If, while dining in splendour at the Lakeside Restaurant, the former Bestwood Pumping Station outside Nottingham, your imagination wonders how much more splendid the place is than when it was a waterworks, you need only drive up the road to the Papplewick Pumping Station to see a similar installation that was and is even more splendid.
The Papplewick Pumping Station was completed in 1886 after the Waterworks Company was taken over by Nottingham Corporation, and its construction was the responsibility of the engineer Marriott Ogle Tarbotton (1834-1887), who gave Nottingham its sewage system and the present-day Trent Bridge.
The engine house at Papplewick was built of local Bulwell bricks with terracotta and Mansfield stone decorations. It contains two magnificent James Watt & Co beam engines, which pumped from wells two hundred feet deep.
Papplewick Pumping Station was given the same elaborate architectural treatment and landscaped grounds as Bestwood, but, apparently because the project cost £55,000, well under the £67,000 budget, it is more richly decorative, with stained glass, carved stone and ornamental brasswork designed around the theme of water and water-creatures.
Brass fish swim between the individually turned bronze water-lilies, reeds and bullrushes that decorate the square faces of the columns supporting the engine-beams and gilded ibis embellish the capitals.
The strong resemblance between the Bestwood and Papplewick buildings may indicate the guiding hand of Thomas Hawksley, who acted as an informal mentor to Marriott Ogle Tarbotton. A letter from James Watt & Co about the design of the engines asked if they could save time and money by adapting features for Hawksley’s Yarmouth waterworks: “There is a great similarity and we seem to detect Mr Hawksley’s design and ornamentation in your drawings.”
The sheer magnificence of the interior of Papplewick Pumping Station almost certainly saved the engines when it was decommissioned in 1969. The Bestwood engines were scrapped without controversy in 1968. The scrap value of the engines at Boughton Pumping Station further north near Ollerton was assessed in 1970 at £10,000, and the proceeds of that sale helped to set up the Preservation Trust that took over Papplewick Pumping Station and brought it back to life: Papplewick pumping station: Industrial museum and unique wedding venue in Nottinghamshire.
Opening and steaming dates and times at Papplewick Pumping Station are at Papplewick pumping station: Industrial museum and unique wedding venue in Nottinghamshire – Visit us.
Papplewick Pumping Station features in Mike Higginbottom’s lecture ‘Temples of Sanitation’. For further details, please click here.