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Horton Hospitals’ Water Pumping Station and Electric Light Works

(Central Station)

2003/04 pp5–6


Every year the Surrey Industrial History Group of Surrey Archaeological Society awards a plaque to an organisation in Surrey that has made a special effort in the field of Industrial Archaeology. This year the presentation was made to the David Lloyd leisure centre at Horton for their preservation of the Grade II listed Hospitals’ Electric Light Works and Water Pumping Station, the restoration of the pumping machinery and the incorporation of the building in the new leisure centre. The award was made on Tuesday 22 July.


This Central Station was built by the London County Council’s Asylums Committee, under its Engineer W.C. Clifford Smith, to provide water and an electricity supply for the five asylums being built on or planned to occupy the site of the former Horton estate. It was brought into service in 1902. Although some 8200 patients were eventually accommodated in the hospitals, a possible sixth was considered, suggesting a total population of 12,000 patients and staff.


The Central Station was built over a bore-hole and well, and housed the coal fired boilers and steam engines which drove the electric generators. It is surmounted by a water storage tank of approximately 35,000 gallons (160,000 litres) capacity.


The bore-hole was sunk to a total depth of 500ft (152m). The upper 200ft (60m) forms a well of 10ft (3m) diameter lined with cast iron segments. The 114ft below that is 12inch (300mm) diameter, steel lined. The remaining 186ft is 11inch (280mm) diameter and unlined through the chalk. The expected supply was 84,000 galls (382,000 litres) per day.


Duplicate three-cylinder submerged lift pumps were, and remain, installed in the well. There are two additional high pressure pumps on the floor of the pump room. The pumps were driven by electric motors energized by the local steam-driven dynamos. The connection between the pumps and the motors was by means of a system of overhead line shafting, pulleys and 6inch (150mm) wide belting. Much of the original water pipework and control valves remain, some with their original purpose painted on and still visible.


The electricity supply was 400 volts dc in three-wire form to power up to 16 motors to drive the water pumps and equipment, such as in the hospital laundry and bakery for example, with sufficient capacity to light 8127 lamps of eight candle power each.


The well at Horton was sunk by S.J. Baker & Sons. The boilers, engines, dynamos, etc. were supplied by Edmundson’s Electricity Corporation; the pumps and pumping machinery by Robert Warner & Co. of London and Walton on the Naze, and; water softening plant by Doulton & Co.


In 1913 the Horton Light Railway, which replaced the earlier Long Grove Light Railway, was extended to the Central Station to bring coal and other supplies from a siding adjacent to the LSWR main railway line to the south of Ewell West station. The light railway was closed and the track taken up in 1950.


In 1935 the Central Station boiler house ceased to operate and the boilers and generators were removed, although the pumping station continued to operate from a motor connected to the public supply. The boiler house buildings were converted to Sherwood Hostel providing a residence for patients working for local companies. The boiler house was converted to a gymnasium and the cooling pond into a swimming pool. In the 1960s sheltered workshops were provided where sub contract work was undertaken. The building was closed in 1985 and became derelict.


Peter Wakefield



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