Stretham Old Engine - used to drain the Fens of flood water for over a century - wins Engineering Heritage Award

PUBLISHED: 13:13 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:13 26 September 2017

The Stretham Old Engine, used to pump water from the Fens for over a century, has won an Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Award.

The Stretham Old Engine, used to pump water from the Fens for over a century, has won an Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Award.

Archant

The Old Engine in Stretham has been honoured for being the earliest, largest and most complete survivor of the system that helped drain the Fens hundreds of years ago.

The huge engine was built in 1831, and its scoop wheel was used successfully for over a century to lift up to 31 tonnes of water at a time from flood channels back into the river to drain 5,600 acres of the Waterbeach Level.

Over 60 engines were built to tackle the flooding and only three survive today, with Stretham the only one remaining in Cambridgeshire. The other two are in Lincolnshire but do not have complete chimneys or boilers.

Brian Callingham, chairman of the Stretham Old Engine Trust, said: “We are honoured that the work of all those, who have given so freely of their time and expertise, as well as the inspiring vision of the engineers that originally developed the Stretham Old Engine, is being recognised in this way.

“It is a most fitting tribute to the dedication of my predecessor, as Chairman, Keith Hinde OBE and to his son, Edward, as our engineer.

“This honour, we feel confident, will be a crucial element in our endeavours to recruit much-needed volunteers to ensure that the contribution the engine makes to the engineering heritage of the Fens will continue to grow.”

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The Stretham Old Engine played a crucial role in keeping the Fens free from floods for over a hundred years.

“This award celebrates not just the original ingenuity of the Butterleys’ engineers of the 19th century, but also to the committed team of volunteers who maintain it in such fantastic condition.”

The Engineering Heritage awards, established in 1984, aim to promote artefacts, sites or landmarks of significant engineering importance – past and present.

Previous winners include Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park, the E-Type Jaguar and the fastest ever Concorde.

What’s a visit to the Stretham Old Engine like?

Entering the building through the boiler house door, visitors will see three boilers.

They raised sufficient steam to drive the huge Engine and the enormous scoop wheel that Iifted 30 tons (31 tonnes) of water with every revolution from the Fen into the Old West River.

Normally, two of the three would be used to supply steam with the third acting as a standby when one was being cleaned.

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