Thirty Years Ago –
Recollections of a Memorable Opening day at Coultershaw Beam Pump
By Chris Bryan (an original volunteer - still here today)
Friday July 4th 1980 was a significant day for the SIAS. The Beam Pump at Coultershaw was ceremoniously started by Lord Egremont after four years of restoration by volunteers. This was the first major restoration by the SIAS which has steadily moved on with great success from the initial work led by Alan Allnutt, then Mike Palmer and now under the excellent management of Robin Wilson.
It was a memorable occasion for a number of reasons, not least making sure that everything was working perfectly prior to the event. The wheel was running for the first time after restoration on 16th March 1980. The wheel, pump and fountain were first working together on May 11th. All was working perfectly apart from a troublesome inlet valve. This was to lead to something unexpected happening on the opening day which I have not witnessed before or since. It was the first time I had taken annual leave from work for an SIAS event. I was keen to be the first on site, unlock and check everything out. At first sight, in the pump area there appeared to be a number of elvers (young eels). On closer inspection, the inlet valve had allowed water to stay in the pump to the water level behind the penstock gate so there was a small pool of water above the piston on one of the cylinders. Within this small pool of water were up to six elvers whose only route of entry would have been up the side of the cylinder barrel! The scene was recorded with a photo (I had only a camera with a black and white negative film that day). Work then proceeded to get the installation running for the big event and leave the elvers to disperse back to the river. Among the many guests for the opening was Mr. Philip Green, Chairman of the WSCC Coast and Countryside Committee. He and everyone else was focussed on the event of the day, seeing this wonderful piece of historic machinery back in working order. At the time I expected the elvers to be regular visitors, but have only seen one solitary elver at Coultershaw in the ensuing 30 years. For me, it was a special day in more sense than one. The opening event was reported in SIAS Newsletter number 28, October 1980. Regarding the inlet valve, it was repaired in March 1981 and failed again in 1986 when it underwent replacement of the major internal parts.
Sunday July 6th 1980 was the first open day to the public with the wheel, pump and fountain all working. The site hut had been moved in the spring of 1980, to enable work to start on the roof support pillars, and served as the first visitor reception. Work on the building made rapid progress. By 14th September two of the roof trusses were in position and by the end of 1980 the roof was complete except for the tiling, thanks to the excellent support of a local builder, Roy Pocklington.
Coultershaw Beam Pump – First public open day. First
amateurish efforts at informing and directing the public!
Lord Egremont (left) discusses technical details with Gerry
Elvers in the pump cylinder
This article appeared in the July 2010 SIAS Newsletter No. 174 (See www.sussexias.co.uk)
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