Old Brook Pumping Station

Old Brook Pumping Station

horizontal single cylinder diesel engines

horizontal single cylinder diesel engines

Old Brook Pumping Station, was a water pumping station operating in Chatham, Kent from 1929 until 1980. It now survives as a working museum. The Old Brook Pumping Station is managed and maintained by the 'Medway Industrial Archaeology Group' with the support of Medway Council. On the site is an old Victorian printing press on which the 'Rochester Gazette' was printed, and a number of model windmills. An old Aveling and Porter road roller built by the famous Strood factory stands in the grounds.


In the 16th century, due to an earth dam (between Rochester and Chatham Dockyard), called the 'Land wall'. The Old River Bourne and its surrounding marshlands were cut off from the River Medway. Between 1575-1610, a tide mill was built on the Brook (the renamed Old River Bourne),close to the River Medway. By 1765, the town of Chatham had increased dramatically and the Brook was now covered by a road. The former marshland was used as area for low-class housing and alleyways. During 1821 and 1823, No.18 The Brook was lived in by Charles Dickens (aged 9). The old river had been changed into culverts, which with cesspits were used to dispose of waste. In 1801, the population of Chatham was 10,505, then by 1901 it had grown to 36,944. But the current drainage culverts had not been updated and they were beginning to fail and the health of the towns people was dropping. Including bouts of Cholera. Also within the River Medway, fish stocks and oyster beds were also failing, according to court leet papers. In 1852, Edward Gotto was employed to carry out the national General Board of Health Survey for the 'General Board of Health' (under the Public Health Act 1848). The survey highlighted the diseases and poor sanitation in the town. This then prompted work to improve the drainage and sewerage of the town. Including brick built sewers and covered culverts. In 1909, a tramway line was running along the course of the old Brook River.


The storage tank beneath the station hall has foundations some twenty eight (28) feet deep. These foundations go through the bed of the Brook which presented considerable difficulties in the construction of the tank. The station is designed to pump sewage from the tank to the main sewer from which it flows by gravity to the Motney Hill treatment works. During times of extreme flooding surface water and effluent would be pumped via the Storm tower and storm water culvert direct in the River Medway. The waste discharged into the river would be greatly diluted under these conditions.


The machinery designed to carry out these functions is as follows: One electric motor driven Blackstone 6 inch Unchokeable Pump capable of 50,000 gallens per hour and a duplicate backup machine. This was used for normal dry weather flow. One electric motor driven Blackstone 8 inch Unchokeable Pump capable of 100,000 gallens per hour and a duplicate backup machine. This was used for storm water flow. For storms slightly over the six time dry water flow, the second 8 inch pump would automatically cut in to discharge , via the Storm tower, into the 5 by 3 1/2 foot culvert into the River Medway. There is a maximum lift into the storm tower of 20 feet. Storm water in excess of these flows were handled by the 2, belt driven Blackstone 14 inch Unchokeable Pumps delivering 250,000 gallens per hour. There are two of these pumps driven by 56 hp Campbell oil (diesel) engines.


Maximum levels of pumping were therefore 150,000 gallens per hour of sewage and storm water into the intercepting main, and 600,000 gallens per hour of excess storm water into the river via the Storm tower. The primary function of the station was taken over in 1979 by a new, fully automatic station on the opposite side of the Brook. The old station is no longer connected to the main sewage system and the limited amount of surface / drain water that now collects in the tank can comfortably be dealt with the by one set of electric pumps. The other set has been removed and the area used as a workshop. The Campbell engines are normally operated for display purposes , however the group do occasionally 'save' the water to pump with these engines.


The Columbia Printing Press. This Printing Press was manufactured between 1845 and 1851 by Clymer, Dixon and Company and purchased by Samuel Caddel of Rochester from V & J Figgins of London. The Columbia Press was the invention of George Clymer, an American of Swiss extraction. His interest in printing began when he was working for a manufacturer of wood screw presses which were in use at that time. By 1805 he was working independently and by 1814 he was in production with his new improved one-pull iron press The high cost of presses produced in America (between $400-$500) and the fact that they were by no means easily transportable forced Clymer to look towards England to enable him to produce saleable presses He left America in 1817 and on arrival in England he immediately patented his design for 14 years. His first presses were manufactured in conjunction with R W Cope, who later made his name producing the rival Albion Press. By 1819 Clymer was making his own presses under his own name.


In 1830 Clymer went into partnership with one S Dixon and traded under the name of Clymer and Dixon The partnership lasted until Clymer's death in August 1834. The factory was then run by Dixon until 1845 when he took on an associate and the firm then traded under the name of Clymer. Dixon & Co. It was probably during the period 1845 to 1851, when the firm was sold, that the press now in the museum was built. Clymer & Dixon's factory lasted until 1863 when the works and all existing presses were sold One buyer was V Figgins of London, a type- founder, and it was from him that Samuel Caddel bought the Press. It was used to print the Rochester Gazette until 1868 when it ceased publication on the death of Caddel. The Press was transferred to the Rochester & Chatham Printing Company, who in 1933 presented it to the Eastgate House Museum in Rochester, where it resided until the late 1970's. It was then moved to the Guildhall Museum where the main frame stood on the forecourt in Rochester High Street. In 1984 all components were moved to the Brook Pumping Station - with the help of the Royal Engineers - and restoration work was carried out by MIAG It is now back in working order, and it is occasionally used to print material for the museum.


Thomas Aveling (1824-1882) set up an engineering works in Rochester in 1850. He was a capable engineer and inventor and enthusiastic pioneer in the mechanisation of agriculture. In 1861 he established his works in Strood, inparnership with the capitalist Richard Porter, for the manufacture of traction engines. The Invicta works flourished under the guidance of Aveling's son Thomas Lake Aveling. The Invicta works employed around 1000 men at the turn of the century. After the First World War the firm became part of the Agricultural and General Engineers Limited. This company included other well known engineering companies such as Blackstone's of Stamford and Barford and Perkins of Peterborough. In December 1933 manufacture of Road Rollers was transfered to Grantham, Linconshire under the combined name of Aveling and Barford. The factory was taken over by Wingets Limited for the manufacture of concrete mixers. Aveling's office building and part of Wingets factory has been preserved as part of the Civic Centre. Although Thomas Aveling did not invent the steam roller, the Strood works produced road rollers from 1867 and became the worlds largest steam roller factory. Of the 12,700 steam engines built at Strood 8,600 were steam rollers. Aveling started producing oil engined rollers in 1923. These rollers were powered by a single cylinder slow running oil engine made by Blackstone. These early rollers followed the same basic design as the steam rollers having mang componants in common.


The roller at Old Brook was rescued from the childrens playing field in Darnley Road, Strood. By 1989 with changes in the way that safety was being regarded in children's play areas, the old roller that had given pleasure to countless number of children since 1965 was doomed. Considered unsafe she was heading for the scrapyard. Rochester City Council approached their group to see if they could take on the restoration of the roller. Both MIAG and the Council recognised the importance to both the local community and to the preservation world, why the roller should be saved. In 1989 the roller was moved to the Old Brook Pumping Station to start what was to be a 6 year restoration programme. After surveying the roller to see what was required the restoration began. Many of the parts of the roller had been welded together to stop small fingers being crushed. These parts , together with others that had rusted themselves together had to be laboriously freed. The original Blackstone engine had hundreds of missing parts so a replacement was required, the quest taking 3 years. Other parts of the roller were fabricated from scratch, others repaired. The roller is now fully working, although due to its size (13 tons) is rarely taken out. Its first 'trial' was in the nearby Chatham Historic Dockyard. The original engine was a Blackstone ESI which developed 26bhp at 265rpm. The engine was later converted to type ESK, delivering 28bhp. The replacement engine is also an ESK. The roller is 16 feet long , 7 feet wide and weighs 13 tons. The elegant funnel reminiscent of earlier steam rollers houses the engines exhaust pipe. The roller is a Q type. It was sold to the Rochester Corporation in 1925 and is still giving service to the community today.


There is wheelchair access to the site. Facilities are to be found in nearby retail establishments. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Old Brook Pumping Station, Solomons Road , Chatham, Kent ME4 4AJ

Transport : Chatham (National Rail) then 14 minutes or bus (132). Bus Routes : 120, 132, 164, 176 and 177 stop close by

Opening Times : June 1st to September 30th, Saturday 11:00 to 15:00; otherwise first Saturday of the month 11:00 to 15:00

Tickets : Free

Tel. : 01634 842059