The Electric House Project
The building was constructed in 1891-93 to house a large horizontal, triple expansion 'Worthington' type non-rotative steam pumping engine by James Simpson & Co. This was the last steam engine to be installed at Kew Bridge. The new building consisted of 3 new walls and roof, joined to the existing external wall of the Maudslay & Bull Engine House. The four existing windows at this time had their frames removed and to provide three archways down to floor level, masonry was cut away below the cills. The two Southern ones were also increased in width towards the bottom and scalloped out, where they met the original return higher up.
The Simpson engine was mounted at ground floor level, supported on brick foundations down to the basement, which accommodated all the water suction and delivery pipework.The engine worked reliably, without alteration (in some contrast to all the other plant at Kew Bridge) and carried a large part of the Stations' output.
By the mid 1930's the expectation of war, age of the other steam plant and its unreliability lead to the installation of back up emergency 'Allen' Diesel engine plant. Following the introduction of a reliable electricity supply to the Brentford area soon after, it was decided to replace with some urgency all of the steam plant with electric pumps instead. In 1943-44, the Worthington engine was scrapped and removed and its house converted to house five new electric pumpsets, with a sixth added into the old engine's boilerhouse, currently the Museums cafe/kitchen.
The new pumps were made by Hathorn Davey & Co of Leeds and were one of the first large installations of their kind in London. Once operational the steam engines were immediately retired along with a substantial part of the station staff shortly after. The motors were manually controlled by two men working on shift, sharing their duties with attending to the Allen Diesel engine driven pumps housed elsewhere on the site.
Without steam, conditions in winter were far from ideal so the four windows between the new Electric and old Maudslay House were bricked up by 1946 in an effort believed to help conserve heat. In the 1970's one of the pump motor switch starter units developed a fault whilst being turned on and in the ensuing electrical arcing and fire one of the station attendants was very badly injured. Following a compensation claim and Union action, all of the original starter boxes and electrical distribution systems were replaced.
With changes to the water supply distribution network and increasing age and unreliability of the electric and diesel plant at Kew, a new automatic pumping station was built next door to the Museum site in 1983-5.The electric pumps were then retired and given over to the Museum in 1987. All of the modern electrical switch gear and distribution panels were sold on for continued service elsewhere and pumps numbers 2 to 6 along with their basement pipework were scrapped and removed. No 1 pump, its pipes, fixtures and fittings were retained as part of the Museum, with a view to creating an electrical themed display in the future.
Over many years a small collection of electrical objects and artefacts was built up to help illustrate the storylines which were planned. Recently the Electric house was completely re-roofed and restored externally having been allocated part of the grant funding awarded to the East & West Engine Houses.
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