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History of the Brook Pumping Station

Since the Sixteenth century there has been some form of earth dam that has cut Chatham off from the River Medway. This was originally called the "Land Wall", in more recent times this has become the river wall, part of the flood defences.

Map 1575

The section of the map above, 1575-1610 shows the Land Wall, broached at the bottom of St. Mary's Hill by the Old Bourne now known as the Brook. The map suggests a structure on the river side of the Land Wall, which may have been a tide mill serviced by the Old Bourne and the tidal flow from the Wet Marsh which lay on the land side of the Land Wall. These two features are important, as the tide mill would be one of the earliest industrial sites of the town. The Wet Marsh has dictated the layout of the central area down to our times

Central Chatham -  1765

The map of Central Chatham above from 1795 illustrates this point. The area occupied by the Wet Marsh on the earlier map has now been canalised into narrow fingers of water that go towards the road to Canterbury. The modern road pattern follows these canals long since covered over. A later map showing the dates of sewers illustrates how these open canals were simply culverted.

The land between the culverts was gradually built upon until it was densely covered with low class housing and narrow alleyways. The growing population relied on the culverts and cess pits to deal with the ever increasing waste. The Land Wall and the river wall had the effect of making the central area of Chatham like a cupped hand with little natural flow of water and frequent flooding. The young Charles Dickens lived at 18 The Brook between 1821 and 1823, he did not enjoy the experience. In 1801 the population of Chatham was 10,505: by 1901 it was 36,944. The services of the towns had developed little since medieval times. Court Leet Papers from the beginning of the century show an increasing concern with both the health of the towns and the increasing pollution of the river that was killing off both the oyster and the fishing industry with the loss of estuarial fish. in 1911 a Drainage Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Alderman E A Billingshurst together with Mr. W H Radford engineer. These two men saw the project through to its completion in 1929.

About the Brook Pumping Station

The Rochester and Chatham Joint Main Drainage scheme cost a total of 650,000. There is a main sewer running under New Road out to a treatment works at Motney Hill on the Rainham Marshes. The function of the Brook Pumping Station is to lift foul water from the lowest part of Chatham to the main sewer. Its opening on the 25th September 1929 marked the completion of the main drainage scheme. Alderman Billingshurst was still chairman of the committee and received a gold key to open the Pumping Station.

Ceremonial Key

Description of the Station

The storage tank beneath the station hall has foundations some twenty eight (28) feet deep. These foundations go through the bed of the Brook which presented considerable difficulties in the construction of the tank.

The station is designed to pump sewage from the tank to the main sewer from which it flows by gravity to the Motney Hill treatment works. During times of extreme flooding surface water and effluent would be pumped via the Storm tower and storm water culvert direct in the River Medway. The waste discharged into the river would be greatly diluted under these conditions.

The machinery designed to carry out these functions is as follows: One electric motor driven Blackstone 6 inch Unchokeable Pump capable of 50,000 gallens per hour and a duplicate backup machine. This was used for normal dry weather flow. One electric motor driven Blackstone 8 inch Unchokeable Pump capable of 100,000 gallens per hour and a duplicate backup machine. This was used for storm water flow. For storms slightly over the six time dry water flow, the second 8 inch pump would automatically cut in to discharge , via the Storm tower, into the 5 by 3 1/2 foot culvert into the River Medway. There is a maximum lift into the storm tower of 20 feet. Storm water in excess of these flows were handled by the 2, belt driven Blackstone 14 inch Unchokeable Pumps delivering 250,000 gallens per hour. There are two of these pumps driven by 56 hp Campbell oil (diesel) engines.

Maximum levels of pumping were therefore 150,000 gallens per hour of sewage and storm water into the intercepting main, and 600,000 gallens per hour of excess storm water into the river via the Storm tower.

The primary function of the station was taken over in 1979 by a new, fully automatic station on the opposite side of the Brook. The old station is no longer connected to the main sewage system and the limited amount of surface / drain water that now collects in the tank can comfortably be dealt with the by one set of electric pumps. The other set has been removed and the area used as a workshop. The Campbell engines are normally operated for display purposes , however the group do occasionally 'save' the water to pump with these engines. The station is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is being preserved in its original condition as far as is consistent with modern safety requirements.

Pictures of the Station etc

medway industrial archaeology group contact 2004 Best viewed at 800x600 disclaimer