Not in MY backyard (1896 style)…

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When I last saw it 10 years ago, the engine at Sandfields was in good nick, although not in running condition.

Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has been in touch with a lovely quick snippet he spotted in the excellent History of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, which is available online for free. It really is an excellent read and deserves wider exposure.

His find concerns the Harrison dynasty; mine owners and local industrialists, much about whom has been written by Peter.

It seems Captain Harrison might have been a bit of a NIMBY. Sandfields pumping station was just on the south side of Lichfield, at the bottom of Aldershaw(e) Hill, where the Victorian part of it still stands today.

It seems The Captain wouldn’t have cared much for the pumping station as he clearly had his own water supply up at the hall. The Harrison family held Aldershaw(e) for a while; long-time readers will recall discussion of their tenure from last year.

I’m unsure of Sandfields Pumping Station’s current status; I took some pictures at an open day there organised by a preservation group – The Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station –  over a decade ago, but they seem to have dissolved. There’s a recent blog post – from only a week ago – by one Dave Moore, who seems to have positive news. I’m also intrigued that the source was the fabled Hanch Tunnel.

If anyone has any more information about the current status of Sandfields, I’d love to hear it, and so would Kate, of Lichfield Lore who’s also interested in the building and engine within.

Back in 1896, Captain Harrison was not a happy bunny – it seems that whilst happy to profit from Old King Coal, he wasn’t too happy having the results on his doorstep:

The emission of smoke from the stacks at pumping stations (South Staffs Water Co.) had on numerous occasions been a cause for complaint from residents in the neighbourhood. Major cause for complaint had been Sandfields when at times court action was threatened. Captain Harrison of Aldershaw, Lichfield, complained of the smoke at Sandfields, furnishing daily reports of the smoke at various times of the day. The reports were couched in somewhat extravagant language, intending to indicate that the chimney was barely ever doing anything.

His statement was considered by the Engineer to be very exaggerated, in view of the amount of smoke issuing out from the brewery’s stacks and the shunting engines on the coal sidings adjoining the pumping station. Consideration was given to installing mechanical stokers but the cost of these and the condition of the boilers resulted in the hand firing method being continued.

(From The History of the Staffordshire Waterworks Company)

Sandfieldsl

The engine seems to be a classic beam type.

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21 Responses to Not in MY backyard (1896 style)…

  1. Pedro says:

    From the History of South Staffs Water….

    Directors, shareholders and invited guests assembled at Station Street, Walsall on Tuesday 26th October 1858 to witness and participate in the opening of the South Staffordshire Waterworks. A specially decorated train consisting of seventeen first class coaches, transported the party from the Lichfield area to Walsall. Among the distinguished guests were Lord Hatherton, Lord Alfred Paget MP, Lord Ward, the Bishop of Lichfield, Charles Forster MP and the Mayors of Lichfield and Walsall…

    …At noon the party boarded the special train at Walsall Station en route for Lichfield. The first stop was Brownhills where the standpipe was inspected. It was contained within a tower one hundred feet high, up which water was pumped so as to obtain an altitude sufficient to reach the most elevated position in the area to be supplied.

  2. Clive says:

    They have a lovely beam engine there, if ever they have an open day again i would recomend a visit.

  3. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    wow..a 100 foot high water tower in Brownhills! What a wonderful discovery by Pedro!
    Does anyone have any information on this, please?
    Many thanks to Pedro
    regards
    David

  4. david oakley says:

    As a retired employee of the South Staffs Waterworks Company, I was greatly interested in the current state of Sandfields Pumping Station and the Cornish-type engine, Way back in 1968, the Company was in the process of proceeding from steam to electrification and Pipe Hill, Maple Brook, Brindley Bank, Seedy Mill and Sandhills Pumping Stations were all soon to lose their beloved steam engines, with the devoted workforce of stokers, drivers and foreman. Devoted ?
    certainly. there is anecdotal evidence of drivers who would nurse a sick engine all night, picking up the slightest odd wheeze and remedying if whenever possible.
    The Sandfields engine, however, was something special, both by its age and design, and the Company sent in a team to refurbish the engine and engine house during the electrification
    process. There was a very old plaque, made of brass and bronze to commemmorate the opening
    of the station, polished for years on a daily basis, resulting in a surfeit of verdigris and brasso. This plaque spent three days on a table in my kitchen, while I struggled to return it to something of its
    former glory. The plaque was then lacquered and returned to its former site. Hope it’s still there!
    With regard to “The History of The South Staffordshire Waterworks Company” It really is “an excellent read” as described by Bob and was written by two employees, Waste Inspectors from the Tipton Depot, Brian Williams and J. van Leerzen, who had never tackled anything like this before, after being granted access to the Company archives. Truly a labour of love.

    • morturn says:

      David

      Doo you remember whereabouts this plaque was, I was in the station in May this year, but cannot see it on any of the photos I took other than a small plaque at the counterweight end by the toilets.

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  7. Pedro says:

    September 1899…Company Meeting discusses the long continuence of draught that had taxed their resources to the limit. They congratulated themselves that theirs was not of the surface gravitation system, but a pumping system. Their wells continued to yield, and if that had not been the case certainly they would have been in dire circumstances. During the last six months they had pumped 184,000,000 gallons of water more than in the corresponding period of the previous year.

    July 1900…The Lichfield “Scott” Institute 25 members recently visited the South Staffs Waterworks, and were kindly conducted by E Grenfell, the resident engineer, many of them expressing their surprise at the vast machinery needed for the pumping operations. all were struck with the exceeding brightness and clenliness throughout the works. At the close of the inspection the Rev HP Stevens thanked Grenfell in the name of the party for the pleasure given by the visit.

    April 1907…Good Hard Ashes, in large or small quantities, for carting away…Apply Mr W Robinson, South Staffs Waterworks Company, Lichfield.

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  10. pedro says:

    Later in 1911 the poor old Captain has a further problem at Aldershawe. He writes several letters to Lichfield Council complaining of the damage done to his crops by rats from the Corporation’s refuse tip at Femley Pits!

    Meanwhile back in Bug Row Brownhills Dr Maddever…..

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  14. Pedro says:

    Seems Captain WB Harrison was also unhappy about the Lichfield Post Office, in a letter to the Editor of the Lichfield Mercury he writes…

    Sir, I am glad to find the authorities have taken steps to remedy the carelessness at this Office. I enclose your letter received from them. In the last paragraph they say, “the Lichfield Office is about to be placed in other hands and it is hoped that the irregularities to which you draw attention will cease.”

    WB Harrison, Aldershawe. April 25 1893.

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