In the 1800’s, great great granddad’s time An epidemic surged across the world A new and strange disease swept every clime Whole families with stomach pains were curled Like foetuses, and many died before their time Too many in communal graves were hurled
After disease had spread throughout the land Imagine all that dread back in the day Of a waterborne disease and no cure planned And tens of thousands passed away Industry and business left unmanned The Black Country on its knees to pray
When Sandfields Pumping Station started up Its Cornish Engine, forged in Tipton, huge machine, Fear of Cholera banished from their sip and sup And oh what joy for Walsall to have seen New standpipes for to fill each cup With crystal clear fresh water, pure and clean
At seven strokes a minute, all the day It plunged its piston deep below the ground Fetching up a ton of water straightaway Pushing it through pipes to Walsall town Where thirsty populations shout “Hooray!” To the huge machine that barely made a sound.
Once more the industries of Walsall could survive No more would each business fear to shut Once more relief and bliss of staying alive No more to haul their drinking water bucket from the cut And we need celebrate this engineering feat That brought such health, and wealth And happiness to dance in every Walsall street.
Commissioned by content editor Heather Wastie for Bostin News.
When done well, industrial heritage renovation projects can give so much back to the community. This was the state of the office at Sandfields Pumping Station in 2017 when the trust was granted a licence to enter the building to do some very basic renovation work.
The site has been neglected since 2005 and following several incident of metal thefts from the roof, unauthorised entry and vandalism, the office ended up looking like this.
For years un-cared for and for years un-loved.
Fortunately, the volunteers were able to see the potential opportunities of this room and what it could give back. They rised to the challenge. They could see opportunities to learn new skills, make new friends, work with others and engage with the community.
It was thier way to give something back and make things better for others.
You will agree, the transformation is astounding. A whole team of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. This was a team effort of individuals coming together to create a stunningly beautiful multipurpose room that will give a benefit to the communty for years to come.
There is still some work to complete, lighting, heating, overhead projector and screen. The team have successfully raised funds with a grant from the Millennium Point Foundation to install the new sub-mains. The teams will also be working with apprentices from Dudley College, to share their skills with young people.
This project will enable these young people to showcase their newly learned skills on a heritage building, that in time, they can show to their children and grandchildren.
This is a small part of a significant project that will see opportunity for all, potential fulfilled and talent fully utilised. So, how much will this fully equipped beautiful multipurpose room cost to hire?
Here at the Lichfield Waterworks Trust, money will never be a barrier to opportunity. So, all we ask is that you take what you need and give what you can, a donation will be fine.
I never fail to be impressed with the effort’s individuals go to, to promote our industrial heritage; today was no exception.
Our very own Chris and Sue Pattison designed and built a set of very impressive interpretation panels outlining the history of Uttoxeter’s water supply. Their display was set up at Crupmwood Ram Pumphouse near Dentstone, Staffordshire for Heritage Opendays, and working with members of the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust they managed to engage 95 visitors on the day to a very interesting story of clean water and the canal system.
Over the last two and a half years the trust has been carefully monitoring and measuring the temperature and humidity at Sandfields Pumping Station. The aim of this study is to gain a fuller understanding of how best to preserve the bright works on the Cornish engine and to understand the factor that cause rust along with the idea conditions and treatment to prevent it.
Here is the latest report form the engineering team:
The one working humidity/temperature data logger was left ticking over in the ground floor of the engine house from mid-March until a couple of weeks ago when I returned to active service. I’ve attached a screenshot of the data- at least it makes a change from graphs of Covid-19 infection rates. It’s interesting(ish) because it shows the pattern of variation over an extended period (nearly 6 months), whereas previously I’d been looking at chunks of time of only 2 or 3 weeks.
As can be seen, for much of the time the %RH was in the range 60-70%, with values above and below this range mainly coinciding with spells of particularly warm or cold weather. Keen observers will also notice that there was another incidence around the end of March when a temperature spike of 60+ degrees was recorded- the spirit’s still about.
60-70%RH is in the range where some atmospheric corrosion of iron/steel would be expected. However most of the engine remains relatively unaffected, helped I’m sure by the Steelguard we’ve applied.
I’ve also included “then and now” photos of three areas I taped off in October 2018 (is it really two years ago?) and left untreated. In two cases there’s very little difference, whereas where the pump rod attaches to the beam there’s noticeable corrosion. I think this is more likely to be down to differences in material (eg chemical composition) rather than in location. I’ll leave the data logger to record for the next 6 months to get a comparable picture over winter.
Its been three years since the Lichfield Waterworks Trust have gained access to Sandfields pumping Station, Lichfield. A unique The Grade II* listed Victorian Waterworks that is now on the Heritage at Risk Register.
With the help of a couple of small grants and a mass of generosity in the form of donations and sheer hard graft from both the public, visitors, and small social organisations, the trust has undertaken a significant amount of work.
Looking inside of the building now, it is hard to imagine the state of dilapidation that the trust inherited in 2017. In this sixth podcast, Alan Hill talks us through the work undertaken to date and the plans the trust has going forward.
As you are no doubt aware of the current global coronavirus pandemic the trust, as with many other organisations has had to suspend its onsite activities and meeting.
From its initial inception, the trust has always put the safety, health and wellbeing of its members first and foremost. Therefore, we will be following government and heath professional guidelines to keep everyone and the NHS safe.
As soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, please be assured we will re-commence work on site at the earliest opportunity.
The trustee would like everyone to know that we are thinking of you all and looking forward to the days when we can resume some normality.
Building Lease Update:
Two trustees met with Persimmon on Tuesday 5 November to discuss the lease. The trustees have also met to discuss the offer made by Persimmon Homes Ltd. While the overall details of the lease still need to be negotiated and there are still some outstanding issues that need to be addressed. The trustees have a great deal of confidence in the teams of volunteers who are making things on site happen. The trustees have also carful considered the enormous and significant contribution the members have made to this project, therefore the trustees believed that it’s time to stop kicking the problems back and forth and instead to move things forward.
We have therefore agreed that we are able to move on with the lease. We have informed Persimmon Homes Ltd and are waiting for them to contact our solicitors.
The trustee would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your ongoing help and support.
After the visit by Historic England on 16 Jan, the site has unfortunately been placed on the Heritage at Risk Register.
This is indeed sad news to see that this magnificent piece of industrial heritage is now officially at risk of permanent loss.
The trust is committed to continue working with the owner, Persimmon Homes Ltd to find a sustainable solution that will bring this building and its historic contents aback into a community use.
Archive and Historical Research Team Report
The heritage of the modern water industry is almost entirely absent, despite its unarguable relevance to human development.
Document of the Month April 2020
Specification for a Cornish Beam Engine
William Vawdrey is the second son of the late Rev. A. A. Vawdrey, who was for many years Vicar of St. Agnes, Cornwall. Born at St. Day Vicarage on the 17th ‘of April 1840. As a youth he was sent as a student to Messrs. Harvey and Company’s Foundry at Hayle, where he remained seven years. He was then employed in erecting pumping and winding-engines for Messrs Eustace and Son and other owners.
In 1865, after passing the requisite examination, he entered the Royal Navy, but soon afterwards retiring from the service he was appointed assistant engineer to the South Staffordshire Waterworks under Mr. J. R.McClean.
Two years later he assumed full charge of the works and remained with the company up to his death on the 2nd of January 1895. During these 30 years of service Mr. Vawdrey proved himself a most able and energetic promoter of the company’s welfare and substantially developed the activity of South Staffs Water.
Vawdrey designed, specified and tendered the 65-inch Cornish Beam Engine at Sandfields Pumping Station, known today as engine number 4. The South Staffs Water archive still holds copies of the original engine specification written in hand manuscript. These documents are a treasure and will provide educational, study and research opportunities for many years to come.
Linda Shapiro has been studying Victorian culture for many years, her research work can be seen on her website Dewsbury Victorian Family’s. She has painstakingly transcribed this document and a number of others relating to the construction of the original impounding reservoir at Stowe Pool and a number of transactions from William Vawdreys’ daybook.
Here is a sample of the transcribed manuscript for you to enjoy. We will in due course be releasing a full version of this transcript for study, comment, a study day, booklet and a talk.
The Contract shall include the Engine Boilers, Pumps, Air Vessel, and other works and all duplicates. Tools and Materials hereinafter described with all needful 8888 and complete apparatus, appendages, attachments, appliances, and connections jointed fixed and set to work; and comprise also all proper and necessary floor joists to support the stone landings of the working floor, and the plates for floor of Cylinder stage and other floors, together with access frames and plates for the same wherever required and also all holding down bolts washer plates, bed plates beams, spring beams, bearers, handrails, balusters and other matters and things whatsoever pertaining incident or appurtenant to the Engine, Boilers, Machinery and other works and apparatus and their supports fixings attachments connections, appliances and conveniences respectively including all waste and other pipes to the outside of the buildings and all pump work as far as one pipe outside of the air vessel.
The Engine shall be of the kind known as a Cornish or single acting expansive condensing Beam Engine, and shall be made according to the most improved construction and arrangement in all its details and be finished bright in all parts usually so finished by the best makers of first class Water Works Engines, and the working gear shall be so arranged that the steam may be cut off at any point from one sixth of the stroke downwards as may be found desirable, and that the Engine may be capable of making fully ten strokes per minute continuously, with a pressure equal to (135 lbs, one hundred and thirty five pounds) to the square inch on the pump bucket, and the Contractor shall so proportion and construct the Engine, Pump valves, Air vessel and other works as to enable the Engine satisfactorily to work through a 24 ins diameter Main at the above named speed and pressure and throw at each stroke the full quantity of water due to the area of the bucket and length of stroke without loss through valves, and if upon trial the Engine shall not be found capable of doing this continuously the Contractor shall make such alterations in any parts thereof as shall be required to enable it so to perform the work aforesaid.
As you can clearly see, this is a beautifully written technical document with all the nuances of Victorian culture. It is a joy to read and study, so watch this space, there will be more to come.
We feel privileged here at Sandfields because it is one of the rare industrial building that still holds a comprehensive archive of materiel form the past. The archive record held at Sandfields Pumping Station is an invaluable record and a window to the day to day activity of operating a waterworks. Here we see evidence of working practices and skills, now lost.
If you hold an interest in history or are just curious about the past and want to learn more, then why not drop by for tea.
The current global coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the trust. With no onsite activity, meeting, talks or raffles we are seriously down of income. We do manage our money very carefully and have no paid staff, therefore we will get by. But it would be nice to hit the ground running as soon as we get a return to normality.
We have lots of events and activities planned, so if you can give a small donation, we can get things on the moves as quickly as possible.
We will also always invest in our people and we are planning further training days soon. All these costs soon mount up, so if you can donate, then please visit our donation page here.
Any amount is helpful, is well appreciated and will be carefully spent preserving our industrial past for our future generations, developing skills for our people and making our community a better place
Please make cheques payable to; Lichfield Waterworks Trust, and send to our address:
22 Walsall Road
Do we have your correct details? We do our best to get things right, but occasionally something slips of the tray. Please let us know if we have your correct contact details, or you would like any additions or amendments.
We would like this opportunity to welcome a few new members.
Thank you for joining the Lichfield Waterworks Trust. We hope you will enjoy your membership and become part of a very exciting heritage project that will benefit the people, the place and the community.
It will really help us if we develop and grow our membership. If you are not already a member and would you like to be a part of one of the region’s most exciting heritage projects then please, join us now by filling in Membership Application Form by going to our membership page here. It is free to join and be a part of this incredibly exciting project.