Thursday, 10 February 2011

Steamed Up











Sunday found us at the Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester. Once used for pumping enormous amounts of sewage up to Beaumont Leys in Leicester (for which they were very grateful I'm sure), the incredible Gimson steam engines are housed in a Victorian Valhalla of decorated iron pillars and clanking walkways. As often as possible they're fired-up to thunderously roll again, but at the side is an utterly absorbing Museum of Science & Technology that shows you (amongst lots of other things) how lavatories work. Every now and then there's a Special Event, and this Sunday it was Steam Toys. It was just wonderful. A tent full of blokes bent over stationary Mamod engines, more people with their glasses opaque with condensation in the roof above the pumps running tin locos past tin stations; and outside a full-size train running in and out of the obligatory Victorian planting of laurels. Oil, steam, hoots and whistles. I had to go and lie down, and that was before sitting on a late 1930's Leicester Corporation bus ('Spitting Prohibited') and being allowed inside the Unmitigated 1938 Bedford mobile chip shop. (Thankyou Barrie.) There was a lot more, but was it all a steam elitist day out for shiny anoraks? Certainly not. The place was heaving, full of local families resisting the cold and having an utterly brilliant time. Perhaps this is the kind of thing Dave means when he goes on about the Big Society, a community coming and acting together for a common good.


You know what's coming next, don't you? Yes, Leicester City Council want to close the whole enterprise down, along with Belgrave Hall, the Roman museum at Jewry Wall and the fantastic medieval Guildhall next to the cathedral. The excuse is 'cuts' of course, but the Pumping Station does what it does because it's served by 100 (yes, 100) volunteers, who love and cherish it so that we and future generations can be educated, enthralled, or just given a marvellous time on a cold Sunday. The permanent staff will move on, the Pumping Station will be boarded-up, and thieves will break in (they've made a start on the roof) and destroy the engines for scrap. It will never be the same again. Unless of course a miracle happens, and someone will realise what a golden opportunity exists here- right next door to the National Space Centre- to tell the whole story of technological ingenuity on one site. Let's hope it's not another End of Steam.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

In Wednesday night Leicester Mercury there was a report saying that the Council was not going to close the museums or introduce entrance fees, so hopefully the Pumping Station should be safe.

Hels said...

I was delighted to visit Crossness Pumping Station a while back and although I am not very scientifically minded, it was amazing to see a purely functional building with very a elaborate interior. I created a link to your Abbey Pumping Station for the same reason - amazing Victorian (1891) design.

If the Council closes it down or allows it to be destroyed, future generations should take the council members and individually insert them into the Gimson steam engine.

Hels
http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2009/05/crossness-london-amazing-victorian.html

Peter Ashley said...

Anon: I do hope the Leicester Mercury report is right, excellent news if it is.

Hels: I must try and get a visit in to Crossness, thankyou for reminding me of it.

Vinogirl said...

Great pictures.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Vinogirl. Much appreciated.

Wartime Housewife said...

That looks wonderful. I'm fired up by many things and engines are one of them. How many machines would one find nowadays that are decorated with acanthus leaves and painted in red and green and gold? Museums like these excite people and inspire the next generation to want to be engineers and scientists. The scrumptious Brian Cox was on tv last night and was explaining that it was stuff like this that inspired him to become a physicist. Government take note.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Marvellous stuff. What a wonderful collection of lettering on the vehicles, too.

bikerted said...

Pumping stations still enthral kids of all ages. We are fortunate in Nottingham to have Papplewick Pumping Station, which supplies fresh water to the city still, albeit by modern methods these days. As with Abbey PS it too has open days. These days help to support our heritage and long may they continue to do so.
As you state Peter, the alternative does not bear thinking about.

Sue said...

Gorgeous colours - reds and browns and golds and greens - my favourite has to be the mobile chip shop - HOT FISH & CHIPS. Mmmmm

renzo said...

Great photos, Peter. Many, many years ago, when I was an architectural student at Leicester School of Art and Design we had a week long project to measure and draw the then abandoned pumping station. I remember it being a cold, wet week. Wish I still had the drawings.

Jon Dudley said...

Super stuff Mr.A. Fine signwriting, painted cast iron, spluttering lorries, precision Victorian engineering. Fish and Chips. Light on a dull day...thanks.

Thud said...

Who needs steam when five a day co ordinators, community outreach officers etc need to be paid for?

Anonymous said...

My dad has been involved with this place since it began in 1972 and its a serious part of his life. It'd be a sad day if the miopic bureaucrats at the council decide to close its doors on Leicester's industrial past.

Barrie said...

Cracking photos and a wonderful write up Peter.

Hope you don't mind, but I've linked this post to the Abbey Pumping Station Facebook page.

As Anon says, the council appear to have decided to not close the museums this year. We will have to see what happens in next years round of budget proposals.

Should any Unmitigated England followers make it to an event day at APS please pop along to the chip van, mention this blog and you'll get a "guided tour" of our 1938 Bedford!

Barrie

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Barrie, and I hope all readers will make time to visit at least once this year. All that Unmitigated Steam and your excellent coal-fired chips!