Fawley Power Station: Salvaging Vintage Lights from an Industrial Icon.

Posted by: skinflint Lighting History

Stopping vintage lights going to landfill goes hand in hand with preserving history. It’s been our mission since our journey started nearly 15 years ago. Whether salvaging from the Rolls Royce factory in Derby or the former Red Arrows’ HQ, RAF Scampton, we take pride in preserving these vintage lights that double as historical artefacts. The extraordinary lights we've salvaged from Southampton’s renowned Fawley Power Station are no exception.

Built during the peak of nationalised industry in the U.K, Fawley was the fifth of thirteen huge power stations built in the mid to late 1960s. Beginning operations in 1971, Fawley Power Station stood as a divisive monument over the New Forest landscape, with local objectors referring to the structure as a brooding presence.

In the years since, it made for a familiar landmark to passers by and it’s recognisable on the big screen too; eagle-eyed film and TV buffs will be able to spot many of its legendary structures in the backdrop to films including Mission Impossible and Star Wars.

The demolition of this huge site on the Solent waterfront is still underway, with locals now looking on with nostalgia for its former years. And whilst we hate to see it go, we love what’s been left behind; the vintage lights we’ve salvaged have come from Fawley's three main buildings, ready for the next stage of their journey. The skinflint workshop team have sensitively restored each one, taking care to preserve each light’s original character and patina.

Brutalist by design, the power station’s huge turbine hall and boiler house were monumental in design, towering over the admin and control block, the latter was a true monument to late 1960s architecture with its iconic flying saucer-like silhouette. After attempts to have the site protected by Historic England, a green light was eventually given for the station's demolition and the slow process began in 2019.

fawley power station control room interior credit powerstationsukAbove: Fawley Power Station Control Room at its heyday in 1977 (Credit: powerstations.uk)

Acting as a set location for film and tv productions since it was built, Fawley’s sci-fi style control and admin block was truly distinctive inside and out. With walls filled with blinking lights and buttons, this room was used as a backdrop for movies up until the day its demise was decided.

skinflint Fawley BulkheadsAbove: The Fawley Power Station bulkheads, sensitively restored by the skinflint workshop team.

Iconic as the building they were salvaged from, the Fawley control block bulkheads played an integral role in the operation of the turbines. Manufactured by Coughtrie in Glasgow, these lights were essential in the day to day running of the control room and the station as a whole. Engineers would keep a keen eye on these bulkheads, as each of the three glass lenses indicated the turbine’s health; a clear light meant everything was running smoothly, blue highlighted a turbine issue, and red signalled a full blown fault.

Two of skinflint’s large vintage industrial pendants once had a home in the vast turbine hall, pictured below. The expansive space was a maze of pipes and metal railing, featuring a huge yellow crane that fans of Mission Impossible will remember Tom Cruise leaping off in Rogue Nation. Sitting above the four huge turbine units, the 1950s Fawley power station pendant and XL Fawley Power Station Pendants’ size and distinctive silhouettes were a perfect fit for this impressively industrial space.

skinflint fawley turbine hall credit powerstations uk Above: Fawley’s expansive turbine hall, featured in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Credit: powerstations.uk)

Above the turbine hall, the crystalline patterning of the marine-grade glass that encased the boiler house was a striking contrast to the mass of metal and concrete that surrounded it. Despite being built 60 years ago, its silhouette was timeless.

With four boilers that could kick out 441 kg of steam each at 541 degrees C, it’s no exaggeration to say that newly salvaged 1950s Fawley power station pendants were put through their paces before arriving at our workshops. Mounted in clusters, each shade was exposed to boiling hot steam, making the patina on the inside of these pendants true to their rich heritage.

skinflint fawley power station boiler house credit powerstationsukAbove: Fawley’s boiler house, featuring the 1950s Fawley power station pendants suspended in pairs (top right). (Credit: powerstations.uk)

Demolition of this Brutalist beast of a power station started over three years ago, and it's not going down without a fight! With the on-going deconstruction of the control room, it's the perfect time to celebrate its final hurrah with our new collection of sensitively restored lights from Fawley Power Station.

Shop the full Fawley Collection here.

Special thanks to powerstations.uk for the archive imagery.