Research

RESEARCH AT THE WATERWORKS MUSEUM – HEREFORD

The Bob Benson Archive Room at the Waterworks Museum holds over a thousand documents including contracts, trade catalogues and handbooks, technical journals, plans, photographs and administrative records of the local waterworks.

Click here to view a You Tube clip if an old wind pump pumping water again.

The information in the archive continues to grow year on year and archivists are currently preparing a searchable index of this archive which will be available on this website in due course. Already available is an index of WaterWords, the Museum’s journal for its members and volunteers, which includes over 320 subjects, 385 personal names, 260 names of companies or other organisations and over 50 place names. For more information about the index of WaterWords please click here.

A second valuable resource for those interested in the formation and early history of the Waterworks Museum – Hereford is ‘The Journal’, which began as a quarterly publication in July 1975 and ran until Autumn 1997 when the first issue of WaterWords came out.   This index is takes the form of an alphabetic cross- referenced list of names, places and subjects. For more information about the index of The Journal please click here.

Both the index of WaterWords and the Journal index are lengthy documents that may be best downloaded and saved in a form that can be searched on screen (rather than printed).

Access to the Bob Benson Archive Room is by prior appointment only to ensure the availability of a volunteer archivist. If you would like to make an appointment please telephone or send an email to archive@waterworksmuseum.org.uk.  

Volunteers respond to most enquiries free of charge, however a charge may be applied (or a donation requested) to assist with complex enquiries or to support research for non-personal use. For more information about charges please click here.

Need information about an engine or device or advice to restore an item?

Easier for the Museum to deal with are enquiries from people who are researching a particular technology or company’s products or those who need advice about restoring items of their own.  Enquiries may be received from within the UK and all over the world, and in the past few years this has included requests for assistance from Malta, Ghana, South Africa, the USA, Canada and Israel.

These range from straightforward requests for copies of a handbook or catalogue to the design of Victorian pumping stations, history of water supplies and companies, technical details of particular artefacts and other general aspects of industrial history and technological development.

A recurring theme can be that the Waterworks Museum is often the only source of information that the enquirer has been able to find - a further reminder of the value and importance of the Museum and its collections.

Examples of how the Museum has helped

The Museum received news of the successful outcome from an enquiry in 2012 when it had been asked to help with the restoration of an old Godwin - Hercules windmill found in a derelict condition on a farm in Israel. There was nothing relevant in the collection or archive but the Museum put the enquirer in touch with one of its volunteers who was able to provide advice and support as a result of which the restored tower and wind-wheel have been erected and in 2016 it will be pumping water again after a break of over forty years.

The Waterworks Museum has in recent years also, for example:

  • Provided a copy of a handbook for an elderly engine that an enquirer had rescued from a Greek hillside and was hoping to bring back into working order.
  • Responded to a request from Walt Disney Imagineering in Florida for advice in locating a single cylinder Tangye steam engine in the USA.

Requests for help also come from closer to home and, in 2015, the author of a book on technology in country houses in the UK sought help in dating a Gent recorder. In recent times the Museum has also provided information on water supplies in Powys, to assist in the restoration of a Godwin pump, and the nineteenth century siphon at Abingdon waterworks in Oxfordshire.

However, the Museum cannot help every time, such as a request for information about a Worthington Simpson pump found buried in the roots of a tree in the yard at Tegart Fortress in the former Palestine British Mandate. Unfortunately, the photograph that accompanied the enquiry showed too little of the pump for volunteers to be able to identify it with any certainty.

RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE MUSEUM’S ARCHIVE

Additions to the Bob Benson Archive Room in the past year or two have included:

  • Notes on the history of water supplies in Peterchurch, Ledbury and Bromyard.
  • The Engineers Commonplace Book 1841.
  • Photographs of the Lancashire boiler taken during filming for a Blue Peter TV programme in 1978.
  • Buck and Hickman catalogue dating from 1935.
  • 1934 Diamond Jubilee catalogue for GA Harvey “Harco” products (600 pages).
  • An 1854 edition of “Mechanics and Mechanisms” - the year that work began on the first public water supply for Hereford.

Also received has been interesting material relevant for the exhibition dedicated to Hereford in WWII:

  • War Office Manual of Map Reading and Field Sketching (published in 1939)
  • Copy of War Illustrated for February 1945 containing an article about the bombing of the Royal Ordnance factory at Rotherwas.
  • Collection of technical booklets in which we found a letter describing the construction of army camps at Hereford on the outbreak of war in 1939.
  • A WW2 ammunition box.