27.05.2013 Ryhope Engines Museum

The Ryhope Engines Museum is based at Ryhope Pumping Station which was built in 1868 to supply water to the Sunderland area. The station ceased operation in 1967 – after 100 years of continuous use.


As the Industrial Revolution developed new challenges were thrown up. A rapidly growing population in the nineteenth century, much of which was concentrated in new mining villages throughout the Northumberland and Durham coalfield, together with the growth of new industries and expansion of older ones in towns like Sunderland (now a city), produced a rapidly increasing demand for water for domestic and industrial requirements.

Various sources were used to meet this demand. Rivers, natural springs, surface reservoirs and wells were used. In North East Durham, however, abundant supplies of good quality water were on the doorstep, or, more correctly, in the cellar, for it lay within the geological stratum known as magnesian limestone.

During the first half of the nineteenth century repeated cholera outbreaks, both nationally and locally led to a much greater concern for water supplies. The creation of the Sunderland and South Shields Water Company in 1852 was one local result of this.

The Construction

At the time the Company received the Royal Assent there were several pumping stations in districts around Sunderland but the urgency of water demands pressed heavily upon the Company. In 1864 four acres of land at Ryhope were acquired and in May of the following year Thomas Hawksley, in his position as Engineer to the Company, was asked to provide designs and specifications for the ‘new works’.

Construction of the engine house was not without its problems. The beam engines and their house form an integrated structure. Not only did the foundations have to serve as foundations for most of the engine components, as well as provide support for the well heads, but also the massive rocking beams had to be supported at some twenty-two feet above ground level. Therefore engine and engine house construction had to proceed together, but not in such a manner that they would interfere with the sinking of the wells.

The Exterior

 01 02 0605

Ground Floor

00 01 02 0307 040608 09 10 11 12 1314


The First Floor

01 02 0304

The Second Floor

01 02 0304 0506 07 08 09 10 1112

Boiler Plant

01 02 0304050609 080910 11 13 141516

Coal Store

01 030607

The Blacksmiths



To Make this post even bulkier here is a load of video footage shot inside the museum largely showing the various parts of the engine at work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.