Pumping station and Visitor Centre

Location: Station Road, Blagdon, North Somerset BS40 7UN

Transport: Worle (National Rail) then bus.

Bus Routes: 128, 134, 135, 672 and 683 stop approximately 1 mile away.

Opening Times: Sunday 14:00 – 17:00

Tickets: Free

Tel: 0117 953 6470

Blagdon Pumping Station and Visitor Centre includes science and environment exhibits and hands-on displays as well as a room dedicated to the charity WaterAid. One of the two steam-driven beam engines is still working occasionally. Outside this is space for picnics and a nature trail.

When the lake first opened there were four Woolf compound rotative beam pumping engines, housed in two separate buildings. They were built by Glenfield & Kennedy of Kilmarnock between 1900 and 1905. The engine’s beam is 34 ft (10.36 m) long and weighs 17 tons. The flywheel is 20 ft (6.10 m) in diameter and weighs 20 tons, having a crank throw of 3.5 ft (1.07 m). Each beam engine had an output of 170 horsepower (130 kW) at 17 rpm.

The high-pressure cylinders, 21 inches (53.3 cm) in diameter and with a 3.25 ft (0.99 m) stroke, were supplied by steam from horizontal Lancashire-type twin flue boilers with Green’s economisers at 100 pounds per square inch (6.9 bar). The low-pressure cylinder was 34 inches (86.4 cm) in diameter and has a 7 ft (2.13 m) stroke.

Three engines with a fourth on standby could pump water at a rate of 7.5 million imperial gallons (34,000 m3) per day, whilst the boilers consumed 8.5 tons of coal per day. A mechanical efficiency of 90% was claimed, the 30-inch (76.2 cm) diameter pump bucket, 3.5 ft (1.07 m) strike and plunger diameter of 21 inches (53.34 cm) gave a pump output of 107 imperial gallons (490 l) per stroke. They ran until 1949, when two engines from the north engine house were replaced by electric pumps.

In 1950 automatic shutdown equipment was installed to prevent damage in the event of a burst main or overloading of the new electric pumps. This meant that it was no longer essential to have staff on site 24 hours a day. The decorative chimney was shortened in the 1960s. In 2014 new split-case vertical pumps and various other new equipment was installed to replace those installed in the 1940s and 1950s.
The flywheel

In 1984 it was decided to preserve the two remaining engines and incorporate them as the central feature in the Visitor Centre, including a Museum in the old boiler house, which opened in 1988 and attracts over 30,000 visitors a year. The flywheel is now driven by an electric motor. The pumping station is now a Grade II* listed building, while the gothic-style meter house is Grade II listed and used as a bat sanctuary.