Originally Kew Bridge Pumping Station
Green Dragon Lane
Built in the 1830s as a pumping station, now a museum.
Grade I and II statutory listing.
In Kew Bridge Conservation Area; Thames Policy Area.
English Heritage Listing Descriptions
Great Engine House 1845 and 1869/70 (Grade I listed)
Engine house. 1845-6 and 1869-70; for the Grand Junction Water Works Company. Roman cement. Rectangular plan. 3 storeys, 2 x 2 bays, the eastern half being added 1869-70. Round-headed windows with glazing bars in 3-storey, round-headed, shallow recesses with archivolts linked by moulded impost band. Bold cornice. Flat roof. On east side, entrance on left has steps with decorative cast-iron balustrade up to board double door below fanlight. Attached compression cylinders.
Interior: magnificent contemporary beam pumping engines filling the 3 storeys of the building, one by Harvey and Company of Hayle, Cornwall, 1869; the other of 1846 by Sandy Carne and Vivian of Copperhouse Foundry, Hale; immense cast-iron Doric columns provide support for the beam axle, and the cylinders also are fluted. Two cast-iron galleries, at different levels. Roof is timber lined.
Main Building/Engine House (Grade I listed)
Engine house. 1836-8, by W M Coe, engineer to the Grand Junction Water Works Company; later alterations, and small addition of c1900. 2 storeys, 7 x 4 bays, with small single-storey 2 x 3-bay addition to east side. Silver grey brick with silver Aberdeen granite window cills, plinth, doorcase, cornice etc. 3:1:3 bays. Bold central doorcase having rusticated surround with cornice and blocking course, panelled door below overlight with glazing bars. Round-headed windows to ground floor, square-headed windows above linked by cill band, all small-paned with pivoting casements. Cornice and blocking course. Compression cylinder attached, on left of entrance. Right return similar, but partially masked by addition of cream brick with door and blind, round-arched, window and 3 round-arched windows to right return. Left return masked by addition, which is listed with the boiler houses (q.v).
Interior: Boulton and Watt pumping engine of 1820 moved here in 1838 from the Grand Junction Water Works at Chelsea; a Cornish Bull Engine of 1859, and other objects brought from elsewhere. The extension was built to house an economiser (to preheat water for boilers).
Pump House Tower (Grade I listed)
Stand-pipe tower. 1867. Builders Messrs Aird and Sons for the Grand Junction Water Works Company. Rendered brick with rendered dressings. Tower is square in plan, tapering in its height to the square base of the octagonal cupolas, to which the plan changes by means of squinches on the 4 corners. There are 2 large cornices, the lower forming the top of the plinth of the tower which is just under a third of its height. The upper-cornice is immediately below the squinches to the upper cupola, and has modillions. The plinth has a secondary plinth, cement rendered, banding approximately one third of its height and has 3 pilasters with rendered imposts and 2 semi-circular arches with ventilation slits in the recessed panels. This is on all 4 sides. The shaft has a rendered plinth of banding also 3 pilasters and 2 rendered arches with rendered imposts. Semi-circular above there is a circular window with a large arch springing from the 2 outside pilasters. The cupola has slender openings in each face surmounted by a rendered arch on rendered imposts on all 8 sides. The shaft of the cupola is topped by a very simple banded capping. The cupola formerly had a copper dome. A ball and metal rod with lighting conductor forms the terminal finial to the tower. The tower contained a 4-foot rising and a 3-foot falling pipe, and replaced an earlier standpipe which was damaged by severe frost.
Ancillary buildings (Grade II listed)
Stables, forge, carpenter’s shop and machine shop, now outbuildings, forge and workshops. Probably 1845-6, rebuilding and alterations late C19. For the Grand Junction Water Works Company. Brownish brick in Flemish bond; Welsh slate roofs with some replacement corrugated asbestos. Long single-storey range.
From left: gabled mid C20 bay not of special interest. Gabled bay with wide board door below segmental brick arch; hipped roof. 4-bay formerly open-fronted shelter having iron columns on chamfered padstones carrying timber wall plate; all but 3rd bay infilled on left having brick infill with doors and windows, on right having shop front;2-span roof. 8-bay late C19 workshop range having chamfered stone lintels to openings, the windows large, in recesses with chamfered black-brick plinths, and having 9-pane pivoting casements; double board doors; forge, on left, has stable door flanked by windows, and 2 metal flues and 2 gabled ridge louvres to roof; former carpenter’s shop has door with window to right; machine shop on right has door with 2 windows to right, and stack to rear. Interior: machine shop has overhead shafts, wheels and belts of machinery; forge has 2 forges. Included for group value.
Boiler House (Grade II listed)
Boiler houses, coal store, steam engine house, and link corridor. 1836-8, 1845-6 c1855-9, and 1890-91. For the Grand Junction Water Works Company. 1836-8 work of brown brick, 1890s work of cream brick, all in Flemish bond; mid C19 work of brick with Roman cement; Welsh slate roofs.
The buildings lie to the rear and left side of the Main Building (q.v) and link it to the Great Engine House (q.v). Immediately behind the Main Building is the original boiler house with coal store beyond, of 1836-8. When the Great Engine House was built 1845-6 a linking corridor was also built, running to it from the east side of the boiler house. Probably c1855-9 a second boiler house was built behind the linking corridor. 1890-91 a steam engine house was built along the left (west) side of the Main Building with a high-pressure boiler house behind, further (later) addition beyond that. Behind the original coal store is 89 addition which is not of special interest. Link corridor (south elevation) of one storey, 3 bays, has round-arched arcade with archivolts linked by impost band, double board door up steps on left, and 2 small-pane windows.
The later boiler house east elevation has 6 bays under 2 gables; below each gable a central doorway with fanlight flanked by windows in recesses with 2 small circular windows over; left bay retains original small-pane window, others altered; left doorway has double board door, right doorway enlarged; openings have archivolts linked by moulded impost band; gabled ridge lights; 4-bay north elevation has segmental-arched windows in recesses and impost band. The 1890-91 range, west elevation, of 2 and 5 bays, has chamfered black brick plinth, board doors, 12-pane windows with pivoting casements and stone cills and lintels, stepped eaves; porch added at left (north) end.
1836-38 Boiler House and Coal Store largely masked by other buildings, but on east side at south end are 2 round-arched windows with glazing bars, and inside are other oringal round-arched openings, the coal store north wall having also pilaster butresses. The early boiler house has iron columns, braced steel trusses, and a gabled ridge light.
Gatehouse & boundary wall (Grade II listed)
Porters’ lodge, office and meter room, c.1838; with laboratory added c.1902; front rebuilt after bomb damage in 1918; now gatehouse. Boundary wall c.1845. London stock brick with brick ridge stack and slate roof.
PLAN: Two office rooms on the N side, with porter’s lodge on S by former station entrance, and laboratory behind.
EXTERIOR: Single storey with parapeted, twin-gabled front to east, office doorway under flat hood with a segmental-arched window to right, boarded at time of inspection and a bracketed canopy in the gable protected the station clock, now in the Museum. Gable to the left set back with entrance to the former Lodge, attached to gate pier (qv). The right return has a wide window set forward, formerly to the Superintendent’s office. Former laboratory added to rear with matching gable. The boundary wall extends approx. 80m to the west.
INTERIOR: Functional interior without decorative details; fireplaces blocked.
HISTORY: The pumping station was designed by William Anderson for the Grand Junction Waterworks Company, to extract river water from the Thames. It started pumping in 1838. Filter beds were dug to the rear of the gatehouse in 1845, and extraction moved to Hampton, above the tidal reach, in 1855.
Kew is the oldest waterworks in the world containing its original steam pumping engines, and is the most complete early pumping station in Britain. For its early date and for the completeness of the station, including the offices and gatehouse, it is the most important historic site of the water industry in the country.
The gatehouse forms part of Anderson’s original layout of the waterworks, and contained the station’s main offices, a room for the gate porter to check visitors in and out, and meter rooms for monitoring the station’s output.
After nationalisation under the Metropolitan Water Board in 1903 a laboratory was included for water analysis, a very early example indicating the more scientific approach to water provision in the C20. The front was damaged and rebuilt in 1918 after one of the first German bomber raids on London.
Railings, two sets gate piers and wall fronting Kew Bridge Road. (Grade II listed)
Heavy iron railings on stone plinth. Spear head standards alternate with spikes at bottom rail. 2 sets of gate piers, brick, stone cap with cornice. Brown brick wall to right.
Built for the Grand Junction Water Company from 1830s – now the oldest water works in the world containing its original steam pumping engines. It’s the most complete early pumping station in Britain.
The tower blocks at the back (Haverfield estate) were built c1970 on the filter beds and are called Cornish (Cornish beam engines used at the water works), Harvey (Harvey’s of Hale supplied engines), Boulton (partner of James Watt who developed steam engines for pumping),
Maudsley (mechanical engineer who supplied first engine), Wicksteed (engineer who realised the efficiency of Cornish engines to drain mines) and Fraser (designer of the Tower built in 1867 to protect the stand pipe.
One thought on “Kew Bridge Steam Museum”
What did the Victorian standpipe tower actually do? Why was water pumped up and down it?