New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Friday Photo: Earlswood Engine House

Posted April 17th, 2015 by Ellie Gill with No Comments


Today’s Friday photo is from a little outside of Birmingham; the engine house at Earlswood lakes. The lakes are part of the Stratford-on-Avon canal network, situated about 9km south from the start of the northern section at Kings Norton. The lakes were originally created to supplement water levels to the canal when they could not be maintained by natural sources. In the early 20th century Earlswood Lakes became a key tourist resort for the residents of Birmingham and the surrounding areas, due to the arrival of the railway line in 1908 and the village came to be marketed as the ‘Scarborough of the Midlands’.

The engine house is Grade II listed and was built to contain the original beam engine that pumped water from the reservoirs up to the higher level of the feeder river. It has been in continual operation since 1823, though in 1936 the beam engine was dismantled and replaced by the electric pumps. You can see the in-fill brickwork where the chimney was removed, marking the arrival of electricity. The building is typical of an engine house; one tall narrow room for the beam engine and lower storey ancillary rooms surrounding it. For this particular engine house the lower storey extension was added post 1846, when the canal was taken over by the Great Western Railway Company due to the decline of canal usage. This is telling in other details such as the workshop bench made out of railway sleepers and the reclaimed platform edging bricks on the stairs. The wooden beams for the upper floors are visible in between the brickwork and you can also see the structural ties that were added after construction, as the building needed more support to cope with the vibration of the machine.


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