The pumping station at Claymills was built in the 1880s to deal with the problem of sewage disposal from Burton on Trent, a town which in the latter part of the nineteenth century was becoming increasingly important for the large number of breweries in the area. The steam-powered pumps and other engines at the plant represent feats of Victorian engineering and design.
The site was designated Grade II* status in the 1980s and the fabric of the buildings were made safe by English Heritage and the current owners of the site, Severn Trent Water. In 1993, the Claymills Pumping Engines Trust began work to restore the engines and buildings as a museum and heritage attraction.
By 2002, two of the beam engines had been returned to working order and today, the team of around 30 trust volunteers are working hard to restore the additional engines, machinery and buildings and provide safe, fun and informative exhibits about the development of technology and the history of the site.
“Metals from Stones” is a geological and metallurgical display in the visitor centre that demonstrates how iron, steel, brass and other metals are used in the engines, pumps and structures around the site. The display contains a selection of geological specimens to illustrate the type of rocks that can be metal ores.
Examples of non-ferrous metals on display include galena, cassiterite, stibnite, bismuth, bornite, chalcopyrite, malachite, native copper and zincite. Alloys of these are solder, white metal (tin, antimony & copper), bronze and brass. In a separate cabinet is bauxite (a sample from France) and aluminium items with a description of the smelting process. Also in this display are some semi-precious stones of aluminium silicate such as lapis, turquoise and amazonite (Colorado jade).
Ferrous metal ores on display include magnetite, haematite, pyrite, clay ironstone (a sample from Cannock Chase and one from Butterley). These are accompanied by examples of limestone, details of blast furnaces, slag and cast and wrought iron etc. Again in a separate cabinet are particulars about steelmaking with a sample of fluorspar (a flux), from the last working mine at Groverake in Weardale, 50 or so rail-miles from Middlesbrough. On show also are some samples of rarer ores used in in steel alloys e.g., vanadinite, rhodochrosite and molybdenite. Some steel objects also form part of the display.
The site contains its own electrical generating equipment dating back to 1889, thought to be the oldest working complete system in the country. There is also an extensive Victorian workshop powered by steam.
The museum open to the public on Thursdays and Saturdays 10am-5pm, with regular steaming days and open days on weekends and bank holidays. Private steamings and group visits can also be arranged by contacting the Trust [firstname.lastname@example.org].
The volunteers also run school visits and educational tours, centred around themes such as Victorian life, geology, science and engineering. Please contact the education team [email@example.com] for more information.
After fully documenting the collection, there are plans to update the displays with interactive media to provide more information about the geological specimens and their uses.
Mike Guthrie t 01283 509929
e firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com