22. Power Station

This was the site of Nunn Mills Power Station, built by the Northampton Electric Light and Power Company in 1917. As the map below shows, the Midland Railway added a new junction to connect the power station to the railway in 1916 to both aid with construction and to service the station during its lifetime.

OS map show the railway connected to the power station (1925)
CEGB Bagnall (WB 2565/1936) 0-4-0ST at Nunn Mills Power Station c1972 (Photograph by John Turner)

The power station played a key role in World War Two and was a target for Nazi bombers, although it was never hit. The company went so far as to paint camouflage on the outside of the buildings, as can be seen in the photograph below. Many employees of the Electricity company volunteered for the Home Guard and Air Raid Precautions services during the war to help protect the site.

Nunn Mills Power station in 1948

One of the turbines in the power station was also used to test newly-developed jet engines and their inventor, Sir Frank Whittle, regularly visited the site to monitor progress.

During its lifetime the power station also supplied an outdoor swimming pool on Midsummer Meadows with heat produced by the generators.

Areal photograph showing the power station, with the Midsummer Meadows swimming pool on the opposite bank of the river.

This generated power for Northampton until it was closed in 1975. The cooling towers were demolished  in 1979, more than 15,000 people turned out to watch the demolition.

The demolition of the cooling towers (1979).

As the photographs below show, the rest of complex stood abandoned eyesore until 2015, when they were demolished to make way for the University Campus.

Opposite the power station sat the Avon cosmetics factory. Avon Cosmetics was founded in America in 1886, and opened its first UK offices here in Northampton in 1959. In the 1960s Avon became a famous brand as TV adverts popularised the catchphrase ‘Ding-dong, Avon calling.’ This referred to the fact that, instead of shops, Avon’s products were sold by women door-door. Between 1989 and 2004 Avon had a factory on this site and built its headquarters here in 2009.

avon 2

Views of the Avon factory (1989-2004)