Famous Nottingham Buildings: Papplewick Pumping Station


Papplewick Pumping Station is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. It was built in 1885 at a total cost of £55,000 to supply millions of gallons of clean fresh water every day to the rapidly increasing population of Industrial Nottingham and is the finest example of a Victorian waterworks in England.

It was the work of borough engineer Marriott Ogle Tarbotton, Borough Engineer at Wakefield from 1855 until he was appointed to the same position in Nottingham in 1859, a position he held until 1880. Tarbotton was a typically versatile and industrious Victorian, installing Nottingham’s underground sewage system (the first to be built outside London) as well as designing Trent Bridge.


The plans for the pump were drawn up by Thomas Hawksley, who was born in Arnold and was arguably the best water engineer of the 19th century. He figured out how to keep constant pressure in the water.

There was a need for the pumping station because the town’s population was 53,000 in 1832 but jumped to 186,000 in 1881 because of the industrial revolution. Originally, water came from the River Trent and River Leen which became so polluted in the 1800s that it was barely safe to drink. The pumps at the pumping house would get water out of the ground instead and bypass this issue.

Papplewick Pumping Station - Manuscripts and Special Collections



The Station is famed for its ornamentation and Gothic Revival style architecture and is without doubt the most elaborate surviving Victorian freshwater Pumping Stations in the British Isles.

Papplewick was designed and built as a total concept, with equal thought being given to the main buildings, the grounds and the houses for the station staff. The original plan was for a symmetrical layout including two Pumping Stations although the second station was never required.

Papplewick Pumping Station - Visit Nottinghamshire

Some beautiful examples of ironwork can be seen in the Engine House, on the columns and on the engines themselves. The windows and the main doors of the Engine House also illustrate the importance of decoration in the design of the building.

The beam engines raised water from a 200 foot deep well and pumped it into the main reservoir supplying Nottingham at a rate of up to 1.5 million gallons of water per day per engine. The engines were fed by 6 large Lancashire boilers, which had to be constantly stoked by workmen.

The boilers required up to 5.25 tons of coal per day when pumping, which would be gathered from the nearby Linby colliery -the stokers who shovelled coal into the boilers resided at the collection of cottages which are on site.


Apart from the ornate interiors and the original beam engines, visitors can view a selection of steam engines brought here from other sites.


Papplewick Pumping Station – Nottinghamshire, England - Atlas Obscura


Closed in 1906 due to subsidence. The reservoir is now completely drained and guided tours of the interior are available, thanks to The Papplewick Pumping Station Trust, a Registered Charity dedicated to the preservation of the Pumping Station. With the help of the volunteer members of the Papplewick Association you can still experience the most spectacular, preserved water Pumping Station in the British Isles.

The Station was electrified in 1969 and has been a museum since 1974, leased from Severn Trent Water by the Trust.

Now protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the highest preservation order that can be bestowed upon a site in England, the Pumping Station holds regular steaming events throughout the year, wedding ceremonies and education visits enabling the Trust to continue the essential preservation of this important site for future generations.

Ashley Smart, director of Papplewick Pumping Station for 13 years, said: “This pump would have been very vital to life in Nottingham. Before it was built and running, they estimated there was only three days of water left there.

View the incredible video of the station here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3tO7o_gJv4&feature=emb_logo