Not exactly Viva’s
Today I got a lucky chance to visit one of the tallest gas holders in Europe, Battersea holder number 7 is 320 feet tall, built in the 1920’s and now decommissioned, ready to be dismantled next year. This is one seriously large piece of engineering. That’s why I am talking about it here. For scale we are talking twice the height of Nelsons Column, or the average 30 story building.
We will never see the likes of this engineering again the health and safety people would never allow the storage of 7 million cubic feet of explosive gas in the city of London, if it went bang it might make a few people spill there coffee’s!
The observant amongst you will of noticed unlike most gas holders this one doesn’t rise or fall, it stays at its maximum height externally all the time and inside a diaphragm moves up and down as gas is vented out or pumped in.
Its made from sheet steel 1/4″ thick riveted together, the lift used to be inside the box running up the side but that’s long been abandoned, as its just too old. The new lift is a construction lift like you see running up the side of large tower blocks. Its a long ride, its scary and at the top it open out onto exposed walkways with sheer drops down to ground level.
I have nothing but respect for these guys who work on these day in day out. I was shall we say nervous and it spoilt some of the experience, as we went inside the holder from the top, onto a suspended walkway 320 foot above the ground, it basically froze me to the spot, there were two staircases, one inside , one outside each with open tread pattern steps (no thanks) or the noisy and rattly lift…. not for the fearful!! (I was not brave, boiler-suit is now in the washing machine!)
Here we are looking from the top of the Holder (which is wooden!!) over towards the old Power station.
I will not be doing that again I can tell you, I didnt get pictures of the inside as it was a) too dark and mostly because b) my hands were shaking with fear, here is an old picture from the 1930’s of the insides, I was right up the top NOT looking down!! All of those stairs are free hanging, 80 years old and moved as we moved, put the right whats nots up me I can tell you.
Caption: 18th May 1932: The interior of Battersea gas holder, which holds 7 million cubic feet of gas and is 320 ft high, showing the staircase running up the middle.