A wonder of Victorian engineering celebrates its 130th anniversary this month.
The Markfield Beam Engine was commissioned in 1888 to provide a crucial public health role of treating sewage in Tottenham. The engine and site closed in 1964 but in 2009 the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum opened to the public with the magnificent engine pride of place.
“So we are uniquely able to present an authentic working steam-powered engine in its original setting,” said David Cracknell, chair of the trust which runs the museum. “The engine is believed to be the only surviving one of its type and we are proud that it still works under steam as reliably and efficiently as when it was first installed. Both the engine and the original engine hall in which it is housed have Grade II listing.”
David has a strong personal connection to the area as his father, John, was the site’s penultimate manager when it was the Tottenham and Wood Green Sewage Pumping Station. He grew up on the actual site and is a fount of knowledge on the engine and its importance to the area.
“The engine is powered by steam which expands in cylinders to drive the beam which in turn rocks see-saw like to operate two pumps,” he said. “Each pump was capable of moving two million gallons of effluent per day and a giant 17 tonne flywheel rotates to keep the engine beam action in motion on a four second cycle. The engine provided the means to support and protect Tottenham and Wood Green’s public health. This was at a vital time when the population of the area was expanding at a tremendous rate with the coming of the railways – from a semi-rural village to merge with London.”
The engine is still ‘steamed’ for public viewing nine or ten times a year while inside the museum and outside visitors can also enjoy a rare insight into the operation of Victorian public health facilities. On Sunday, July 22 a special day of celebration is planned to commemorate the engine’s 130th anniversary.
Entry to the museum is free.