London Museum of Water and Steam
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The Grade I-listed pumping station in which this museum housed was built in 1838 and it was the first to drive clean water into people’s homes, 24 hours a day – at an affordable price. The revamped museum now combines remarkable working remains of our Victorian industrial heyday – nine machines (five still in their original locations), including the 90-inch steam-powered Cornish Engine – with the story of how London’s water has been cleaned up since the seventeenth century.
You can follow a timeline of pipes right up to modern sewerage, stopping off on the way to ponder Hugh Myddleton’s New River (an ambitious engineering project realised with financial help from King James I that was designed to bring clean water from the River Lea, near Ware, in Hertfordshire to New River Head in London). There are tunnels and sewers to walk and crawl through, the 1902 Hindley Waterwheel, plus lots of interactivities: labs where the nippers can compare clean and polluted water, and in the new Splash Zone a variety of water-pumping experiments, using sluices, pulleys and pumps.
The new museum hasn’t pulled the plug on its prime attractions though: every weekend (and at bank holidays) the ancient engines are fired up and whir into action, along with a puttering narrow-gauge railway and steam-powered fire engine. There’s action on weekdays too, but the waterwheel and the James Kay rotative engine use that new-fangled electricity stuff.
Exhausted? The Stokers Café is open daily and is accessible without having to enter the museum.
Note: annual passes cost just £3 on top of your day ticket.
Green Dragon Lane
|Transport:||Rail: Kew Bridge rail|
|Opening hours:||Wed-Sun 11am-4pm|
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