22nd April 2019 - Easter Monday
In a corner of a park in South Tottenham, next to the River Lea, is a survivor from the era of grand nineteenth century engineering. The Markfield Beam Engine is a rotary beam engine believed to be the last engine produced by Wood Bros. of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire. From 12th July 1888. It saw continuous duty until around 1905, when it was relegated to standby duty for storm water pumping.
Rated at one-hundred horsepower the engine drives two pumps, of the plunger type each capable of moving two million gallons-per-day.
That's an awful lot of sewerage, to put it politely.
The engine house and engine is all that remains of the former sewerage treatment works built by the pioneering Tottenham Local Health Board in 1852 and expanded in 1888 after the original had fallen into disrepair - resulting in Tottenham once again discharging its waste into the River Lea, to the detriment of Londoners downstream.
An increasing population required increased pumping capacity. ‘New Extension Works’ were opened in 1905 including three new additional sets of steam-driven pumps in another new engine house. The 1888 engine then became a standby pump for storm water.
The engine is impressive in size - the beam 21 feet long and 17 feet above the floor, the flywheel 27 feet in diameter and weighing 17 tons.
It's big scale engineering and being Victorian it's big on decoration too. Doric columns and Acanthus leaves abound.
The rest of the works were demolished after it became redundant in 1964, the works at Edmonton having supplanted it, leaving only the 1888 engine in its house.
It was then bricked up until the 1980s when a trust took it on but didn't have the resources to restore it.
In 2007 Haringey Council regenerated Markfield Park and restored the Grade 2 listed Engine Hall. The Trust restored the beam engine to full working order in 2008 and the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum opened.
Since the original boiler house and coal fired boiler is gone steam is now supplied by a gas-fired boiler in a new boiler house to the rear of the building.
Entry is free but they really welcome donations - every time they steam the engine cost £500. On this sunny Bank Holiday Monday (which are of course rarer than working steam pumps) it was very popular and the engine was run three times for around 40 minutes each time.
There's a very handy cafe next to the engine house too which was doing good trade with many families partaking of chips, tea, and ice cream. They do a nice cappuccino.
Photos cannot do the engine justice so here's the video I shot on the day.
More information and history on the Markfield Beam Engine & Museum web site.
After visiting the museum I took a pleasant walk south along the adjacent River Lea towpath, busy with afternoon strolling Hasidim, many sporting large shtreimels which looked like an unsuitable choice for the warm weather.
At the Lea Bridge Road I hopped onto the threatened 48 bus to London Bridge for a bit of a rest and a chance to recharge my phone which having been used to record the above footage was getting a bit low on juice. Having crossed the Thames I had an early evening pint in the Mudlark in Southwark before heading for the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines and home.
More photos as usual in this Flickr Album