Thank you so much to everyone who supported our campaign! With our offline donations, we raised half our target. This will enable us to start the work replacing the boiler tube caps and bars for the fire grate, while we find other ways of fundraising the rest. If you would like to make a donation, please visit http://www.museumoftechnology.com/donate/. We still hope to complete the restoration of the boiler and once again run our steam engines for everyone to enjoy!
Cambridge Museum of Technology is based in Cambridge’s Victorian sewage pumping station, where steam engines pumped away the town’s sewage. Since the site became a museum in the 1960s, visitors have enjoyed seeing, hearing and smelling the pumping station come to life when the steam engines rock, hiss, and heave, and the boiler crackles and burns. Sadly, in 2014, the Babcock and Wilcox boiler that had provided steam for over 90 years finally broke. The Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England have committed over £100,000 to restore the boiler, but we need your help with the final portion, so that we can once again run our steam engines and bring the pumping station back to life.
Why is the boiler so important?
In Victorian Cambridge, the town’s sewage was dumped in the River Cam, causing cholera epidemics and other public health problems. The pumping station was built in 1894 to improve sanitation by pumping sewage out of town. Originally, household rubbish was collected by horse and cart and burnt at the station to heat the boilers. The boilers provided steam to the engines, which pumped the waste to a sewage farm in Milton (a village north of Cambridge) where it was used as a fertiliser on the land. However, when the number of rubbish collections decreased in the 1920s, Babcock and Wilcox Boiler No. 4 was installed as a backup because it burns coke (a form of coal). During the Second World War, the amount of rubbish collected declined so much that No. 4 became the main boiler.
Since the pumping station opened as a museum, Boiler No. 4 has continued to fuel the magnificent and internationally-important Hathorn Davey steam engines for visitors to enjoy. The working conditions of the pumping station, including the heat, smells, and sounds experienced by generations of workers, will be lost if the boiler is not restored. As will the skills needed to service and run the boiler and engines, which are rare but currently alive within our volunteer team. In addition, watching our volunteers stoke the boiler helps people to understand the historic technology of steam engines and boilers. Cambridge Museum of Technology aims to help people to explore, enjoy, and learn about their industrial heritage and our fiery, imposing, impressive boiler is key to this.
Why we need your support
Unfortunately, in 2014, after 91 years of service, Boiler No. 4 broke because the boiler tubes had worn thin. As part of the Museum’s major redevelopment project, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England committed over £100,000 to restore it. In March 2018, Thorne International Boiler Services started work – refurbishing the boiler and replacing structural elements, fittings, and brickwork. However, since the repair work began, we have discovered additional problems with the boiler and we now need a further £14,508 to replace the caps on the boiler tubes and install a new fire grate. As we want to be back in steam for the reopening of the Museum in 2019, it is a race against time to find the funding and complete the restoration!
What your donations will pay for
- 165 new caps for the boiler tubes (£36 each)
- 90 new bars for the fire grate (£95.20 each)
We have some unique and exciting rewards for supporting our campaign, from framed prints of an illustration of the historic boiler to a piece of an original boiler tube. Details of the rewards are in the bar on the right-hand side of this page. Select your favourite and ensure that you receive yours!
Help us restore our historic boiler
Historian and presenter Tim Dunn says that steam engines “are probably the closest we’ve ever come to creating artificial life. […] They have personalities. Created from steel and iron, hacked from beneath our feet by men in times past, these creatures are fed by coal made from ancient life, watered from rain from the sky and lit from a burning flame. These things come together to create new life – a movement, a breathing, oscillating machine that responds to its environment. And like a real creature, when we see one in danger, or when it is hurt, […] enthusiasts run to save it, to help it, to repair it.” We hope that you can help save ours!