An iconic part of South Yorkshire’s skyline for 70 years and visible for miles, they were a gateway to the North and for many driving along the M1 they were a welcome sign they were almost home.
The 250ft high Tinsley cooling towers were demolished ten years ago at 3am on August 24, 2008.
Up to 10,000 people gathered to watch the ‘salt and pepper pots’ sink into a cloud of dust, and be erased from the skyline forever.
The towers were built in 1938 to help meet demand for electricity in the city. Five wooden towers already in use at the Blackburn Meadows Power Station were no longer sufficient to cope, leading to the construction of the 3,500 ton developments.
It is thought the reason why they were never targeted by Hitler’s bombers during World War Two was simply because they had been so recently built they did not appear on Ordnance Survey maps.
The power station closed in the 1970s and the towers were the only remnants.
By then the motorway viaduct had been built and it was judged unsafe to demolish them.
Then in 2006, owners E.ON said they had to go because they were unsafe and needed to be demolished to make way for a Â£60 million biomass heating place.
But the towers did not go down without a fight; fitting considering that thousands of people had signed a petition to save them and city MP Clive Betts labelled the process ‘historical vandalism.’
In August 2008, police erected a massive cordon around the site as onlookers gathered in the area, many seemingly in a party spirit having come straight from the city’s night clubs.
The M1 closed at midnight between junctions 32 and 35, and as 3am approached the twin-deck Tinsley viaduct was eerily quiet as a lone police car with blue flashing lights crawled slowly along doing final checks.
A loud bang signalled the 30 second countdown and raised a cheer from the crowd.
Dinnington hairdresser Claire Brooks had won a competition to sound an air horn which triggered the demolition.
Visibly shaking afterwards, she said: “It was unreal, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Not many people can say they destroyed Tinsley cooling towers.”
The south tower sank gracefully into a cloud of dust, but the north tower failed to go as easily. It fell with a quarter turn and halted.
For a moment it seemed about to collapse onto the M1, just 12 metres away, before a cloud of dust obscured it from view.
When the dust cleared it revealed a 100ft wall and an even higher spike of the tower still standing.
The remains of the north tower survived for another two hours until the demolition crew pulled it down with diggers.
* The Tinsley cooling towers were just 12cm thick.
* There was a delay of two seconds between detonations to minimise ground vibrations.
*The blast was heard as far away as Aston.
*Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor had agreed to develop a massive temporary installation for inside the towers before their destruction - but owners E.ON declined the proposal.