IT WAS all over in a flash - and it happened bang on time.

After dominating the entrance to Southampton Water for more than half a century, the 650ft chimney built to serve Fawley power station has been consigned to history.

The concrete tower was destroyed at dawn yesterday in a controlled explosion that could be heard for miles around.

Warning sirens and a series of ear-splitting bangs were followed by a roaring sound as the massive structure collapsed in a cloud of dust.

Videos showed the chimney slowly descending, almost as it were being lowered into an underground silo.

Contractors Brown and Mason had announced that the explosion would take place at 7am on the dot - and the nationally-renowned demolition experts proved as good as their word.

But there was more to come.

As the dust started to drift over Southampton Water, spectators witnessed a bright flash as a remaining section of the power station's vast turbine hall was also reduced to a mountain of rubble.

Conditions were far from ideal, with the area lashed by strong winds and driving rain as the build-up to the explosions began.

But the awful weather was not bad enough to prevent the event from going ahead. Only lighting or fog would have halted the demolition.

In the interests of public safety the Fawley Bypass was closed from 4am and an exclusion zone enforced from 5.30am.

But people determined to watch the action could still reach the area via Stanswood Road.

Some are believed to have stayed on Calshot Spit overnight to make sure they witnessed the spectacle. Late arrivals found the foreshore lined with motor homes, plus at least one tent.

Others sightseers came by boat, converging on a comparatively sheltered areas off Calshot Activities Centre.

It was the fourth and final "explosive event" at the power station, which is being flattened to make way for 1,500 homes, a raft of community facilities and a large area of employment space.

Over the next few months the remaining buildings on the 300-acre site will demolished using machinery.

A concrete-lined dock and the turbine hall's basement will be incorporated into the proposed development, which is expected to take 20 years and could cost as much as £1bn.

The previous explosions generated only a fraction of the interest shown in yesterday's event.

A few weeks ago Fawley Waterside Ltd, which owns the site, ended months of speculation by revealing that the chimney would come down on October 31 at 7am.

The announcement sparked a flurry of activity on social media, with many people posting the last photograph they would ever take of the iconic structure.

Others revealed they were planning to travel long distances to catch a final glimpse of the chimney before it disappeared forever.

Aldred Drummond, Fawley Waterside's chief executive, said: “Fawley power station was the largest and most efficient power station of its time.

"The chimney is totemic, one both loved as a landmark by some and disliked by others as a symbol of fossil fuel power.

"I’ve looked at this chimney for over 40 years and at one stage considered repurposing it as a viewing platform and restaurant.

"Once this opportunity was removed through the planning process I some time ago concluded that it can be replaced with a building of much greater elegance that will itself become a beloved local landmark.

"Today should be considered the start of a cleaner and greener future for the site."

The loss of the chimney, which has dominated the entrance to Southampton Water for more than 50 years, has sparked mixed views.

One of the recent comments posted on the Fawley Waterside Facebook page says: "Having seen it go up I will be there to see it come down.

"For those who think it an eyesore it has always been a sign of coming home whether by sea, land or air and a point of reference on a walk."

One person who used to live in the area returned on Friday for one last look at the chimney.

Posting photographs on social media he said: "This is the last time I shall see this view. It's a view I was always happy to see as it meant I was only a minute from home."

Brown and Mason were appointed in 2016.

The first explosion occurred in October 2019 and included the demolition of the turbine hall's roof. The southern section of the boiler house was blown up in November 2020, with the rest suffering the same fate in July this year.

The chimney, once an integral part of the power station, was left looking strangely isolated.

Two outline applications for the re-development of the site were approved by New Forest District Council and the New Forest National Park Authority last year.