The Crofton Beam Engines

on 29 August 2017.

These are two magnificent pieces of industrial archaeology that will appeal to both families and steam enthusiasts. Set in stunning Wiltshire countryside on the Kennet and Avon Canal, Crofton Beam Engine House is fully accessible to the public,

popular for its hands-on historical approach and can easily be combined with a visit to the beautiful market town of Marlborough.

Crofton is a Grade 1 listed site, built between 1807-9 to supply water for the Kennet & Avon canal. Considered to be of ‘prime evidential value’ by Historic England, the Pumping Station was designed to raise water 40 feet from the water table in the chalk below it to the summit level of the waterway.

There are two engines at Crofton, correctly termed ‘Cornish cycle Beam Engines’, and both have been fully restored to working order. One of the engines, built in 1812 by the pioneers of steam power Boulton and Watt, is the world’s oldest working beam engine.

The second, by Harvey & Co. of Hayle in Cornwall, built in 1846 and modified in 1905, is one of the few remaining operating engines of its type.

To this day, the canal reservoir, Wilton Water, still supplies the engines and the canal. Owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, it and has been restored and operated over the past half a century exclusively by volunteers.

The canal was originally created as a means for transporting large amounts of goods from the port of Bristol to London and vice versa. The key to the success of this commercial artery was, and still is, it’s access to a reliable water supply. After 1950, the Kennet & Avon became derelict, and its resurrection has been a triumph for the volunteer movement whose efforts have ensured that it is now enjoyed by cyclists and walkers as well as those who cruise, and indeed live on it.

Phil Harding a Patron of the trust and chief archaeologist on Channel 4 hit show ‘Time Team’ said

“I’ve known Crofton all my life and still enjoy visiting this special place. Crofton is important both as part of Wiltshire’s social history and internationally as a working steam pumping station.”

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