Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station

Fiddler’s Ferry from Keckwick Hill

Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station opened in 1971, with a generating capacity of just under 2000 megawatts, enough to power two million homes.  During its lifetime, it produced 393 terawatts of electricity, enough to power the entire UK for 15 months.  It closed on 31 March 2020.  The cooling towers are 374’ high and can be seen from the Peak District. 

Its name goes back to Norman times.  Adam le Vicleur was the French landowner in the area and his name was thought to be a corruption of ‘vieleur’, a viol player.  This later changed to ‘fidler’.  In 1160, he was granted the rights to run a ferry across the River Mersey and hence the name ‘Fidler’s Ferry’.  He provided refreshments for travellers from his house nearby.  The Ferry tavern dates from 1762 and its owners continued to operate the ferry until 1907.

Coal was initially transported to the power station from the South Yorkshire Coalfield, but after this closed, it had to be imported.  At full capacity, the plant burned 16,000 tonnes of coal per day and took 195 million litres of water a day from the river.  In recent years, biofuel was burned together with the coal.  The fuel was imported via Liverpool docks and then by rail, via a branch line off the Widnes to Warrington freight line.

The children from Moore School were very concerned by the emissions from the power station and undertook a survey on air pollution.  They sent their results to the superintendent of Fiddler’s Ferry, who invited them to visit.  They were welcomed by the chief chemist, who gave them a talk on pollution. Their visit is recorded in the first edition of the school magazine ‘Children’s View’.  It was published on 14 May 1973, price 2p.

The children were shown the towers, the stack, control room, turbines, boiler house and the coal trucks and train.  They said they had all enjoyed the outing and the snack of tea and biscuits.  I know that some of you reading this were on that trip!

In 2006, the power station was fitted with a flue gas desulphurisation plant, which reduced emissions of sulphur by 94%.  

On January 13 1984, there was a terrible storm and across the country several people lost their lives.  At breakfast time, a violent gust of wind hit the power station and one of its cooling towers was blown down.  I can remember the sound as the wind came hurtling through our garden, blowing down all the fences!  The tower was later rebuilt.

Fiddler’s Ferry is not in our parish, but it has been an important landmark for all of us for the past 60 years.  Decommissing is due to start in May 2020 and will take several years.  No doubt we will all be interested to watch the demolition of the towers themselves.  What the future of the site will be remains to be seen.

My thanks to Nicholas Deakin for some of these pictures and the many others that he has shared with me.