Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum

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Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum
The Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum is a small Industrial Heritage museum dedicated to steam powered machinery in Westonzoyland, Somerset, England. The museum is housed in the first of several similar pumping stations to be built on the Somerset Levels. The main attraction is the 1861 steam engine and pump, the only one still in its original location and in working order. The museum also displays a number of other steam engines and pumps, and even has a short length of narrow gauge railway.

The first mechanical pumping station on the Somerset Levels in southwestern England was built in 1830 to drain the area around Westonzoyland, Middlezoy and Othery. The success of the drainage system led to the formation of other drainage boards and the construction of other pumping stations. The station itself is a brick-built property with a chimney rising to 71 feet in height. A cottage section was added alongside it in the 1860s, to provide accommodation for the station-keeper. The first keeper was appointed around 1845, named Robert Hurd. After him came the Thyer family, who remained keepers until closure. Originally given a Grade II listing, the property was upgraded to Grade II* by English Heritage; since it is now the only surviving station that still houses a functioning engine. Beside the cottage is a long single-storey building that houses a 1914 Lancashire boiler; this was used to provide steam. Next to it is a forge, where the keeper would have made a number of his own tools. The boiler required constant running and thus consumed a good deal of coal. The pump at Westonzoyland originally comprised a beam engine and scoop wheel (like a water wheel running backwards) but, after 25 years, there were problems pumping the water away because the land had dropped as it dried out. A better method was sought, and in 1861 the present pump was installed. The engine was built by Easton and Amos of London, to a design patented in 1858 by Charles Amos. It is a twin-cylinder, vertical condensing engine, driving a centrifugal pump. A similar engine was on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was shown to be able to lift 100 tons of water per minute, to a height of 6 feet. The Westonzoyland pump lifts water from the rhyne (pronounced 'reen') into the River Parrett. The pump operated until 1951, by which time the local drainage system had been linked into King's Sedgemoor Drain, which discharged further down the River Parrett; the water levels dropped and the pump was unable to draw the water from the rhyne. Additionally, the Parrett riverbank has now been raised by some eight feet in the vicinity of the pumping station and the opening to the river, from the base of the pump-well, is now bricked up. During times of heavy rainfall, when additional pumping might be needed, the Environment Agency maintained a diesel pumping station next door with a capacity of 50 tons per minute. This is still operating today.

In 1976, members of the Somerset Industrial Archaeology Society began restoration of the site, which included digging out tons of mud which had buried the bottom of the pump. The Westonzoyland Engine Trust was formed and in 1990 bought the site from the owners, Wessex Water. A collection of steam and diesel engines with connections either to the area or to pumping have been assembled on site and regular steam days are held. The oldest item dates from the early 19th century, through to several Victorian engines and onward to the 20th century. Most of these are now in running order. The pump house has been Grade II* listed, and is on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. . Up until early 2010, the keeper's cottage had been off-limits to visitors. Two of the ground-floor rooms have now been opened: the living-room is furnished in a 1930s/40s style, while the old kitchen area currently holds a couple of display cases, with a view to showing hitherto unseen artefacts from the museum's collection of smaller items. The upper floors remain closed to visitors. Steam is provided by an elderly Marshall portable boiler ”“ essentially a portable engine without the actual engine. This is a 1938 boiler, once used by Thames Water and later moved to Kew Bridge. It went to Westonzoyland on long-term loan, but was eventually handed over permanently; being restored to working order in 2005”“2006.


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