Pump Up The Volume - Manchester Hydraulic Heritage

By Corinne Field | 16 August 2004
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shows a photograph of a building with a banner hung on its outside - photographed from below.

The Pump House became a museum in May 1994

Ever thought you’d be interested in a tour of Manchester’s hydraulic power highlights? No? Well think again!

On September 26, local historian Steve Little is leading a tour called Pump Power. Starting at the People’s History Museum, a former Edwardian hydraulic pumping station, Steve promises a fascinating look at a forgotten power.

"Manchester was the first industrial city in the world and hydraulic power played an important part in that," said Karen Moore, a spokesperson from the People’s History Museum.

"The tour is going to be great for people interested in Manchester’s history and will be a chance to discover things you didn’t already know about the city."

Shows a photograph of the hydraulic engine on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. It is a massive structure with a black base and lots of white pipe-work.

One of the original pumps from The Pump House, now on show at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Courtesy of the People's History Museum

The Pump House in Bridge Street on the banks of the River Irwell has only been the People’s History Museum since May 1994. Before that it was a hydraulic pumping station and is now the only surviving Edwardian pumping station in the city.

It opened in 1909 and was the third and last station of the hydraulic pumping network in Manchester. The other two stations were situated on Whitworth Street and Pott Street.

The station used to supply power to the mills and warehouses that dominated the city at the beginning of the 19th century. It wound the Town Hall clock and even raised the curtain at the Opera House.

The mighty water-powered pumping station also doubled up as an aquarium and a swimming pool! Legend has it that staff at the Pump House kept fish and swam in the large water tanks on the roof of the building.

Shows a photograph of the exterior of the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. It is made up of a long red brick building. The entrance is a large red-painted, metallic archway with a blue sign hung in the centre.

Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry is situated in the oldest passenger railway buildings in the world

In 1972 the station closed when hydraulic power was superseded by electricity. All that remains of it today is a pumping engine, a star exhibit at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry situated in the oldest passenger railway buildings in the world on Liverpool Road in Castlefield.

The engine, 15ft high and weighing 25 tonnes, has been restored and is in full working order. Accompanied by a display all about hydraulic power, it is a fitting last stop on the Pump Power tour.

The tour begins at the People's History Museum at 1.30pm and costs £3.00 for adults (£2.00 concessions), which includes entrance to both museums. Booking is advised on 0161 839 6061.

The People’s History Museum is the national centre for the collection, conservation, interpretation and study of material relating to the history of working people in Britain. The Museum of Science and Industry tells the story of the history, science and industry of Manchester.

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