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Staffordshire Sewage Site Gets National Award

10 November 2010

Claymills Pumping Station Honoured for its Engineering History

Volunteers across Staffordshire who devoted over 100,000 hours to restoring an old sewage works to its former glory will be rewarded with a national heritage award on Friday 12 November by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Claymills Victorian Pumping Station at Burton upon Trent is now one of the UK’s most important heritage sites but back in 1885 when it was built, its steam engines pumped over 5 million gallons of sewage a day created by the region’s 32 breweries.

Staffordshire is famous for its brewing heritage and in 1888, the peak year for production, a staggering 100 million pints of beer were brewed. IMechE will grant the site a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award (EHA) in recognition of the amazing engineering feat that Claymills was and is, and also to honour the tireless work of the volunteers.

The site was built because poor management of waste products from the breweries led to hops, yeast and hot water being discharged into the river Trent causing significant public health and environmental concerns. Records show numerous complaints of foul stenches and bacteria in the local streams prior to the sewage site being built and there is even a note of thousands of fish found dead.

To resolve the problem, Claymills was built with two Italianate style houses each containing two beam engines, which pumped the waste to a sewage treatment farm.

It operated successfully until 1969 when a replacement facility was built. The Claymills Trust began restoration of the site in 1993. Items restored include two of the beam engines, the boiler house, workshops and offices. English Heritage now considers Claymills to be: “The most complete remaining example of its kind in the UK”. 
The entire Claymills site is now Grade II listed, protecting its historic Victorian engineering.

IMechE Heritage Awards are granted to artefacts, sites, landmarks or groups that are either one of a kind and/or of significant engineering importance. IMechE President, John Wood, who will be presenting the award to the Trust said: “Claymills is a great example of an impressive engineering solution to a public health issue. The design and robustness of the engines and facilities at Claymills demonstrates the many talents of our engineering predecessors.

However, the Award also acknowledges the entire volunteer force of the Claymills Trust in restoring this amazing facility back to working order. It is a true commitment to preserving our past for future generations.”

Andrew Parsons, a Director at the Claymills Trust, said he hoped the award would raise awareness of the importance of Claymills as a Victorian engineering marvel and how it helped make Burton’s brewing industry the biggest in the world during the 19th century. 

Dr Chris Allen, Chairman of the Claymills Pumping Engines Trust, said: “We are very proud to receive this prestigious award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in recognition of the national importance and completeness of the heritage steam site and, equally importantly, of the efforts of the volunteers who, over the last 17 years, have worked tirelessly to turn near derelict buildings and machinery into a thriving visitor attraction.”

Visit www.imeche.org for more information.
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