The pumping station was designed by one of the innovators of the Industrial Revolution, engineer John Rennie (1761-1821), to supply water to the Kennet & Avon Canal which formed part of a navigable route from the west country to the capital. Research shows that it was on 13 March 1813 that the pump first began work.
We own the Grade II listed building, which is managed in conjunction with volunteers from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. It is a rare surviving example of late Georgian technology and while some changes were made during the early years of operation, much of the original pumping machinery can still be seen today. Work is currently being carried out to refurbish the water wheel in the station, so that once again it can perform its original function of pumping water into the canal.
Large water wheel
The principal method of supplying water for canals relied on drawing it from streams or rivers, but where a natural supply was unavailable an alternative method was needed. To solve this problem on the Kennet & Avon, Rennie built two pumping stations to supply water from sources at lower levels. At Crofton, near Hungerford, he used a coal fired steam engine to pump water from Wilton reservoir, at Claverton he used a large water wheel on the site of a former grist mill to pump water from the mill pond supplied from the River Avon.
David Viner, heritage adviser at the Canal & River Trust, said: “The value of this freight route cannot be overstated, the Kennet & Avon Canal was the motorway of its day carrying a wide variety of goods between the west country and London.
"One of the most important cargoes was coal supplied to Bath, Bristol and Wiltshire from the Somerset coalfields. Claverton was central to keeping the canal in water. We are delighted it remains relevant today, both as a heritage site of immense interest and when the refurbishment work is complete, as a fully-functioning 200-year old engineering masterpiece.”
Peter Dunn, from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, said: “On this day - the 13 March 1813 - it is recorded that the pumping machinery at Claverton Pumping Station was fully functional for the first time and being operated by Mr John Brown. It had cost the Kennet & Avon Canal Company a sum of £6,279 to install. The fact that it has survived for 200 years, more or less in its original state is a fine testament to the original engineer John Rennie who designed and installed the Station.”
Although not generally open to the public in 2013 the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust are able to give guided tours for pre-booked individuals and groups. People will have the opportunity to view the site and the on-going restoration work. Volunteers are also needed to help with the restoration of the pumping station. For more information visit www.claverton.org/