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Report - - Dalton Pumping Station, Cold Hesledon - August 2011 - August 2012 | Industrial Sites |

Report - Dalton Pumping Station, Cold Hesledon - August 2011 - August 2012

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28DL Full Member
Site: Dalton Pumping Station, Cold Hesledon | Status: Vacant | Information:

Within the village of Cold Hesledon is a large Victorian, Gothic Revival former water pumping station, designed by Thomas Hawksley for the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company. The earliest drawings for Dalton are dated 1873, although it was not commissioned until 1879. The two main types of beam engine used in waterworks were rotative and Cornish. The engine house contains a pair of 72" single-acting non-rotative Cornish beam engines by Davy Bros of Sheffield, dating from the 1870s when the complex was built.

In 1932 the service reservoir and low cooling ponds began to leak. The problem was attributed to the nearby Murton Colliery and reported to the South Hetton Coal Company who operated the pit at Murton. It took almost 5 years for the coal company to finance and complete the renovation, restoring the reservoir to use by 1937 at an estimated cost of £4,500 (approximately £230,000 today). The re-activation of the site was short lived however, as an enemy attack in World War Two caused a loss of power to the station in 1940. Even after the power was restored, the deterioration due to non-use of the engines had caused the pumping spears below ground level to become fractured. The pumping station ceased operation entirely. Further subsidence at the site in the 1960s meant that the top section of the chimney had to be removed. Further deterioration was tackled with the aid of English Heritage funding from 1997 to 1999. This, combined with decorative repair, removed the building from the Heritage at Risk register.

The pumping station site was bought by its current owner in 1996 with a view to transform it in to a pub; however the building became Grade II* listed, which allegedly stopped its development. Other options are now being explored by the owner.

Present: August 2011 - AJ, Bunk3r & goan | August 2011 - AJ & Bunk3r | December 2011 - AJ & Horus | December 2011 - AJ, Lucid & UrbanFox | January 2012 - AJ | July 2012 - AJ & kevin arnold | August 2012 - AJ

Aswell as being one of my favourite styles of architecture, Dalton Pumping Station is only a short drive from my home and so I've felt compelled to make more than a few visits - seven to be precise. The site is extravagant throughout and Hawksley's attention to detail knows no bounds. Catch the light at the right moment and the engine-house is particularly photogenic.

  • Exterior - The site consists of the pumping station itself, a single cottage, a service reservoir and three cooling ponds.​



  • Boiler House (left) & Coal Store (right) - The boilers (since removed) used for Dalton Pumping Station were of Cornish type. Cylindrical, typically 25 to 30 feet long and six to eight feet diameter. They were fired from one end, and the hot gases, after passing through tubes in the body of the boilers were conveyed back and forth along the outside of the boiler by brick flues, and the boilers were normally encased in brick or other insulation except at the front end. Access to the boiler-house from the engine-house was normally onto the top of the brick cladding, from which steps led down to ground level, the difference in floor heights being accounted for by the plinth of the engine-house. Additionally the boilers had to be below the level of the engines to ensure that any condensate in the pipes drained back into the boilers and not into the engine cylinders.​


  • Underground


  • Engine-house - Floor Level - In order to reduce the amount of excavation required, the massive foundations needed for the engines themselves were usually only partially below ground level. This had the effect of raising the engine-house on a plinth, with the floor level being expressed externally by a weathered offset. Access into the engine-house was almost invariably by means of a short flight of steps leading up to double doors in the centre of the entrance front. Where there were two engines they would be placed symmetrically, leaving a clear passage between them in line with the entrance.​






  • Chimney Tower - Stairwell


  • Engine-house - Packing Stage (mezzanine floor) - Inside the engine-house, the packing stage takes the form of an intermediate or mezzanine floor, between the main floor and the beam floor, covering about a quarter of the total area. This floor was just below the top of the engine cylinders, which it usually surrounded, and gave access to the top cylinder cover for lubrication and maintenance of the piston rod packing. It was often supported on columns which mirrored those supporting the entablature, and it served as a landing on the stairs leading up to the beam floor, if these were inside the main engine-house building.​



  • Engine-house - Beam Floor (upper floor) - Internally the engine-house was divided in two by a screen of columns supporting an entablature, the outer ends of which rested on heavy piers built inwards from the walls. This entablature (always referred to by this name, even by engineers who had no idea of the architectural significance of the term) supported the main beam bearings, and was as integral a part of the engine as it was of the engine-house. The columns were of cast iron, and were firmly anchored to the foundations. Each engine had either a single column below the beam, or a pair of columns symmetrically placed under the beam bearings. Although either arrangement was a mechanically sound way of transmitting the main vertical forces direct to the foundations, lateral support had to come from the building itself. The heavy internal piers were thus essential, and were normally expressed externally by pilasters or stepped buttresses, depending on the architectural style chosen for the exterior.

    The entablature also carried the main longitudinal joists for the upper floor (the beam floor). These too were usually of cast iron and frequently incorporated cast pockets to accept the secondary wooden joists which supported the actual boarding of the beam floor. These main joists ran either side of the engine beam, with a hole between them to accommodate the motion of the beam and its attachments. They too formed part of the engine as well as part of the architecture: they gave additional stiffness to the entablature by bracing it to the end walls, and they also provided anchorage points for the parallel motion mechanism. Where the engines were of the Cornish type, these joists were expected to arrest the movement of the engine and prevent damage caused by over-travel in an emergency. Additionally they provided stable anchorage points for winches on the beam floor, so that heavy engine and pump components could be lifted for maintenance.​




  • Engine-house - Gantry Crane - The engine-house is one of the earliest to have been designed with an overhead crane (of 20 tons capacity), and the tracks for this run directly over the side windows to the beam floor, requiring the internal structure of these windows to be in cast iron, with cast iron capitals of mechanical uniformity. The introduction of overhead travelling cranes, either hand or steam powered, eventually led to the use of clerestory roofs, or 'jack roofs', which gave improved lighting and ventilation, and caused a radical change in external appearance.​


References: Pure and Constant
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