The first Darlington Power Station was built in 1900-01 on Haughton Road, on the site where the Bannatyne gym now stands. It was beside the East Coast Main Line, allowing coal to be transported directly to the power station. It was constructed by R. Blackett and Son Ltd.

Aerial view of Darlington Power Station taken in September 1974

Expansion of the site

The site was extended in 1920 but increased demand for power led to a much bigger expansion in 1939. This included the construction of the three large cooling towers and three tall chimneys on an adjacent site, between the railway line and Borough Road. The towers and chimneys became iconic on the skyline of the town.

As a potential target for enemy bombers, during the Second World War attempts were made to camouflage the vast cooling towers, though the painted markings can have had only limited effect. A photograph from 1979 (towards the bottom of this page) shows that it was still clearly visible, decades after the war.

With the nationalisation of the electricity industry in 1948 the role of the power station in Darlington changed to one of a standby generator, for use only at peak times. This role continued for the rest of its productive life.

The photographs below show ‘A’ Station at Darlington Power Station.

Inside Darlington A Station
Darlington Power Station Equipment in ‘A’ Station
Generating equipment at Darlington ‘A’ Station
At work in ‘A’ Station

Memories of the power station

For the seven-year-old Donna (now Mrs About Darlington) the power station, with its cooling towers which overshadowed her childhood home in Middleton Street, provide happy memories. The twinkling lights inside the generating building were comforting to watch from her bedroom window and the sound of water running down the inside of the cooling towers, just a few feet away, sent her to sleep on hot summer nights.

Cooling towers from Middleton Street
The cooling towers overshadowed the houses in Middleton Street – Second Word War camouflage still visible on them just before their demolition in 1979

Closure and demolition

The closure of Darlington Power Station was announced in October 1975. It closed in October 1976. The tall chimneys were the first to go – taken down by hand in 1978 due to the proximity of surrounding buildings. The enormous cooling towers followed. They were demolished on 28 January 1979. That day remains a vivid memory for many in the town. Footage of the demolition still survives. Finally, the station works were demolished later in 1979.

Upper Russell Street in 1978 as one of the tall chimneys was being taken down

The demolition provided great entertainment for the children of Middleton Street. Taking up a grandstand position on the wall in the back lane, they watched and waited for big sections of the chimneys to be knocked off the top, crashing down inside the cavity and hitting the ground with a huge thud which reverberated through the wall that they were sitting on.

Less welcome was the mass exodus of rats, as the site was cleared.

Trains passing on the East Coast Main Line became much more noticeable to nearby residents, once the mighty cooling towers had gone. Their mass had absorbed much of the noise and vibration of the passing heavy freight trains.

The site became what is now the Borough Road Industrial Estate. Only the name of the entrance road, Steeplejack Way, remains as a reminder of the towering structures which once stood there.

If you have any photos, memories or information about Darlington Power Station which would add to the story on this page, please email history@aboutdarlington.co.uk