The Abbey Pumping Station is a museum of science and technology in Leicester, next to the National Space Centre. With four working steam-powered beam engines from its time as a sewage pumping station, it also houses exhibits for transport, public health, light and optics, toys and civil engineering. The Museum has a narrow gauge railway which is normally operated by Leonard, an 0-4-0ST 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge locomotive built by W.G. Bagnall, Stafford as works number 2087 in 1918, but four diesel locomotives – three Simplex and one Ruston – are also available if needed. There is also a collection of vintage road vehicles which are operated on selected days. Exhibits include: fire engines, buses (see below), an 1894 Aveling and Porter steam roller, three diesel rollers, a Bedford fish and chips van and an Austin K2 brewery dray lorry with ales.
The building was constructed in 1891 by Leicester Corporation on the north side of Leicester, alongside the River Soar, as a pumping station used to pump the town's sewage to Beaumont Leys. The grand Victorian building, designed by Stockdale Harrison (Leicester architect) in 1890, houses four Arthur Woolf compound beam engines built by Gimson and Company of Leicester. The first attempt to respond to the population's sewage disposal was in 1850 when piped water made water closets possible, and Thomas Wicksteed designed and built sewers leading to a sedimentation and de-oderisation treatment works on the northern, downstream, edge of the town. Limited capacity and high costs meant that a Pail closet system continued to be used for poorer neighbourhoods. As the town expanded so did the problems of pollution in the River Soar from the treatment works. Disposal of the Night soil from the pail closets, via railway wagons and canal barges, caused complaints of smell and pollution. A new solution was needed and the answer was to pump everything to a Sewage farm on higher ground at Beaumont Leys. It continued pumping Leicester's sewage until 1964, when electric pumps took over.
The extensive grounds and ground floor are accessible for wheelchair users. In addition the Lower Beam Engine House and Switch Room are accessible via a platform lift. Abbey Pumping Station has a toilet block situated in the range opposite the museum galleries. All toilets are on ground level. There is an accessible toilet with a wide sliding door. There are also male and female toilets but these are situated along a narrow corridor with narrow doorway. The accessible toilet has a twist lock, a grab rail and an emergency alarm. The sink in the accessible toilet is fitted with a lever tap, mirror and hand drier. Assistance dogs are welcome and water can be provided upon request. There is a hearing loop but no audio guide.
Location : Corporation Road, Leicester, LE4 5PX
Transport: Leicester (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 40, 54, 54A and ‘Skylink’ service from Leicester to Derby stop on Abbey Road.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 16:30.
Tickets : Free
Tel: 0116 299 5111