Title ID 1262Collection ID161
TitleAt Your Service
CollectionElectricity Council
Genre/TypeProfessionalFilm/Video companyInstitutionalNon-fictionPromotional/Publicity
ThemePublic Services Working Life
KeywordsBuilding Construction Industry Workers Railways Men Ships Transport
RegionalGreater London
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionMerton Park Studios
Commissioning bodyThe Electricity Council, London and the Electrical Development Association
FormatBlack & White Sound
Duration9 min. 30 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A Merton Park Studios production, detailing the workings of Barking Power Station, run by the London Electricity Supply Company in the 1930s. Construction work at the ever-expanding station is shown as it attempts to meet the demands for electricity in industry, farming, transport and the home.


The Barking Power Station of the County of London Electric Supply Co. Ltd.'s power station at Barking is announced as the largest in Britain. Views of the power station follow, its chimneys rising into the sky. A male narrator explains that the power station, at Creakmouth on Thameside, supplies electricity to the greater part of South East England. It was opened by King George V in 1925 and was finished six years later.

Methods of building construction are explained over views of the power station at work. Vast areas of glass are seen, part of the later section of the station built in 1933; 'there is the beauty of stark utility in this great house of power...'. The station supplies industry, railways and homes. The station was further extended in 1936 to meet the demand for electricity. Construction at the station is seen, the work still going on; 'Barking Station grows and grows.' Load bearing steelwork is lifted by a crane and a steam train passes through the building site, work in progress for the new boiler and turbine houses.

A ship docks at the Thameside jetty, where 1,000,000 tonnes of coal are unloaded every year. The cargo is discharged mechanically. The operator is seen, pushing levers that control the grabs which lift the coal from the ship, pulling up 3 tonnes of coal with each bite. Pulley cranes are seen, moving the discharged coal, from where conveyers are seen taking it to the furnaces or stores.

At the furnaces, the coal is fed continuously. The mechanics of this operation are seen in close up. The original boiler house is seen, called the cathedral. Pipes stretch up to the ceiling, feeding the coal to the furnaces. Instruments record and monitor the amount of coal entering the furnaces. A worker looks into the furnace through a dimming glass. Another records readings from dials and instruments, including a smoke indicator for the 250 foot chimneys. 19 million gallons of water are pumped from the Thames every hour, feeding the cylindrical condensers.

Views of the original turbine house are followed by those of the new turbine house. A worker is dwarfed by the size of the shining turbines. The narrator explains another turbine house is now being added, increasing the output of the station. He describes the hum of the turbine house and lack of workers seen; 'The apparent absence of moving men is deceptive, as there are many hundreds ceaselessly working... quiet efficiency.'

The condenser plant at the basement of the turbine house is shown. In the laboratory everything is carefully scrutinised. Men in white coats test coal and water, recording their findings. Engineers are working in the control room, the nerve centre of the whole system, regulating the output of energy to 3,000 square miles of territory. A large map reaches up to the ceiling, detailing the high tension lines that run over thousands of miles. Here, demand is monitored and the output adjusted. An engineer pushes levers and checks the dials and pilot lights. Another speaks to the turbine room so that they can start another turbine and increase the load. A worker in the turbine room turns a wheel, opening a stop valve; 'another giant machine has sprung to life.'

A map is shown, with Essex, Kent, a large part of London's suburbs and Surrey marked out in a darker shade. Lines appear in animation, spreading outwards and across these areas to illustrate the station's supply lines to these areas, as well as parts of Sussex and Hampshire. The cables are seen, fixed to pylons; 'bringing the blessing of modern electricity to the town and countryside.' Views of the control room and exterior footage of the station close the film; 'Barking Station works day and night, at your service.'

Contextual information

Further films held by Screen Archive South East, which take electricity as their theme, include Powerful Stuff (1988), an educational film warning children of the dangers of electricity, and Camera Mag No. 1 (1935), produced by Eltham Cine Society, showing every day uses of electricity.

Related titles

Related resources


The Story of the County Company

The history of the County of London Electric Supply Company Ltd., which includes a chapter on 'the Barking story'.


The records of the London Electricity Board, the successor body to the County of London Electric Supply Company Ltd.

Location: London Metropolitan Archives/City of London joint Archive Service


Renaissance London: Exploring 20th Century London

"A project funded by Renaissance London and MLA Designation Challenge Fund bringing together 19 Museums across London. The website collections can be searched online and includes several photographs and images of Power Stations.