Built on the outskirts of Rishton on the Blackburn boundary, the Blackburn East Generating Station was commissioned in 1919.
The land was first acquired in 1914, a total of 64 acres with railway and canal facilities, but no further action was taken at the time due to the outbreak of the 1st World War.
In the meantime the Electricity Commission was formed by the Government in an Act of Parliament to deal with the whole of the electricity supply throughout the country, and it was to this body that permission was sought in 1919 to build the power station.
As shown here the site was officially opened on 21st October 1921 by lord Derby, when half the station was working.
The station was built with a capacity of 25,000 kilowatts, and the foundation stone was laid by Alderman William Thompson on the 13th May 1920.
This was the first large power station in Great Britain to be started under the Electricity Commissioners as part of their scheme for the interconnection of electricity undertakings. During the mid Thirties the power station became part of the national grid.
The station was equipped with seven Babcock cross type marine boilers, each one of 5,000 lbs capacity per hour, on balanced draught principle, complete with their own economisers, soot blowing apparatus etc., the coal handling and measuring plant being a special feature. There were two 12,500 kilowatt generating sets made by English Electric Company Limited installed in the engine room, and the current was supplied at 6,600 volts through trunk mains to Jubilee Street, Blackburn, which was converted into a main sub and distributing station.
The Blackburn Electricity (Extension) Special Orders, 1922-23, was granted by the Electricity Commissioners authorising a supply to urban districts of Great Harwood and Rishton, as well as the parishes of Blackburn. A bulk supply was given to Darwen.
The main East Lancs. railway supplied the power station with coal, along with the road and the canal, which was also used for cooling. The water was returned to the canal when it reached 75 degrees or pumped round again. Originally the water was stored in wooden towers but between 1942 and 54 four concrete towers were built.
In 1922 Blackburn Council applied for the power station to be transferred to their ownership, Rishton petitioned against this and the bill was finally quashed in the House of Commons.
An application was received from the Blackburn Corporation Electricity Undertaking, on the 8th August 1940, by Rishton Urban District Council, for sanction to proceed with extensive additions to the generating station at Whitebirk, including a new Turbine House, Boiler House, Chimney, and Cooling Towers. The plans were duly passed under the Town & Country Planning Act 1932.
A plan was submitted for the proposed new stables at Whitebirk Generating Station on the 21st May 1936, for the Blackburn Corporation Electricity Undertaking, which was approved by the Council.
The Blackburn Corporation Electricity Undertaking applied for a water supply to the new extension for the generating station on the 10th October 1940. The request was passed to the water engineer for negotiation. The Council Clerk was to take up the matter of the water supply with the County Council and arrange an interview with a view to obtaining advice in the matter on the 28th January 1943. A deputation of two interview the Surveyor regarding delays in attending to matters in connection with the water supply to the Electricity Works. The deputation was to consist of Councillors Kenyon and Smith. On the 8th April 1943, The Council Clerk reported upon further negotiations with the County Authorities concerning the application for a grant under Section 307 of the Public Health Act, 1936, in connection with the water main laid to the Blackburn Electricity Generating Station. Resolved, provided that the County Council will contribute towards the cost of the six-inch main in the name proportion as the County Rate bears to the General District Rate, that the sum of £924 0s. 1d. be paid to Blackburn Corporation. Councillor Kenyon voted against this resolution.
The clerk for Rishton Urban District Council reported on correspondence from the Central Electricity Board to the Council Committee on the 10th October 1940, concerning the new overhead transmission line to pass through the district.
The Council Clerk reported upon a reply to correspondence addressed to the Town Clerk of Blackburn on the 21st January 1943, concerning drainage and cesspool at the Whitebirk Electricity Works. A plan was submitted by the Electricity Undertakings. The Council resolved that the plan be disapproved and that a deputation consisting of Councillors Booth, Kenyon, Leeming and Worsley, together with the Clerk and the Sanitary Inspector, visit the works as soon as arrangements can be made. A revised plan was placed before the Council on the 28th January 1943, in connection with the drainage of the cesspool system at the Electricity Works. The plan has been amended in accordance with the requirements of this Authority's Sanitary Inspector and a letter was read giving an undertaking to accept liability for the scheme. Resolved that the scheme be approved.
The proposal served on Blackburn Corporation concerning the amendment of the Valuation List from £8,500 to £12,500 in respect of the Whitebirk Electricity Generating Station was approved and confirmed by Rishton Council on the 5th April 1943.
The Council Clerk reported upon the question of the Water Supply to Whitebirk Electricity Generating Station on the 15th April 1943. Resolved that the account for £924 0s. 1d. be paid when the grant under Section 307 of the Public Health Act 1936, is confirmed. It was further resolved that negotiations be conducted with Blackburn Corporation for the remission of the portion of the account for £200 2s. 4d.
Attention was drawn to the considerable volume of Sulphur fumes being emitted from the Generating Station on the 8th October 1953, and it was RESOLVED—That the Sanitary Inspector take up the matter with the British Electricity Authority. (d) Smoke Pollution—Whitebirk Power Station: The Inspector reported that he had met a delegation representing the British Electricity Authority regarding his complaint about sulphur fumes and grit emanating from the Power Station on the 12th November 1953. A chart was submitted by the deputation from which it appeared that the extent of the pollution was not severe. In view of the matters involved it was Resolved—That no action be taken at the moment, but that the matter was to be kept under review.
Electricity ceased to be produced at Rishton in 1972, and in May 1983 the concrete towers were demolished.
A shopping centre now stands on the site with the usual Comet, M. F. I., etc superstores.
The road layout has been altered several times around this area to accommodate this, but the canal still runs in its original location.
All that now remains of the power station can be seen along the edge of the canal. The tow path was covered with coal, and the far banking has the stone work still visible.
Industrial Rishton - Kathleen Broderick
Barrett's Directory, Blackburn and District, 1935