Monday, 7 January 2013

Cesspool emptying equipment made in Greenwich

Thank you to Brian for drawing our attention to an article in Vintage Spririt -   this is by Ron Henderson and appeared in their May 2012 edition.  It is on the romantic subject of cesspool emptiers.

The article starts by explaining the need to empty cesspools before the days of main drainage - and how Greenwich based Merryweathers were on of the first to recognise that this process 'could be mechanised and improved'.

Early on a tank was mounted on a horse drawn cart - air would be withdrawn from it with a pump and the contents of the cesspool would then be removed into the tank.  Initially the pump was hand powered but Merryweathers a 'power pump driven by steam or in later years by a light single cylinder petrol or paraffin motor'.    However 'a more advanced method of making an air vacuum was by means of high pressure steam supplied by one of Merryweather's light water tube boilers'  . 

An early local authority to adopt this apparatus was Rochester who took three 500 gallon cylinder vans and three hand pumps in 1897 - and they later became one of the first to take on steam pumps because of the difficulties with Rochester cesspools. 

Merryweather also supplied deodourising equipment - air pumped from the tank passed through portable stove or disinfecting chamber to limit the smell.  Steam pumps did not need this as such air was passed through the firebox of the boiler to cut down the smell.   This process meant that cesspools could be emptied in the day time - in London, by law, they could only be emptied after midnight when the process was carried out by gangs of men with buckets.

The first steam vacuum exhauster was supplied to Romford District Council in 1905 - the article gives a detailed description of the vehicle - and was a 'huge financial saving  for the council'.  A similar machine went to Eton District Council.

Merryweathers also developed a petrol propelled chassis and also supplied vehicles which could also be used for street watering and gully emptying.

The article is lavishly illustrated with photographs of Merryweather equipment - some of it clearly taken at their Greenwich High Road works.

- a pump designed to be horse drawn with a separate manually operated pump destined for Killiney and Ballbrack council - and taken outside Merryweather's Greenwich 'Fire Station'.

- the same pump preserved in the Dublin Transport Museum today

- a complete set of cesspool emptying plant being demonstrated - again at the Greenwich works

- Rochester Corporation equipment at work (assume this is in Rochester)

- a Merryweather light vertical water tube boiler with air injectors - this looks as thought it could be taken in Greenwich High Road

- four pictures of the Romford vehicle - one of which shows it in use

- the Eton vehicle

-  cesspool exhauster owned by CL Gare & Co.  - possibly taken in the Greenwich works.

Thanks Brian for this - more to follow - and  - Ron Henderson the author.  Ron - if you ever see this, please get in touch, GIHS are always looking for more info and for speakers.

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