London 1977


Kew Bridge Engines, Brentford, 1977
10d201: Hounslow, pump, engine, waterworks, steam, Victorian

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Although I'd been through Brentford many times as a child, usually on the top deck of a bus crawling through the High St, often on the way for a family outing to Kew Gardens (when it was still a penny to get in) I don't remember the pumping station - we would have sat if possible on the other side of the bus to view the much more interesting gas works, and be getting ready to get off at Kew Bridge by the time we passed Green Dragon Lane, though I'm sure the name would have greatly appealed to us.
A few years before my visit the site had been taken over from the Metropolitan Water Board by a museum trust, and they had completed the restoration of one of the giant steam engines only a couple of years before I went there on a family visit (I doubt if our son, then around 9 months, appreciated it greatly, though he did our later visits.) The Boulton and Watt engine, the oldest working waterworks beam engine in the world, was the baby on the site, with a cylinder diameter of only 64 inches (161 cm) but impressive in steam, while its two larger companions at 90 and 100 inches were more photogenic - and allowed almost unfettered access.
It was on this trip that I first came across the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (GLIAS) which had been formed a few years earlier, picking up a leaflet and joining - and I'm still a member. Later in 1977 I returned to the pumping station to take part in a photographic competition, and a few years later we had a birthday party there for one of my sons.
It's now a few years since I last visited the London Museum of Water and Steam, and by then it was a much more professional museum rather than the enthusiasts paradise of those early visits, but still remarkably impressive, and if rather more expensive than in the old days still seemed excellent value.