Abbey Pumping Station

Abbey Pumping Station

The Abbey Pumping Station is a museum of science and technology in Leicester, England, on Corporation Road, next to the National Space Centre. With four working steam-powered beam engines from its time as a sewage pumping station, it also houses exhibits for transport, public health, light and optics, toys and civil engineering.

Sewage Treatment Plant

  • The building was constructed in 1891 by Leicester Corporation on the north side of Leicester, alongside the River Soar.
  • The pumping station was used to pump the town's sewage to the sewage farm at Beaumont Leys.
  • The grand Victorian building was designed by Stockdale Harrison (Leicester architect) in 1890.
  • It houses four Arthur Woolf compound beam engines built by Gimson and Company of Leicester.
  • The Abbey Pumping Station replaced a smaller facility at Knighton.
  • The pumping station was fed by two main trunk sewers, one from the East of the city that ran under Bruin Street and then under the Grand Union Canal, and another that ran along the route of Abbey Lane and then across fields.
  • By 1912, the 2,000 acres sewage farm and pumping capacity of up to 20 million gallons a day was insufficient to meet the needs of the growing city, with 130 miles of new sewers built since the station opened, and extensions were agreed.
  • In 1939 a ram pump was installed, reportedly the largest of its kind in Europe at the time.
  • The station continued pumping Leicester's sewage until 1964, when electric pumps took over, and within a few years the Wanlip Sewage Treatment plant took over and the pumping station was no longer needed.


  • In 1972 the building re-opened as a museum of science and technology, run by Leicestershire Museums.
  • The huge beam engines were retained intact, and were gradually restored to full working order.
  • It is one of a number of historic pumping stations which have been preserved.
  • Leicester City Council became a unitary authority in 1997 and the Abbey Pumping Station is one of the museums that is within their jurisdiction.
  • Displays:
    • The steam engines which drive the sewage pumps can be seen.
    • There is a combination of informative educational displays (mainly about water and sewage), an old-fashioned film theatre, and collections of artifacts and pictures ranging from domestic appliances to trams.
    • An eclectic collection of larger items of industrial archeology is in the grounds. This includes a narrow gauge railway and some transport items.
  • Beam Engines:
  • The four steam engines were built in Leicester by Gimson and Company and today are rare examples of Woolf compound rotative beam engines.
  • At the time these engines were built they were considered an old-fashioned but very well-established design. The engines are large examples.
  • They were capable of pumping 208,000 imperial gallons of sewage an hour (263 L/S).
  • All four engines have been restored back to working condition by a dedicated team of volunteers: the Leicester Museums Technology Association.
  • It is the only engine house in the world where you can see four working examples of the same beam engine in one building.

Museum Collections

The Pumping Station is normally open Daily from 11am - 4:30pm. Engines can be seen in steam at various steam days along with other steam and early internal combustion exhibits.

Transport Collection

    • The Museum has a narrow gauge railway which is normally operated by Leonard, an 0-4-0ST 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge locomotive built by W.G. Bagnall, Stafford in 1918.
    • Four diesel locomotives – two Simplex, one Lister and one Ruston – are also available if needed.
      • several fire engines,
      • buses (see below),
      • an 1894 Aveling and Porter steam roller,
      • several diesel rollers,
      • a Bedford fish and chips van,
      • an ex Leicester Corporation Tramways tower wagon
      • and an Austin K2 brewery dray lorry with ales.There is also a collection of vintage road vehicles which are operated on selected days. Exhibits include:
    • Buses:
    • 1939 Leicester City Transport: AEC Renown 0664 CBC 921. Fully restored and operational.
    • 1958 Delaine Coaches: Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1/2 MTL 750. Fully restored and operational.
    • 1958 Leicester City Transport: Leyland Titan PD3/1 TBC 164. Fully restored and operational.
    • Restored rooms and displays on medieval life.
    • A series of temporary exhibitions on a wide range of subjects.
    • Recently recreated 17th century style gardens with flower gardens, an orchard, herb gardens and a maze.
    • The Manor House’s lively series of monthly events that use re-enactment, crafts, hands-on activities.
    • Specialist demonstrations to interpret Leicestershire's history and archaeology to visitors of all ages.
    • The Museum also houses the stone barn Classics Tea Room, which serves homemade cakes, light meals and refreshments.

    Go to the Abbey Pumping Station website to read more…