Ex-worker would not save the Ironbridge cooling towers

For 32 years Eric Alcock worked at the Ironbridge Power Station and he has only one thought on the future of cooling towers: "Tear them down".

Eric, from Dawley, started out his working life down the mines, but within five years of him starting they began to shut and he was forced to find something else.

The 69-year-old father-of-two was told they were hiring for the then new power station – and he spent more than three decades there.

David Smart, Gordon Bradshaw and David Bailey, after they and the rest of the men finished the construction of the last cooling tower at Ironbridge in the late 1960s.

He was one of the 600 people who came to have their say on the future of the Ironbridge Gorge during a consultation event held by power station site owners Harworth, who will develop the area into nearly 1,000 new homes, as well as commercial and leisure facilities. The feedback from the consultation is now being analysed by the company as it draws up plans for a mixture of housing, leisure and commercial.

Eric said the whole debate over the future of the site is sparking memories of his time working there, but said there was no room for sentiment when it comes to the distinctive pink cooling towers.

He said saving the cooling towers was a waste of resources.

"If you're going to try and save everything it's not going to be long before this whole island is covered in historical monuments," he said.

Ironbridge Power Station

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"There's only one power station that's of note and that's Battersea. Nobody has even heard of Ironbridge, apart from the bridge. There comes a time when you've got to say enough is enough. Obviously preserve some of it, but not the cooling towers. There's cooling towers all over the country. They've done the job. Once they've gone nobody will even remember. What are they going to do, leave them up until they blow over?"

He added: "I enjoyed working there every day. I made some good friends.

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"After I left school I had to go down the pit. I had to go. I wanted to be a carpenter, but if you could get a job where you got 50p a week extra that's the job you got.

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"I'll always remember one bloke down the pit. He said 'look, I'll give you a bit of advice. They're building the power station at Ironbridge, you're a young lad, get out of the pit and down to the power station and you'll never regret it'.

"When I came here there were blokes who had gone through two world wars and a general strike. Some of the tales – talk about gentleman. There was no swearing. You respected them and they respected you. That seems to have gone now.

"There were people working in foundries and brickworks or tile works and they had nothing when they started, and a lot less when they finished. That was just how it was.

"This power station was the turning point for a lot of people."

Workers at Ironbridge Power Station

Parts of the site will be protected, including the pump house, which could be turned into a restaurant, and one of the bridges across the Severn, which will be used as pedestrian and cycle access to the new development.

Eric said those were the two things he would save.

"The bridge is built for strength," he said. "The other thing is the pump house. It's a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Clean it up, put some windows in it, it could be a great restaurant with a river frontage. To build something like that it costs millions."




Date: 20 October 2018 | Source: Shropshire Star

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