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. Steam was raised for the first time under preservation in April 1970, when the 1812 engine moved for the first time in 12 years. With the 1812 engine operable, the station was formally opened to the public in August 1970. During 1970/71 the 1846 Harvey engine was overhauled and this was successfully steamed in November 1971. From then on, both engines have been regularly steamed and open to the public through the summer months.
In order to obtain sufficient draught for the boilers during the early operations, an electric fan was installed in the boiler flue but it was always the ambition to restore the chimney back to its full height. In 1996 a structural survey was carried out which showed that, with suitable stabilisation, the existing stump was capable of supporting a new top. Through the generous support of the Manifold Trust, together with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Trust’s ‘Buy a Brick’ Appeal, the funds were raised to do the necessary work. Work began in Autumn 1996 and was completed in May 1997. A total of 11,000 new bricks were laid. The chimney is now back to its original height of 25 m (82 feet) and there is no longer any need to use the electric fan.
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……..
|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……..