Nottinghamshire – Papplewick Pumping Station

Papplewick Pumping Station is one of those places I have meant to visit for years. It is just north of Nottingham – SK 584521, website. We drove over on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon 28 May with a little bit of muttering from the Boss about why we were going to a pumping station she wouldn’t be able to get her wheelchair in.

Disabled parking, easy access into the Superintendent’s House and the displays there, then flat access to the rest of the site. As Nottingham grew the new for water and decent sanitation grew as well. In 1845 the various small local water companies joined together to form the Nottingham Waterworks Company, with Thomas Hawksley as their Engineer (he deserves a capital E). He was also Engineer to the Gas Company, then moved to London in 1852 and practised as a Civil Engineer. There is a page about him here, apparently 30 British towns, and several more abroad, have him to thank for their water supply. He built a reservoir here in 1879, then Marriott Ogle Tarbotton, Nottingham’s Borough Surveyor from 1859, became Waterworks Engineer in 1880 and supervised the building of this pumping station – website. This part of Nottinghamshire is situated over Bunter sandstone (I think Lord Peter Wimsey) which acts like a giant sponge, soaking up, storing and naturally filtering impurities from the water.

We started with a WW1 encampment. We had a fascinating chat to the girls and to the Padre. I had a phone call from one of next year’s brides and was my normal lovely self – I did feel I couldn’t moan about brides who phone on a bank holiday Monday afternoon while I was talking to a man who served in the trenches. They had some interesting material on display as well.

The Boiler Room is quite amazing – six boilers. Three were needed when the station was working, now one is fired – about 6 tons of coal a day. 29 feet long, 7 feet in diameter, each holding 3,200 gallons of water.

We walked past the greenhouse, buying some plants – the trouble with buying plants is that you then need to plant them!

Julie sat in the sun and I went into the Pumping Station itself (this bit wasn’t accessible, which is a shame (though though it is understandable)). The phrase “Civic Pride” springs to mind – the days when local government was something to be proud of (not something to be derided and cut).  If you want to work out which bit is which, look at their website – just feast your eyes on this riot of colour and water imagery. (Whenever I go and do a baptism visit I say to the families that the Prayer over the Water has every piece of water imagery they could find in the bible – I think the compilers were influenced by Papplewick).

“So, Mr Tarbotton, tell me again why your pumping station needs stained glass windows?”

The Beam Floor at the top, where you can watch the stately progress of the beams, up and down, almost mesmerising. (As a child we used to visit Stretham Old Engine in Cambridge – which I see is open when we’re on holiday nearby in July).

Then we had a walk round the Cooling Pool. They needed a supply of cold water to condense the steam in the Engine House, and the warm water needs return somewhere to cool. The central fountain has a separate water supply and is used to top up the water level of the pool. The model engineers were having fun sailing their boats (and vacuum cleaners).  We also enjoyed the other displays, places to buy things (too many second-hand dvds), and café.

Finally I left Julie to watch the WW1 folk while I went for a bus ride to the Reservoir. The website tells me that about the bus that takes me there, but doesn’t tell me about the reservoir except that it dates to 1879. The guide told us how many million bricks, how many gallons – but I didn’t write it down. It cracked after only a few years of use – and we had an interesting debate about what you can do with it now it no longer holds water. The atmosphere was incredible. The chimney is in the distance on the top photo, you realise quite how far ‘up’ you have driven.

It was a smashing afternoon – we’ll be back!


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