(Originally published on ‘All About My Area’, available to read online here)
A vital piece of Portsmouth’s history opened its doors to the public last weekend.
Over 100 people visited Eastney Beam Engine House to view its restored Boulton and Watt engines and take part in family-friendly activities.
A variety of other pumping engines, many in running order, were also on display on the two open days.
The Grade II-listed Victorian building was built in 1887 in order to deal with sewage from the city.
Collection supervisor Tim Gower said: “It tells an essential part of the history of Portsmouth.”
Before it was built, the city was hit by a cholera epidemic that killed more than 800 residents.
“People used to dump their sewage at the bottom of the garden, which eventually found its way into the drinking water,” Tim explained.
“The building was built to let in the maximum amount of light and it’s a bit like a cathedral, which harkens back to the Victorian ethic of ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’
“They built this place as a cathedral to keeping the city clean and clear of disease. That’s why it’s here and hopefully people pick up on that.”
Although the engines were not in steam on the open days, Tim’s dedicated team still make sure they are properly maintained.
“I have some volunteers here once a fortnight helping me to keep the engines clean and keep things moving and oiled, but it is hard work. It’s not for the faint-hearted,” he said.
After closing over the summer to undertake essential work on the site, the engine house now generally opens on the last weekend of every month.
It attracts a range of people, including historians, students, researchers and families.