Friday, 2 May 2008

Underfoot 3

I have just had the extraordinary privilege of being let loose in Britain's finest restored Victorian pumping station at Papplewick in Nottinghamshire. Made very welcome, I was allowed to roam at will, on my own, through this simply astounding Temple of Water- James Watt beam engines, 3D gold freshwater fishes swimming through wrought iron weeds on cast iron columns, water lilies in stained glass. And out at the back under an open-sided shed a huge pile of nutty slack for the Gormenghast boilers. Coal was brought in past the red brick gothic superintendent's lodge and on to this weighbridge next to a green sentry box containing the dial. Of course the lettering caught my eye, one of those underfoot delights that we scuff with our shoes as we go about our business. Telephone service covers still saying 'GPO' , long lost electricity badges let into pavement hatches, manholes worthy of a church-style brass-rubbing. And so a 1945 'Pooley', that heavyweight name so redolent of rain-soaked coal yards, gasworks and dusty quarries. Still here in rural Notts, the non-slip steel grid gently filling up with leaves from the ornamental trees and neat hedges planted by the Victorian need to acknowledge the ideals of Cleanliness next to Godliness. Go and get steamed-up about it all on their next open day.

12 comments:

Jon Dudley said...

Sounds like the perfect temple to steam. Locally here, the Brighton Engineerium (Hove Pumping Station) awaits the tender caresses of its new owner...we're holding our breath. Any idea if there are giant engines left in the wonderful building seen from the 'up' Brighton train on the left hand side and north Thames embankment as you approach Victoria? Stunning brickwork in both building and adjacent chimney. Weighbridges - now there's a study!

Peter Ashley said...

I always looked out for that building on my way into Victoria from Kent, just as I did Battersea Power Station and 'Abbey Storage'. Don't know about the engines but I've got a funny idea that Sheila Hancock's great grandfather was the manager there.

Ron Combo said...

Pooley was my mother's maiden name. My grandfather designed all the cranes in Devonport Dockyard. His engineering talents, alas, did not filter down into my own ghastly gene pool. It is from my father's side that I got most of my attributes. He was a six pints of Bass man of a Sunday lunchtime at The Globe Hotel in Newton Abbot which I now believe to be a cut-price household goods emporium.

Peter Ashley said...

I think you have inherited your maternal grandfather's genes Ron. How else do you explain the fact that you are able to both continually crane your neck to look through pub windows and dance a sailor's hornpipe at the drop of a pair of bellbottom trousers? Oh. I'm so sorry.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Great letters on the Pooley. All this stuff reminds me of the variety of inspection covers with the names of once-flourishing local foundries and ironmongers incorporated. More lost glories. The things I see when I should be admiring the view...

Diplomat said...

sorry for the delay in passing comment - marvelous, very good, carry on. Lovely bit of cast-work - oh lord why don't people make top stuff any more, with a bit of pride and shout. I think a collection of builder's bespoke drain covers is worth compiling. At the risk of repeating repeating myself myself I strongly recommend a crawl around the streets of Tavistock on hands and knees.

Peter Ashley said...

Ah, now, Tavistock. I've only been there once, to meet an engineer who'd told me entirely the wrong town. But anyway, isn't this the Duke of Bedford desmesne, with big sewers and stuff?

Ron Combo said...

That's odd; why Tavistock Diplo? My Pooley side (see above) was from Tavistock. Nice town, probably full of chavs now and charidee shops.

Diplomat said...

Ah well you see - Tavistock because: Duke of Bedford was a bit of a water and sewerage enthusiast as discussed in earlyer pages and the estate went to great lengths to instal a very comprehensive system at Tavistock. Needless to say all the resulting mhc's, gullies, grilles, vents, hydrants, valve blocks, pipe unions, flushing heads and associated iron-work are proud to shout about their roots.

Ron Combo said...

I think my head may need flushing and my pipe could do with a bit of union. Oh dear, I've done it again, haven't I?

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