Richmond Power Station, Victoria

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Richmond Power Station, Victoria

Richmond Power Station is a Victorian era coal fired power station which operated on the banks of the Yarra River in Richmond, Victoria, Australia from its construction in 1891 until its closure in 1976. It was one of the first alternating current (AC) electricity generation plants in the state. It has since been converted into office space and is the headquarters of international fashion brand Country Road. The area in which it is located is now called Cremorne.

The power station is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

History

The Richmond Power Station was completed in 1891 by the New Australian Lighting and Traction Company. It was one of the first alternating current (AC) electricity generation plants in the state. The building was designed by Charles D'Ebro, one of Melbourne's premier architects of the time. Initially the station provided power to Melbourne and the suburbs of Richmond, Prahran and South Melbourne. The main competitor was A U Alcock's Electric Light and Motive Power Company. In 1899 these two companies were taken over and were combined to form the Electric Lighting and Traction Company of Australia.

As demand increased the plant went through a series of upgrades, the first being an expansion to the engine house. In 1913 the engine room was extended to the east and a new chimney stack was built, in 1919 a second chimney stack was erected, and in 1922 a second floor was added to the office block.

In 1930 ownership of the station passed to the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, who upgraded the station with new oil-fired equipment in 1951. Although obsolete, the station continued to operate very reliably as a peak generation plant until 1976 when its inefficiency and pollution forced its closure.

Redevelopment

The building lay derelict in a large pocket of SEC owned land for many years. Its chimney stacks were demolished soon after closure due to structural faults. It was a popular location for film and television makers during this time. Some scenes for Bangkok Hilton were shot there, some of which incongruously showed the Bryant and May Factory in the background, as were scenes for the police drama Phoenix.

In the early 1990s, Victoria's electricity industry was privatised by the Kennett Liberal State Government. This saw this the sale of much of the SEC's surplus assets. The station and surrounding buildings were sold for development as an office park. All surrounding buildings, most of which dated from the 1930s and 1940s were demolished.

Under architects Metier 3 the original station building and turbine hall, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register was restored with a modern extension added to the section which formerly housed the chimney stacks. The building, designed for Country Road, won a merit award from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1997. The area around the station has also been fully developed.