blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Nineteenth century pumping stations

My great-great-grandfather (my mother's father's mother's father) William Willis was an engineer, born in the north of England in 1825. His father was killed in the pit of a coal mine at Jarrow when he (William) was a baby. Moving to Durham, the boy was self educated, eventually becoming a railway engineer and then an engineer at the Darlington sewage works. He and his family lived at Sewerage Cottage (!) in those days. His last job was as superintendent of the pumping station which meant that he could live until his retirement at Tees Cottage, a place much loved by his younger relatives.

This week Chris and I visited a similar pumping station in Kingston, Ontario, now the city's Pump House Steam Museum (we had been there before). I picked up a leaflet telling its history, and this is what it says:
The City of Kingston Water Works Company was incorporated in 1849 ... Prior to this, residents obtained their water from wells or private carters, who would fill a cart from the lake and sell the water in the streets ... Originally, drinking water was collected at the waterfront, where the city also deposited its waste.

... Kingston was in the race to become the capital of the Province of Canada. In order to be considered for capital status there was a list of requirements, one of which was having a pumped water service ... Kingston became the capital from 1841-1844 ...

The water was drawn from Lake Ontario to the Pump House via an intake pipe. It passed through the pump to a water tower 1.5km away ... the company began to encounter problems in the late 1880s ... In addition, there was an outbreak of cholera in 1886 due to poor water quality [therefore] the City added three extensions to the existing intake pipe in order to reach the cleaner, fresher water offshore. The pipe was extended to a length of 760 metres and ... still lies on the lake bed today.
The restored steam engines that we saw in the pump room had been installed in the 1890s, replacing the older ones. One of these was able to pump 5 million gallons of water per day to the water tower on Tower Street. The facility was manned by two people, a fireman to shovel coal into the boilers and an engineer to keep an eye on the engines which quietly kept the pump in operation.

I'll add another juxtaposition to this post which brings the story full circle. My father-in-law was a water works engineer as well, employed by the British military. He began his working life as a boiler attendant, shovelling coal.


CWC said...

I deal in gallons per minute. 400 to 1000 is a usual for the buildings I do. 5 million (que Carl Sagan) is 3500 gpm. Now *that's* a flow rate.

Alison Hobbs said...

Since I published this post, my cousin Wendy sent me an email about the Willis family members who died in Jarrow Pit disaster of 1826:
"Yes, they are all related to us. George Willis was our great-great-great-grandfather. John Willis was his brother and 9 year old Joseph was John's eldest son. On the day of the burial, John's youngest child was baptised and called Joseph after his dead brother. George and John and another brother, Michael, were the sons of John and Ann Willis and were born in Stanhope in Weardale where their father was probably a small holder and lead miner, before the whole family moved to Jarrow.
Presumably prospects were better in coal-mining on the Tyne than in rural Weardale.
Lead mining was just as chancy, if not more so. When I was checking Teesdale censuses for the Fam. Hist. Soc. some years ago, I was struck that there was hardly a lead-miner over the age of 50. They all died of lead poisoning!"