Saturday, 23 May 2020

Charlton's other waterworks.

So - this is the second episode following yesterdays post, and facebook page mystery picture, about Charlton's water works  - first - back to John Smith's History of Charlton.

After the Woolwich Road well was found to be contaminated the Kent Water Company needed to find another site.  In 1864 they leased a site in an old chalk quarry.  This was on the south side of the railway line, and the west side of Charlton Lane. Today it is the site of Prentis Court housing.

Once again they got a Cornish pumping engine from Harvey's of Hayle and began pumping water in 1865.  This did no better than the previous site and after nine years it was closed.  The well is described " Yielded 1,500,000 gallons per diem and although the water is not considered sufficiently reliable for domestic use it would be suitable for street watering or other non domestic purposes.

"The engines and boilers were removed for reuse to Farnborough in 1879"  by Farnborough they mean Orpington.  And I have to thank Richard Albanese for details of the engines and pictures of Orpington.  He says: dates for the engines don't match as they are given as 1880 and 1885.... Its likely that these are the installation dates at Orpington even though secondhand. I suspect also that the engines were probably heavily rebuilt and modernised at the same time to operate on higher pressure steam with new pumpworks to suit new well depth and delivery to alternative reservoir and head of supply.

and, Richard says..  in 1948 ......

...... at Orpington ,.. electric pumps were installed in the wells and proposals were underway to discontinue the use of steam engines ... and (surprisingly) retain engines 1 & 2 for historical interest in terms of any parts inside the engine house. I had not heard of this before but it did happen as the photos show attached around 1950. The engines were fully broken up though later and i'm fairly certain that the buildings were demolished soon after c'1958-60?

and sent us these pictures:

Boilers at Orpington 

View showing Engine in motion.

Closer view, piston near the bottom of its stroke.

                            Piston higher up the cylinder.

In 1881 the site was leased to the Plumstead District Waterworks Company and they put a small pump there but the water could only be used for non-domestic things, like dust laying in the roads. Around 1900 the well was sealed but the engine house remained on site until 1910.  The site became allottments but was bought by Harveys in 1936 and Prentis Court was built as company housing.  We posted on this blog in 2014 a report of the opening of the estate in 1952 by future Tory Prime Minister,Harold Macmillan.

Finally  .... Richard says - All material to be credited to Thames Water Collection and London Museum of Water & Steam please.  (Thames water have an online historic photo collection now - which we at Kew gave a lot of help with. Lots of Kent and London water supply pics to explore!)
Its very likely that parts of one of the engines valve gear are preserved in store at London Museum of Water & Steam - see pics 261-3. Ive often wondered where we got them from as there are no records as they were brought in by MWB.
Also: London Metropolitan Archives hold the Thames Water historic records collection. Theres a big chance that drawings and contracts for both engines and buildings are there.

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