Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum
Hoopers Lane, Westonzoyland
Bridgwater, Somerset, TA7 0LS
The original pumping station building dates from 1831 and was the first one to be built on the Somerset Levels, following developments and plans by land-owners to control the flooding and draining of the low-lying fields. Built of brick, it still stands today, the only one surviving (in the area) with its pumping engine still intact and functional. It is a humble design, but English Heritage has listed it Grade II*.
It originally had a beam engine driving a huge scoop wheel to lift water into the River Parrett. This caused the whole area of the moors around the station to sink due to the removal of excess water.
After 30 years a more powerful and efficient Easton & Amos Drainage Machine was installed in 1861, with a centrifugal pump, the impeller of which is of a design perfected by John George Appold. This machine will lift 100 tons of water per minute to a height of between 6 and 10 feet (1.8 to 3 metres) depending on the level of the tide. These installations were so successful that other similar pumping stations were erected along the Parrett.
The steam pump was superseded in 1951 by a modern diesel unit which is housed in a building alongside its predecessor, although unsubstantiated stories tell of the pump being run as late as 1960, driven by Clifford Thyer, the last attendant of the pumping station. The majority of the other steam pumps have been dismantled and scrapped in favour of diesel or electric units leaving the Easton & Amos Drainage Machine at Westonzoyland as the only steam pump still in working order in its original position. Two other unique pumps, those from Stanmoor and Southlake, have been saved at the Museum and it is our intention to restore and install these as working exhibits at Westonzoyland at some time in the future.
Next to the main pump house is a single-storey brick-built section, containing a forge and the old Lancashire boiler. Above the main engine house three rooms formed the original keepers accommodation. When the pumping station was upgraded in 1861 additional accommodation was built comprising a two storey section alongside the main building. This provided a living room and kitchen and a further two bedrooms upstairs. There have only been three families in the entire lifetime of the pumping station. The attendant and his family were provided the accommodation and a free supply of coal. The attendant was even permitted to carry out other work when not operating the pumping station.
After the last attendant left it fell into disrepair for the next 25 years, until a group of members from the Somerset Industrial Archaeology Society decided to move in and tackle the repair work. This was the beginning of the Westonzoyland Engine Trust. Wessex Water gave permission for access and repairs to the Easton and Amos pumping engine, which allowed the members to fire it up and run it, on occasions.
Through the 1970's and 1980's, the Trust put together a museum of steam power and land drainage, including various engines and pumps brought onto the site from other locations. Wessex Water still owned the site, but the Trust purchased it from them in 1990.
Extensive repairs were carried out to the 71' high chimney, cottage roofs and engine house, which come under the Grade II* listed buildings category. Trust members built a new exhibition hall in the 1980's, which now houses the Thyer Cafe, Shop and a number of steam-powered engines in the adjoining section.
There are many ongoing restoration projects and maintenance works to be done. Work needs to be carried out to the Grade II* Listed Pumping Station Buildings, additional exhibition hall space is needed for a growing collection of steam and Diesel engines. Overall, the pumping station aims to display a history of Somerset land drainage and include steam-powered engines which were once active in both local industry and further afield.