Constructed in 1901, the buildings, which currently house The Depot restaurant and all the offices at Tideway Yard, were originally the stables and coach houses for the Barnes Council refuse depot. The Old Power Station also used to belong to Barnes Council and the borough made its own electricity there, using coal or coke brought up the Thames in barges. In fact, there are still traces of railway lines under the new cobbles along the riverfront.
The London Electricity Board took over the Old Power Station and it gradually fell into disuse and dereliction. The council depot was continuously enlarged. At one time it contained not only a de-lousing station but also the borough mortuary! During World War 2 the corner occupied by The Depot served as a barracks for air raid wardens – the tin helmets were still hanging there in 1983! The building on Mortlake High Street which resembles a house, used to be where the old council steamroller was put at night.
By 1981 the council was now Richmond Borough Council and they had no further use for any of the buildings. They proposed to demolish the whole site and leave it as an open space. The local Mortlake residents were up in arms about this and formed a Residents Association to protest about the demolition and to suggest future uses for the interesting collection of buildings on the site. A competition for local architects/developers was held, with a brief to keep the best of the existing buildings, to include some new housing and to provide space for small new businesses to start and flourish. Many of the big- named housing developers were short-listed, but the competition was actually won (voted for by the local people) by Gillian Harwood and her architect partner Philip Lancashire.
In 1985 their plans were fast becoming a reality when they teamed up with Marstons Builders from Fulham; the old mortuary was demolished and replaced by the riverside apartment block, now known as Tideway Wharf and the loft style section of this development was several years ahead of its time.
In order to create more useable space inside the old stable buildings, an iron walkway was designed. The cast iron columns supporting this were salvaged from the County Stand at Aintree racecourse. The final part of the development was The Old Power Station. The part of the building fronting Mortlake High Street contains many original features, with tall timber ceilings and a grand staircase. The original turbine hall now houses the local youth club and also contains some splendid reminders of its heavy-industrial past. The refurbished buildings, including The Depot, re-opened in 1986.
One building that Gillian Harwood is personally gratified to have saved is the little gatehouse at the entrance to Tideway Yard. In 1983 the GLC road planners insisted on its being demolished to make “better sight-lines”. Gillian flatly refused to let this happen and she held out long enough for the GLC to be demolished by Margaret Thatcher instead!