FOR more than 40 years, the twin chimneys of Poole power station dominated the local skyline.

Today, the town is still waiting for a new housing development on the huge waterfront site, and the debate continues about how to bring that about.

But the older photographs above provide a fascinating insight into the huge project to build the station in the late 1940s.

Work began on the power station on July 1, 1946. Before building could take place, 250,000 tonnes of chalk was imported from a quarry at Sturminster Marshall to use as a base.

Fred Winwood, now 88, worked in civil engineering and was in charge of building the power station’s pump house. He would later become a long-time Hamworthy councillor and mayor of Poole.

“It was a huge construction. Before they could start work on site, they had to stabilise the surface of the site so we could move heavy machines across it. To do that, they brought in thousands of tonnes of chalk,” he said.

“They put about two metres of chalk across the site to form a working surface, resulting in all the roofs in Hamworthy turning white like snow.”

The turbine house and most of the boiler house rested on a three acre concrete block, which still stands on the site today. It was said to be the largest single concrete block formed in Britain up to that time. Fred Winwood calls it simply “the biggest lump of concrete in Europe” and cannot imagine why any future housing developer would need to get rid of it.

To build the power station, millions of three-colour bricks were specially made from local clay by Sykes and Sons of Creekmoor and the Upton Brick Works.

The first man on the construction site was John Reynolds, known as Paddy, who worked for McAlpine. He told the Echo in 1993: “I saw the power station rise from the bottom, to the top.”

Mr Reynolds’s family lived in a mobile home on the construction site – and his daughter Margaret was probably the only baby ever born there.

Construction of the station required the driving of concrete piles 40-50ft underground. But for the onlooker, it was the two 325ft chimneys which were the station’s most notable feature. Weighing 2,240 tonnes each, they measured 19ft in diameter at the top and 27ft at the base.

The chimneys’ construction led to a tragedy, when a lift crashed 120ft to the ground with three men inside. All were badly injured and one of them later died.

The station was intended to burn coal, but five years later an oil-fired burner was installed. In its heyday, the station employed almost 400 people.

But what did the people of Hamworthy think of the giant on their doorstep?

Fred Winwood says there was love and hate. “It was a very attractive building, built with local brick – better than the rubbish they use today,” he said.

“There was a problem in the early days with emissions that were coming out of the chimney. If you had a humid day, the gas that came out of the chimney would condense into droplets and drop on cars.”

But the station’s life was shorter than some might have expected. Oil-fired power generation stopped in 1982 and although there was talk of other kinds of power production going on there, National Power eventually announced it would be demolished.

On February 3, 1993, more than 7,000 people crammed onto the verges of the Holes Bay Road to watch the demise of the chimneys.

Just after 10am, 15 minutes behind schedule, the two towers crashed to the ground.

Hundreds had been evacuated from 80 homes near the site and there was a 1,000ft exclusion area. Meanwhile, wheel clampers were kept so busy among the spectators at Sterte Road that they ran out of clamps.

But that was far from the end of the demolition project. That December, eight coal bunkers, containing 1,600 tonnes of steel, were demolished, using more than 100lbs of high explosive. And the following March, the main structure, containing 14,000 tonnes of steel and brickwork, was blown up. The building would not be completely gone until August 1994, when a ball and chain demolished the final corner of the building.

By this time, Fred Winwood was used to seeing such demolitions.

“I worked on power station sites for about 25 years. Quite often I would sit down with the six o’clock news and see a building and its chimney coming down that I was involved with,” he said.

He believes the station could have been adapted and he is sorry that so many jobs were lost.

“One thing it did was provide a lot of work for a lot of people. We’ve lost James Brothers, Carters Pottery, we’re about to lose Crown Closures, which was Carnaud Metal Box,” he said.

“We’re losing a lot of our employment base.”

In a letter to the Daily Echo after the chimneys came down, reader Carol Perry quoted the views of her father, who had worked on the construction: “I think of all the hard work and tons of steel that went into these chimneys, and all the Irishmen who came over in bundles of six, lived on site all for about £15 a week. I never thought I’d see them come down in my lifetime.”