Fen Drainage in the Age of Steam

Stretham Old Engine is the last survivor in the southern Fenland of over 100 steam-powered pumping stations applied to fen drainage in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is also the largest and most complete example of any of these, and one of the earliest, having been erected in 1831. On Open Days (see website) it is driven by electricity to demonstrate its former manner of working.

A large collection of drainage hand tools, some unique, is also displayed together with drainage machinery. An 1870 Easton Amos & Anderson vertical pump, being the only example of this kind of pump remaining in the Fens, and a wooden hand-operated Archimedean screw pump add to the variety of objects on display. In addition, an 1829 vertical steam engine and a 1925 Mirrlees diesel engine provide more illustrations of the varied machinery used for land drainage. The remains of a Fenland lighter, used to transport coal and clay, have just been acquired and will be shortly on display. Again, no other example is known to be preserved.

The Engine House is five miles south of Ely and easy to identify from a distance by its tall chimney. It can also be reached by boat from the Old West River. Open Days are held on several occasions from Easter to September. The Engine and the exhibits provide a unique experience for all who are interested in the Fens.