|1905 – 1968
Both engines were in regular service until 1952, and the 1812 Boulton and Watt continued to be used spasmodically until 1959, when, due to deterioration, the top 11 m (36 feet) of the chimney were removed making it impossible to fire the boilers as there was not enough draught.
Normally, ‘retired’ engines were allowed to deteriorate and be scrapped but, fortunately, that was not the case at Crofton. The Kennet and Avon Canal had almost fallen into disuse as a through route before the Second World War but the viable stretches were still kept in water for local traffic, hence Crofton’s continued operation. There was an additional use for the water in the summit level of the canal, as GWR used it to refill the water tanks of their steam engines which plied the route to the West of England. Between 1952 and 1959, this and the existence of a legal obligation to provide drinking water to certain cattle watering places, were the only reasons for running the Crofton pumps. Thus, after the war, the steam driven pumps continued to be used, and it was only when the chimney problem occurred (see above), which was before diesel had taken over from steam on the railways, that an alternative pumping method was introduced. At this point, the pumping station became redundant and tenders were invited for its demolition. Fortunately, no contractor considered the work to be an economic proposition.
Crofton was therefore left to its own devices. It was fortuitous that a Mr Wilmot, the last engineer responsible for the station’s operation, continued to live on-site and kept a watchful eye on the premises until 1968 to prevent the engines from deteriorating and being vandalised.
The first design of the Kennet & Avon canal by the distinguished Scottish civil engineer, John Rennie, called for a 4.5 km (2.5 mile) tunnel between the Wiltshire villages of Crofton and Burbage but, in those days, tunnelling was a very expensive and uncertain process and a cheaper alternative was sought…….
|The Original Installation
The first engine installed in the Engine House at Crofton was a second hand Boulton and Watt, purchased in 1802 from the West India Dock Company. This engine had a 90 cm (36 inch) diameter steam piston and a 2.5 m (8 foot) stroke. It had a wooden beam and worked a 66 cm (26 inch) diameter lift pump. It arrived at Crofton in 1807, and was at work by 1809……..
|1896 – 1905 The Final Changes
In 1896 the No.1 engine (Boulton and Watt) suffered a major failure. With the No.2 engine now derelict, this caused a problem in keeping the canal open, and GWR were forced to do something about it as they had legal obligations to maintain the waterway……..
On 14th April 1968, Crofton Pumping Station was purchased by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust from British Waterways for £75 with the objective of restoring it to full working order. An appeal for funds was launched and a team of volunteers, including several qualified engineers began planning the work to restore the building, boilers and engines………