The story of Kempton Great Engines so far……
The Kempton Great Engines Trust was established in 1995 to preserve the unique 1920s pumping engines at Kempton Park Pumping Station. In 2002 the ‘Sir William Prescott Engine’ was returned to steam for the first time since 1980. In the same year, Kempton Steam Museum was officially opened by the Prince of Wales.
Since opening, Kempton Steam Museum has welcomed thousands of visitors, showcasing the industrial splendour of the Triple House and its original contents. As the museum has developed over the last two decades, the number of visitors has continued to rise. Parts of the building have been gradually freed by replacing operational areas with visitor attractions but we have now exhausted the space available. In this limited space, we have to fit a refreshment area, seating area, archive, office space, exhibition space and areas to showcase the museum collection and interpretation. The areas occupied by several of these activities are not fit for purpose and greatly detract from the splendour and atmosphere of the engine house. In order to grow the museum without further destroying its originality and to ensure the collection is well safeguarded and displayed for visitors to enjoy, additional space needs to be found.
Our ability to cater for the number of visitors we receive is falling short. The toilets are inadequate to cope with the volumes of people and accessibility for those less able to walk up the entrance stairs is currently unavailable. To ensure that we provide a welcoming and comfortable environment for our visitors we need to look for alternative arrangements. The old boiler house would more than fulfil this need.
History of the old boiler house.
The engine and boiler house were constructed as one entity between 1926 and 1929 to dramatically increase the supply of fresh water to London. Inside the boiler house were a bank of coal fired boilers made by Babcock & Wilcox and John Thompson. These units were cutting edge for their time and supplied steam to the new triple expansion engines and turbines.
The boilers along with the engines continued to function until 1980 when the Kempton site switched to electricity. The boilers remained in situ until they were scrapped in 1993 to be replaced by a carbon reactivation plant which Thames Water operated up until the last decade.
If the old boiler house becomes available, the additional building would not only solve all of Kempton Steam Museum’s current space issues but also reconnect highly significant parts of the site’s history. The building could provide:
- Ground level access via the numerous doors at both ends of the building ensuring a safer means of entering and exiting the museum,
- An internal lift providing access to the main floor of the engine house via the surviving connecting doors,
- Education facilities and classroom spaces to greatly increase the appeal to local schools and educational establishments, allowing the history of Kempton and the science behind the water supply network to be told through STEAM related activities following National Curriculum guidelines,
- Archive space consisting of a strong room which would provide Spectrum compliant storage and meet the requirements of Arts Council England accreditation to safely store the museum’s drawing and artefact collection,
- Area to provide an immersive experience to educate and entertain our visitors with interactive displays, large scale models, cinema and audio-visual interpretation on several floors,
- Volunteer mess room facilities to maintain the strong social community and to ensure the continued wellbeing of the people that make the museum function,
- Gift Shop to give visitors something to take away with them and to provide an effective means of raising income for the trust,
- Catering facilities fully compliant with current hygiene regulations to provide hot & cold food in a setting with ample tables and seating areas,
- Meeting space and conference areas for internal use and to hire out to third party organisations and institutions for added revenue and networking opportunities,
- Exhibition space to allow for temporary exhibitions covering water related topics, or local interests to increase community engagement and involvement, and to raise awareness to the effects climate change have on water resources,
- Workshop facilities to ensure the mechanical collections at Kempton are maintained to the highest standards with the ability to train engineering apprentices, thereby maintaining the collection for future generations,
- Restore aspects of the boiler house to its original operational state with a replica of an original boiler utilising the many surviving artefacts and components,
- Store and showcase other artefacts with historical or educational value, currently held by Thames Water, to ensure they are safe and enjoyed by the general public,
- Conserve the engine house which remains largely unchanged since it was constructed. The boiler house provides a blank canvas which could be engineered to suit the needs of the museum, allowing the triple house to be decluttered and returned to its glorious pre-decommissioned state.