, Bradford.

The lofty towers were more than 140-foot (43 m) high - some of the highest noted in England at the time they were built in 1897. They had a capacity of 5.335 million gallons per hour.

By the time of its closure in 1976, the power station also had one conventional concrete cooling tower at the northern end of the site, besides retaining many of the original wooden towers. The concrete tower had a capacity of 1.25 million gallons per hour.

Cooling towers are used to lower the temperatures of water used in industry. They allow water and air to come in contact with one another to bring down the temperature of hot water.

As well as concerns about the risk of fire and problems with rot and rust, environmental concerns took their toll on wooden cooling towers across the country and they were gradually replaced by concrete.

The towers at Bradford Power Station were photographed by Bradfordian Ray Banyard who recognised their historic significance.

“They were very distinctive and were an interesting sight, standing in line alongside the power station. I had never seen anything like them before, and have not since,” he said. “When I head that the station was to be demolished I went along to photograph them before they were lost forever.”

He added: “They looked very sturdy and looked to be in good condition. It was a shame to see them go and I am glad I managed to get some pictures of them.”

Literature advertising the towers in an industrial publication from 1920 states that there are 183 towers in commission, dealing with 19,500,000 gallons of water per hour. It states there are a further 56 under construction, expected to handle 9,250,000 gallons per hour.

A later advert, from 1922, boasts of the advantages of using the system: ‘For natural efficiency install a ‘Bradford’ Cooler natural fan draught or open type as supplied to all leading power users at home and abroad.’

The advert also boasts that ‘towers in commission deal with more than 31,500,000 gallons of water per hour’ at electric power stations, steel works, collieries and factories.

The wooden cooling towers vanished on Sunday October 21, 1979, when the 300ft-high chimney at the power station fell to the ground in the controlled demolition.

Crowds watched as the power station chimney came crashing to the floor within seconds, disappearing in great clouds of dust.

Ray was among those who came to witness the spectacle.

The plant had operated for 79 years. The site looks very different now, being now occupied by commercial and industrial units.

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