Engine House and Boiler House at Mill Meece Pumping Station


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Mill Meece Waterworks, Cotes Heath, Stafford, ST21 6QU


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Statutory Address:
Mill Meece Waterworks, Cotes Heath, Stafford, ST21 6QU

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Stafford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Engine house and boiler house at water pumping station, now museum, built circa 1914 for the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company. The buildings were designed by William Campbell and constructed by Thomas Godwin and Son. The control-panel building of 1978, a public convenience of 1979 and a chlorine treatment building of 1993 are excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation

The engine house and boiler house at Mill Meece Pumping Station, built circa 1914 for the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Engineering interest: the interior of the engine house and boiler house are largely complete, retaining two horizontal tandem compound rotative steam pumping engines, three Lancashire boilers and an exceptional array of ancillary equipment, all of which survives substantially intact and unaltered;

* Rarity: Mill Meece is one of only three pumping stations in England to retain their original horizontal tandem compound rotative steam pumping engines, with only five engines of this type surviving nationally in a waterworks context;

* Architectural interest: their restrained classical style is well realised, reflecting the high value placed on its important civic function;

* Group Value: the engine house and boiler house form part of an exceptionally complete pumping station site in which the integrated process of water pumping is still readable.


The Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company was established by an Act of Parliament in 1847 to supply water to the industrial towns of North Staffordshire. In 1899 the Company decided to supplement its pumping station at Hatton, opened in 1892, with a new facility in the Meece valley. It subsequently purchased seven acres of land at Birch House Farm in Millmeece, some 2 miles to the south. With six wells and five boreholes at Hatton, the Company was expecting to obtain a copious water supply from the same geological series. However, test bore holes sunk between 1899 and 1901 could not locate an adequate supply and it was subsequently concluded that the chosen site lay on the wrong side of the Swynnerton geological fault. Further boreholes and a well were sunk between 1903 and 1909 on an additional plot of land at Millmeece Farm, on the northern edge of the site. As the initial trials proved successful, the Company acquired the land from the Swynnerton Estate in 1907 as the location for its new facility. Following the granting of permission to build by an Act of Parliament of 1912, the Company commissioned the architect William Campbell of Hanley to design the buildings and appointed Thomas Godwin and Sons of Hanley as builder. However, shortly after the site plan was finalised, a minor geological fault associated with the Swynnerton fault was found to run under the location assigned to the engine house. The engine and boiler houses were subsequently repositioned, with the revised site plan resulting in the boiler house chimney standing adjacent to the engine house rather than the boiler house itself. Although it is unclear as to why this peculiar arrangement came about, it has been suggested that work on the chimney had already begun before the fault was discovered, with the Company deciding to leave the chimney standing where it was being built rather than have it re-sited, probably at considerable expense. The majority of the pumping station buildings, including the engine and boiler houses, along with the chimney, workshop, winch house and weigh house, were completed in 1914, with two engineer’s cottages being finished in 1915.

The Company’s tender to supply one compound tandem rotative steam engine and two Lancashire boilers, along with supporting beams and pipe-work for a future second engine, was awarded to Ashton, Frost and Co Ltd of Blackburn. The engine was installed in June 1914 and started for the first time on 25th November 1914. However, problems with the pumps delayed the plant from becoming operational until 18th January 1915, when it regularly pumped four million gallons per day to waste to keep the water levels down whilst the construction of the two boreholes were completed. In the same year a second well was sunk and a new main to Hanchurch reservoir was laid. Further problems with sand in both the boiler system valves and the temporary borehole pump resulted in the sinking of the boreholes being suspended for the duration of the First World War. In 1919 permanent borehole pumps were fitted and the station finally pumped into the supply for the first time, some twenty years after the first test bore hole had been sunk.

In August 1927, a second compound tandem rotative steam engine, along with a third Lancashire boiler, was installed by Hathorn, Davey and Co Ltd of Leeds, with the engine starting work on 5th May 1928. Two additional boreholes were sunk from the second well between February 1926 and April 1929. In 1937 the borehole pump driven by the 1914 engine was dismantled and replaced by two electrically operated pumps supplied by Mather and Platt Ltd of Manchester. A temporary wooden building was erected over the well head to house the electrical plant and a small brick building, now known as the Sutherland Room, was erected at the north-east end of the engine house to accommodate the surface pump and motor.

During the Second World War a blast wall (now demolished) was constructed around the well-head, whilst a refuge was built into the embankment near the workshop.

The possibility of increasing capacity by replacing the steam engines with steam-driven turbines, operating from the existing boilers, was investigated in 1951 but quickly dropped when a delivery date of 1957 was quoted. As an alternative, a Mather and Platt electric pumping system was installed in the second bore hole. In 1965 mechanical stokers were fitted to the boilers and a small coal store was added to the boiler house.

In 1978, with the station now owned by Severn Trent Water, plans were drawn up to replace the steam engines with two multi-stage submersible pumps capable of delivering four million gallons of water a day directly from the base of the boreholes. In the following year a single-storey building was erected to the north-west of the engine house to accommodate the control panels, whilst the wooden well-head building of 1938 was demolished to allow the pumps to be installed.

In 1981 the Mill Meece Pumping Station Preservation Trust Ltd took out a 99-year lease to restore, maintain and operate the steam engines, operating the pumping station as a museum. To accommodate visitors, a public convenience was added to the site in 1979, whilst No. 1 Engineer’s Cottage became a meeting room and food preparation area. In 1993, the late-C20 pumping plant, which is still in operational use (2014), was supplemented with the addition of a chlorine treatment building, erected on land to the south-west of the engine house.


Engine house and boiler house at water pumping station, now museum, built circa 1914 for the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company. The buildings were designed by William Campbell and constructed by Thomas Godwin and Son. Later buildings, including a control-panel building of 1978, a public convenience of 1979 and a chlorine treatment building of 1993, are not of special interest.

MATERIALS: of Accrington red brick in English bond with stone dressings, brick stacks and clay-tile roofs.

PLAN: the adjoined engine house and boiler house form a T-shaped range with the engine house forming the horizontal section and the boiler house the vertical section. Both buildings are single-storeyed.

EXTERIOR: the two buildings have chamfered stone plinth bands and round-headed window and door openings with gauged brick arches with keystones. Windows have chamfered stone lintels.

ENGINE HOUSE: the principal building on the site is the north-east to south-west aligned engine house which stands on a deep plinth to accommodate the impounding chamber. Of six bays in length and three wide, it has raised banded quoins and paired banded pilasters defining recessed bays with dentilled heads. A shallow stone frieze runs round the building and above this, linking each pilaster, is an oversailing course. Above again is a bracketed eaves cornice. The roof is hipped with a louvered ridge vent. At the south-west end of the long north-west and south-east sides there are doorways with moulded surrounds and half-glazed doors with fanlights and side lights. Each doorway is accessed by a short flight of stone steps with stone-coped brick walls and piers. An air vessel stands beside each set of steps. The remaining bays contain tall, eight-over-eight horned sashes with radial glazing bars to the heads. The central window at the north-east end was converted into a doorway in 1937 when a small, brick-built extension, now known as the Sutherland Room, was added to house the centrifugal pump sets. It is now used as the museum's main entrance.

BOILER HOUSE: the boiler house, which adjoins the south-east side of the engine house, stands on a north-west to south-east alignment and is six bays long and three bays wide. The bays to the long south-west and north-east sides are defined by plain pilasters forming recessed panels with dentilled and corbelled heads. Above is an oversailing course and a moulded stone cornice. The roof is hipped with a louvered ridge vent. Each bay contains a window with square-paned glazing with pivoted panels and radial glazing bars to the heads. Attached to the south-east end is a late-C20 coal store which is of brick with reinforced concrete columns to its open front and a flat roof covered with corrugated asbestos sheeting. Adjoining the south-west end of the north-east face is the BOILER FEED PUMP ROOM. Being square-on-plan, it stands at a lower ridge height than the boiler house and has raised quoins, brick cogging and a pyramidal roof with exposed rafters and a louvered ridge vent. Its south-east and north-west faces have two casement windows each whilst its north-east side has a central doorway with a stone lintel.

ROCKING QUADRANT: standing at the south-west end of the engine house is the rocking quadrant to the 1927 engine. It stands over number 2 well and is enclosed by a steel-framed superstructure. On top of the superstructure there are two pulleys through which the rope from the winch house is threaded to lift the borehole pump rods and valves for regrinding. The rocking quadrant to the 1914 engine, which stood over number 1 well, was removed in the late C20. The well is capped with concrete and remains in use with submersible pumps.

INTERIOR: ENGINE HOUSE: the walls of the engine house are tiled to dado level, above which is gault brick with gauged red brick arches to the windows. The bays on the long north-east and south-west sides are defined by red brick pilasters with the frieze on the south-east wall inscribed '1914'. It houses two horizontal tandem compound rotative steam pumping engines. The engine standing on the south-east side is colloquially known as the ‘right-hand engine’ and was installed, along with its barring engine, in 1914 by Ashton, Frost and Co Ltd of Blackburn. The engine on the north-west side is known as the ‘left-hand engine’ and was installed in 1927 by Hathorn, Davey and Co Ltd of Leeds; its contemporary barring engine is by Marshall, Sons and Co of Gainsborough. At the south-west end are two double-acting ram pumps; one of 1924 and one of 1927. Four air vessels are fitted to the pumps; the first stands in front of the ram pumps, the second is fitted at the outlet junction of the pipes from the ram pump whilst the third and fourth stand beside the steps leading to the building's south and north doorways. The air vessels were supplied with compressed air from a Westinghouse steam-powered compressor which is attached to the wall beside the ‘left-hand engine’ and later supplied by two petrol/paraffin stationary engine which are still in place. Above is the original gantry crane. A door to the right-hand side of the air compressor leads in to a small office which protrudes into the west corner of the boiler house. It contains three Kent Venture flow recorders (now disconnected) that registered the volume of water pumped to Hanchurch reservoir. A second doorway on its left hand side provides access to the boiler house. At the north-east end, a central doorway leads through to the SUTHERLAND ROOM which contains an exhibition of the history of the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Company.

BOILER HOUSE: the boiler house contains three Lancashire boilers; two of 1914, by HT Banks of Netherton, Dudley, and one of 1927, by W and J Galloway and Sons of Manchester. Attached to the boilers are Hodgkinsons and Bennis electric-driven stokes of 1965. Also retrained in the engine house is the Green's economiser of 1914, by E Green and Son of Wakefield. Attached to the south-west end of the north-east side is the BOILER FEED PUMP ROOM which contains two steam-powered boiler feed pumps of 1914, by G and J Weir of Glasgow.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a SECOND WORLD WAR REFUGE is built into the embankment to the south-east of the workshop. Constructed from reinforced concrete, it is largely concealed by an earthen mound, with the earth now held in place by a coursed rubble retaining wall, probably of later date. This structure contributes to the special interest of the principal buildings and is included in the listing. The control-panel building of 1978, a public convenience of 1979 and a chlorine treatment building of 1993 are functional structures with limited architectural merit. These buildings are therefore excluded from the listing.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Douet, James, Temples of Steam: Waterworks Architecture in the Steam Age, (1992)
Hayes, G, A Guide to Stationary Steam Engines, (1981), 105
Sherlock, R, The Industrial Archaeology of Staffordshire, (1976), 165
Mill Meece Pumping Station, accessed from http://homepage.ntlworld.com/howard.v.moore/millmeecepumpingstation_home_page.htm


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 10 Dec 2004
Reference: IOE01/11509/26
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Ken Bourne. Source Historic England Archive
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