Whitacre Pumping Station on a summer's evening, with a brilliant blue sky in the background.
Whitacre Pumping Station near Shustoke in Warwickshire. © Historic England
Whitacre Pumping Station near Shustoke in Warwickshire. © Historic England

Whitacre Pumping Station has been added to the Heritage at Risk Register

Severn Trent Water is looking for a new use for a stunning, Grade II* former pumping station at Whitacre ,near Shustoke in Warwickshire, that once carried fresh water to the people of Birmingham.

Designed by John Henry Chamberlain and William Martin around 1872, Whitacre Pumping Station is an example of Victorian architecture's grand ambition and inventiveness. The red brick building contains the former Pumping Station, Filter House, Water Well and Superintendent's Office.

Whitacre was designed to improve the quality of life for the residents of Birmingham, carrying fresh, clean drinking water to the city.  It is considered to be among the very best structures designed by prominent Victorian architects Martin and Chamberlain.

The Birmingham Water Company Act was passed in 1870 and authorised extraction of water from the rivers Bourne and Blythe. This led to the creation of the Whitacre Reservoir in 1871, and the building of an engine house with boiler house on the Whitacre site a year later.

In 1875 the Birmingham Water Company was bought by Birmingham Corporation (the forerunner to Birmingham City Council) and the water works were significantly enlarged to include a second engine house connected to the 1872 building by a larger boiler house.  This ran parallel to the Birmingham – Derby mainline railway and included a covered sidings for the delivery of coal.

The original steam-powered pumping machinery consisted of two Lilleshall Cornish engines, housed in the western engine house, and two Watt inverted compound beam engines. These engines were two of the most elaborate ever built, but were replaced in the late 1930s by two electric pumping engines. One of the Watt engines was salvaged and now forms an exhibit in Birmingham's ThinkTank Museum. Although the original engines have been removed, much of the original structure remains.

In 1955 the former boiler house was converted to a rapid gravity filter house with filtration tanks along its length. By the 1970s the outdated Victorian buildings were replaced by a new pumping and filtration plant built nearby.

Today the grand Whitacre pumping station sits empty, at the rear of a modern water treatment plant. Riddled with asbestos and infested by pigeons, it also needs general repairs throughout.

One of a number of historic assets owned by Severn Trent Water, many of which are no longer in active use and require significant repairs, the former pumping station is in need of a sustainable new use. This is a real challenge for Severn Trent, and Historic England is working with them to find a way forward and develop a management strategy for their most significant historic sites - including Whitacre.