New Displays to the 90 & 100 " Engine Houses & Coridor
The 90" Corridor will have a new display showing the key dates, evolution and design changes to the waterworks site as it has grown from 1836 to its height in 1900 and subsequent decline. We hope to build in local history elements to the story, showing how the waterworks played its part within the local community benefitting a range of people across different areas. This is an extension to the display proposed for the 'Steam Hall' area.
The magnificent 90" & 100" Engines and their houses are World renowned and and prove to be the highlight for many of our visitors.
The 90" engine when installed in 1846 was the first purpose built water supply engine running on the 'Cornish' principle to be installed anywhere, using technology pioneered by Richard Trevithick. Constructed in Cornwall, where similar machines were already in use draining the great tin mines, it was for several years the single largest piece of machinery moving anywhere on the planet.
Adapted for water supply by Kew's engineer Thomas Wicksteed, the 'Cornish' engine allowed for the first time water to be pumped in large amounts up hill efficiently. This technology paved the way for supplying water to a far greater geographical area and to upper storeys for more people, more of the time, and helped London greatly expand as a Metropolis.
The engine certainly impressed Charles Dickens on his research visit to the waterworks in 1850.
By 1869 when the 100" Engine was installed, the Kew Bridge site was struggling to meet demand and changes in legislation had forced the Grand Junction Water Works Co to build a new intake and filtration works taking water from the non tidal waters at Hampton. Their expanding supply area now encompassed West London and soon they built further works at Campden Hill.
By this time the Cornish engine for waterworks use was in decline, following improved technology being available and a spate of accidents in which the great rocking overhead beams developed cracks and failed. The 100" engine's beam broke competely on one side in 1879 narrowly avoiding a serious disaster. Repaired and returned to operation it was when finally retired in 1957 the last of its kind left still in use.
We want to tell these stories using new audio visual displays which celebrate the grandeur of the Cornish Engine, the men who designed, built, transported and assembled them and how and why some ended up being in the most inhospitable areas in the World, where their empty ruined houses remain to this day.