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Countdown to demolition: Ironbridge's landmark towers captured on camera for posterity

By Dominic Robertson | Ironbridge | News | Published:

They have stood since the 1960s but soon the famous pink cooling towers of Ironbridge’s Power Station will be reduced to rubble and consigned to history.

Atmospheric shot of horse riders riding through the mist against the towers. Photo: David Bagnall Photography

With that in mind, one man, who captured images of the towers on scores of occasions over a career as a photographer for the Shropshire Star and the Express and Star, has taken on his own project to make sure the towers, and the people around them, are remembered.

Dave Bagnall, who was chief photographer at the Express & Star from 1978 to 2007, has set about capturing shots of the towers before they are demolished to make way for what will effectively be a new town.

Musicians Ben Garrott and Jase Latham of The Modern Faces band playing it cool in front of Ironbridge Power Station cooling tower. Photo: David Bagnall Photography

The 69-year-old Ironbridge resident admits he became fascinated with the towers, having first taken pictures of the 112-metre structures as the finishing touches were put to the last one in 1967.

The power station was completed shortly after and continued generating electricity until November 20, 2015.

Dave Bagnall

Dave said: “I became fascinated by them and that probably started in 1967 when the Shropshire Star sent me to photograph the last tower being finished.

“The colour, and the contrast between the countryside and the industry make them really special. I know that everyone will be sad to see them go and I want to get as many pictures of them as I can before that happens.”

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Brian Burgess, 83, and Chris Elcock, 71, who helped build the cooling towers in the 1960s. Photo: David Bagnall Photography

Dave moved to Ironbridge in 1982, and has been able to see the towers from his house since that date.

The towers present a striking and dominant image in the Gorge, and many have speculated that their attraction lies in the special colour added to the concrete, which was designed to allow the structure to blend into the surrounding countryside.

It’s a view that Dave also subscribes to, adding: “I think it is a combination of the shape and the colour.

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“It is a very unusual shape, the colour, and the contrast between the countryside and the industry.

The Ironmen & Severn Gilders. Photo: David Bagnall Photography

“The colour has a lot to do with it but I am sure from memory they are not as pink as they were originally.”

The photographer said he was not keen on the plans for the future of the site, but said people likely said the same when the plans for the power station were first revealed.

He said: “I suspect people probably weren’t happy about it at the time.

“I do not know, but I think people have grown to love them.

“Nearly everyone I speak to will be sorry to see them go.”

Boys playing football near Ironbridge Power Station. Photo: David Bagnall Photography

With plans for the impending demolition well afoot Dave has set about collecting some final memories of the site.

He said: “About six months ago I thought if I do not do it now it will be too late.

“So I started and the first picture I did was of local boys playing football on the Regatta Field.

Ironbridge Power Station illuminated at night

“The second one was of some horse riders going over the hill with the towers in the background.

“I tried to get quite a few of the old construction workers back for a picture but it was not that easy.

“In the end I got two of the people who worked on them, Chris Elcock and Brian Burgess.”

Another of the gorge’s most famous attractions, The Ironmen & Severn Gilders Morris dancing group, has also posed for pictures in front of the towers.

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