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Report - - Pimlico District Heating Undertaking, London, Sep 2011 | Other Sites |

Report - Pimlico District Heating Undertaking, London, Sep 2011

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kevin arnold

28DL Member
28DL Full Member


Pimlico District Heating Undertaking is a communal heating system for the Churchill Gardens Estate. It was constructed during the 1950's when hot water was provided by the Battersea Power Station via a tunnel under the Thames. The tunnel itself is older than the PDHU. It was built by Metropolitan Water Board to run water mains back when the area occupied now by BPS was all water reservoirs.

In 1980 Battersea Power Station closed down. A boiler house with heat-only boilers with an output of 30MWh was built on the site to ensure continuous heat supply. Initially coal fired, they were converted to gas in 1989.

Around 2006 the system was redeveloped once more, the pump house was expanded and now all the heat is produced over there. The steam tunnel is disused nowadays althought it's still very much walkable.

And here's a map so you can all get the picture.


The black spot marks the pump house and the accumulator tower which are the heart of the system. From here a complicated network of water pipes braches out to deliver heating to all the blocks of flats. Unfortunately for all I can gather they run in counduits under the pavements ie. there's no walkable corridors. The zig-zag pipe to the south of the pump house runs in a corridor that is walkable and ends up in a shaft that leads into the steam tunnel under the Thames.

More info on Churchill Gardens Estate:

BBC - Britain From Above - Stories - Building Britain - Churchill Gardens

A short film of accumulator tower being built:

There's a few reasons why I'm fond of PDHU. I'm a fan of Churchill Gardens Estate - a great post war development driven by vision to deliver quality houses to working people and a part of a semi-utopian Abercrombie Plan. Also, I've always liked the glass tower which is a lovely piece of 1950's engineering. And then there's the steam tunnel. Ever since visiting BPS A and B tunnels I know I love tunnels under the Thames.

This place was first explored back in 2006. There are OT's and Paulo999's reports here and here. They visited when the pump house was being refurbished and there wasn't any more reports after that so I always assumed the access was gone after the works had finished. But then the whole story of me trying to crack this place is a story of wrong assumptions. First I wrongly assumed the access was gone. Then I was flicking through a graffiti blog and noticed it had pictures of the areas that are more or less on the northern and southern ends of the steam tunnel plus a picture of some underground shaft. So I assumed the writers had found a way in. I was wrong - the shaft pictured must be somewhere else and the other pictures were just a coincidence. Then I assumed there's no access from accumulator tower to the tunnel as on here they're in separate reports. So I spent ages looking for a lid in the Embankment but to find it I used old Metropolitan Water Boards maps that no longer reflect what's really there.

So, yeh I like doing research and working out how to get into places but this time I definitely took too intellectual approach ;) I

Pump House







Then I found a small magic door in the wall that opened onto a corridor.


The corridor takes a few turns and then ends up in a shaft.


Looking up


The tunnel itself. It's a bit soggy nowadays.



There's no way out on the other side of the river so I returned and went on to explore the tower. Inside there's a huge tank that stores 2500 tonnes of water just below the boiling point. There are walkways and ladders around it. And on top there's this nice glass room.


The night was warm and silent apart from the birds that were starting to sing.


Churchill Gardens


And back inside. One more shot of the glass room. I was tempted to lift one of the lids but they weren't easy to open and it was probably not a good idea anyway.


Thanks for looking