Crofton Beam Engines were first constructed and commissioned in 1809. They were built to pump fresh water to the highest part (the summit) of the Kennet & Avon Canal as the route selected for that section had no natural source of fresh water to keep it topped-up. Crofton was chosen as the location for the pump house as there are numerous springs in the vicinity which are close to the summit section. This has meant that the engines are set in beautiful, unspoiled countryside but access must be via minor roads and sloping grounds.
The Pumping Station and Chimney are Grade 1 listed. This means that there are severe restrictions on the alterations which can made to its structure and appearance. In addition, those in charge of the site believe in minimum intervention wherever possible in order to maintain the ambience and conditions which prevailed when it was first commissioned. Whilst this means that intrusive modifications to improve internal access to those with reduced mobility have seldom been possible, it has encouraged a very open feel to the building allowing
the public to approach the machinery very closely.
Crofton recognises that it must provide access to widest possible range of visitors. However, the need to retain the character of the pumping station and not to interfere with its standing as part of the Industrial Revolution makes contrary demands. Whilst the needs of visitors, with special access requirements, is always considered when undertaking project work and a continuing policy exists to improve access in its own right, a very difficult balance has to be struck.