Crofton Beam Engines were built 200 years ago to supply water to the highest point of the Kennet & Avon canal, where it runs through Savernake Forest. Being still in working condition, they represent an installation which has major, international significance for industrial archaeology. They illustrate directly the development of motive power and canal transport, both important elements of the industrial revolution which laid the foundation stone of the developed world we know today.
A team of dedicated volunteers looks after the whole site. They do that to preserve this amazing landmark from the past in order that you, and future generations, can see how our great, pioneering engineers tackled early developments in motive power and pumping technology. When you visit, you will see why Crofton is regarded as such a gem in the heritage of UK engineering.
In recognition of their historical significance, the two engines (one of which is of original Boulton & Watt construction) and the engine house all have Grade 1 Listed status. In keeping with that status, we try hard to retain the pumping station and the appearance of the engines in the condition that existed when it was in use. The engines still keep the canal full when in steam so we are maintaining, here, a living installation rather than a museum.
During 2013, the Engine House is open from 9 March to 6 October and you are welcome to look around. You are also invited to enjoy a range of food in our distinguished Engineman’s Rest Café, browse in the Gift Shop or simply have a picnic and take in the view from the surrounding grounds. There are also a number of walks which may be taken from the engine house along the Kennet & Avon Canal and into the countryside. Unusually for an example of engineering technology, the pumping station had to built in a rural setting close to a natural water supply and a visit here truly offers a breath of fresh air! If you want an exciting, extra dimension to your visit, come on the weekends when the engines are in steam and keeping the canal full, the job for which they were originally built! The place really comes to life with our hand-stoked Lancashire boiler in operation, 6 and 4 tonne oscillating beams and tonnes of water cascading into the canal leat. Click here for the dates of those steaming weekends. Our standard tickets on steaming days allow you unlimited entry to the pumping station, static or in-steam, for 12 months. Accompanied children under 16 are always free. It’s too good to miss!