An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 84 (of 87 parts) - Bold Power Station (1955 to 1986)

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 84 (of 87) - Bold Power Station (1955 - 86)
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Bold Power Station
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVI
Bold Power Station Cooling Towers
Bold A Station cooling towers c.1955
Bold Power Station generated electricity for almost four decades, employing over 300 permanent staff. Although the site off Travers Entry hadn't been the first choice for a new power station in St.Helens. Authorisation was first granted in August 1947 for a station at Ashtons Green. However the National Coal Board put a spanner in the works when they announced the phasing out of the nearby colliery. So St.Helens Corporation had to search for another site. Land close to Bold Colliery - from where coal could easily be sourced - was chosen and ministerial consent was granted in April 1950.

Technically the correct name should be Bold Power Stations, as there were two. The 'A' station comprised four 30 megawatt (MW) generating units, of which one had been the first water-cooled generator in the world. Two large cooling towers provided the 'A' station with its all-important turbine condenser cooling. The 'B' station was more powerful than 'A', possessing three 60 MW units and their cooling was provided by three towers. 'B' station was also more advanced than 'A', with a greater steam pressure of 900psi (compared to 600psi) and a higher temperature of 482° Celsius (compared to 454°).

The first water-cooled generator in the world was installed at Bold in 1956, a 30 MW unit part of station 'A'

The first water-cooled generator in the world was installed at Bold in 1956

The first water-cooled generator in the world was installed at Bold in 1956

The 'A' station was constructed first, with building work beginning in 1950. Commissioning of two of its units took place in 1953 and 1954, with the remaining two units commissioned in 1957. The electrical work was undertaken by S. H. Heywood & Co. of Manchester. Bold's 'B' station was commissioned between 1958 and 1960, which is why Cliff Payne's photograph c.1955 (pictured above top right), only reveals two cooling towers. These belonged to the 'A' station, and the 'B' station with its three towers had yet to be built.

The layout of Bold Power Station situated off Travers Entry in Bold

The layout of Bold Power Station situated off Travers Entry in Bold

The layout of the Bold Power Station

Progress came with a price and at least four men are said to have been separately killed while constructing the cooling towers. These were sited on fields that contained ponds that had been home to great-crested newts, which are a protected species, amongst other wildlife. Bold Power Station was officially opened by the British Electricity Authority (later CEGB) on September 30th 1955, having generated electricity for the first time in December 1953. A curious fact was that the water used by the cooling towers was treated effluent from a sewage works at Parr!

The 'B' station control room at Bold Power Station (left) and in the turbine room (right) - contributed by Neil Selfridge

The 'B' station control room at Bold (left) and in the turbine room (right)

Bold Power Station turbine room

The 'A' station supplied local sub-stations in the St Helens and Widnes district at a voltage of 33kV using six overhead lines. The 'B' station supplied the local National Grid at 132kV.

The main electrical control desk for the Bold 'A' station which supplied local sub-stations in St Helens and Widnes

Bold 'A' station’s main electrical control desk which supplied sub-stations

Bold ‘A’s main electrical control desk

Bold Power Station's 'B' station control desk
The control desk for Bold's 'B' station
The above photograph shows the 'A' station control desk within the main Control Room at Bold. The 'B' station desk is pictured on the right, both pictures taken about 1970. The 'A' and 'B' station control desks were back to back and the Control Room was manned by a single Control Engineer, who controlled output from the seven generators.

The national demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day with minimum requirements in the small hours and peak demand around 8:30am to 9:30am and from 4:30pm to 6pm. Bold received its daily assessments of likely demand from Grid Control in Manchester after breaking down predictions from the National Control Centre in London. The control engineer received the morning programme around 2:30am and the shift charge engineer then decided which units needed to be brought on load to satisfy the likely demand. A typical programme for Bold's 'A' station that required all four units might read: '06.30: 22MW; 0700: 44MW; 07.30: 66MW; 08.00: 88MW, standby 120MW'.

Further programmes were received from Manchester at intervals during the day, requiring variations in generation at a target frequency. The large round dial to the left of the 'B' station photo with the pointer just past vertical, indicated the mains frequency with 50Hz at the vertical position. The turbine governor would adjust load slightly to take account of any small changes in demand.

Coal sidings at Bold Power Station although coal was invariably delivered by conveyor from Bold Colliery

Coal sidings, although coal mainly arrived by conveyor from Bold Colliery

Coal sidings at Bold Power Station

Coal entered the site by means of a conveyor direct from Bold Colliery. Although sidings and a tippler house (for emptying each rail wagon individually by turning it upside down) were situated behind the site, coal was rarely, if ever, delivered by rail. Coal was supplied as pre-crushed 'washed smalls' and transferred to either the 'A' or 'B' station bunkers, which were situated at the top of each boiler house. It would then pass by gravity down a chute onto variable speed rotating feeder tables, where an arm would direct the required rate of coal feed into 'pulverising' mills on the ground floor.

A pulverising mill at Bold which crushed the coal to a fine powder enabling instant ignition in a furnace

Pulverising mill which crushed coal to a fine powder enabling instant ignition

Pulverising mill which crushed coal to a fine powder enabling instant ignition

The pulverising mills ground the coal to a fine powder with the consistency of flour, so it would instantly ignite when fed into a furnace. Coal from the feeder tables entered the mills through a chute. In the above photograph, the chute is shown to the left of the mill, just behind the ladder. Within the 'A' station, the coal then dropped onto a revolving table and was crushed by two conical rollers, the trunnion arms for which are shown in the centre of the picture. Hot air was blown upwards from the air belt situated below the revolving table and coal particles that fell over the rim of the table were carried upwards towards rotating blades in the top of the mill, known as 'classifiers'. The larger particles would strike the blades and fall back to be re-ground. However the finer coal particles would pass through the classifiers and were then fed to the burners.

There was a different system employed at the 'B' station, where the mills used large steel drums with corrugated cast iron liners to pulverise the coal. Each drum contained 27 tons of two-inch diameter steel balls. Coal entered the rotating drum at one end and was crushed by the action of the tumbling balls. Hot air was fed into the mill and the coal /air mixture was then drawn out and fed to the burners.

One of the 3 boilers (burners) at the 'B' station which were operated from a unit control room - 'A' had 4 boilers

One of the three boilers at the 'B' station, operated from a unit control room

One of the three boilers at 'B' station

'B' station burners were mounted on the front wall of the furnace and and their steam temperature was controlled by a water spray desuperheater. The vertical pipes (shown in the foreground of the above picture) contain the pulverised coal dust. Each splits three ways to feed the coal/air mixture to the burners on the furnace wall behind. The 'A' station burners were mounted tangentially at each corner of the boiler furnace and could be tilted to change the level of the combustion process and thus control the temperature of the steam.

Within the 'A' station's boiler house, operators would man the boiler control panels. However 'B' station had a more modern design and the boilers and turbines were operated from a unit control room. The four boilers in 'A' each evaporated 300,000 lbs of water per hour while the three boilers in 'B' station each evaporated 550,000 lbs of water per hour.

The 'A' station turbine hall at Bold Power Station which was manned by dedicated turbine operators

The 'A' station turbine hall manned by dedicated turbine operators

The 'A' station turbine hall at Bold

The above photograph shows the 'A' station turbine hall at Bold. The turbine plant was separated from the boiler house and was manned by dedicated turbine operators.

Surveying the damage within Bold Power Station after a turbine explosion - contributed by Peter Carmichael

Surveying the damage within Bold Power Station after a turbine explosion

The damage after a turbine explosion

About 1960 there was a serious explosion in the turbine hall, caused by an overfeeding of the boiler and water carry over to the turbine. Peter Carmichael has contributed the above photograph taken by his father who was working in the hall at the time. Peter writes that his Dad, who was a fitter at the station from 1956 to 1982, heard a turbine running out of control and gathering speed. He ran to get out of the building and as he got to the door it exploded. A broken shaft was found in another building nearly 100 metres from the hall and another piece of the shaft was found in a field a quarter of a mile away. Peter's father worked day and night on the repairs for a couple of months afterwards.

Norman Edwards was also working at Bold Power Station the day the turbine blew up and had a lucky escape:
 I was on my way from the Lab to take water samples from the turbine when I saw parts of it go through the roof. If the accident had been a few minutes later, I would have been kneeling at the side of it. 

Left: Gareth Owen pictured in the turbine hall in 1966; Right: In a control room at Bold Power Station - contributed by Gareth Owen

Left: Gareth Owen in the turbine hall in 1966; Right: In a control room

Gareth Owen in the turbine hall in 1966

Gareth Owen in the 'B' Station Control Room at Bold Power Station in 1966 - contributed by Gareth Owen

Gareth Owen in the 'B' Station Control Room at Bold Power Station in 1966

Gareth Owen pictured in the 'B' Station Control Room at Bold in 1966

Gareth Owen spent a few months training at Bold in 1966, and had the pictures above taken as souvenirs. Gareth wondered what the wheel by his side actually did and Peter Jenner - who worked at Bold from 1970 until 1978 - explains:
 Just by Gareth's right hand at the front of the B Station Unit Control Room panel (just above the handwheel) are a series of levers. These selected hydraulically operated dampers for isolating sections of the boiler gas passes etc. Normally these were supplied with hydraulic fluid from a small electric pump, which I think was inside the panel. If this failed or if electrical supplies were isolated, then the handwheel could be turned to operate a hydraulic pump which would open or close the dampers manually.

Aerial photo taken c.1990 after Bold Colliery's demolition showing Bold Power Station - contributed by Neil Selfridge

Aerial photo taken about 1990 after the demolition of Bold Colliery

Bold aerial photo taken about 1990

For nearly thirty years the station had five cooling towers but in February 1985 two were demolished. This was apparently as a result of high winds that had caused a cooling tower at the nearby Fiddlers Ferry power station to collapse. Insurance inspections were subsequently carried out on the five Bold towers and two were discovered to be in a slightly more deteriorated state than the others. They were deemed uninsurable and so were demolished. Although by this time the towers were redundant as the 'A' unit of the power station that fed the twin towers had been decommissioned in October 1981.

A fire sends a pall of smoke over Bold Power Station's three remaining cooling towers - contributed by Jim Lamb

A fire sends a pall of smoke over Bold's three remaining cooling towers

A fire sends a pall of smoke over Bold’s three remaining cooling towers

Bold Power Station closed in 1991 and the photograph above was taken by Jim Lamb around this time. A fire at Travers Farm sent a pall of smoke over the power station's three remaining cooling towers. These were demolished in March 1992 and a large housing estate now occupies the site.

End of an era as Bold Power Station's remaining cooling towers are destroyed in 1992 - Contributed by Les Standish

Bold Power Station's remaining cooling towers are destroyed in 1992

Cooling towers are destroyed in 1992

Many thanks to Peter Jenner, former Control Engineer and Station Efficiency Engineer at Bold Power Station, for his invaluable assistance with this page, including supplying the uncredited photographs. If you can provide any further information and/or photographs, please do get in touch. Thank you.

The New Bold housing estate of almost 600 homes on the site of Bold Power Station

The New Bold housing estate built on the site of Bold Power Station

The New Bold housing estate built on the site of Bold Power Station

Next:  Part 85)  Lea Green Colliery  |  Back To Top of Page
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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