Claverton Pumping Station is a unique surviving example of a Georgian beam engine, situated just two miles from Bath. The Grade I listed building has flooded 18 times since October, with the highest flood reaching 8 foot high inside the building.

January floods compared to normal conditions.

The building has a complex relationship with water. One of the few surviving historical canal pumping stations, it was the only major canal pumping station to be water driven.

“We rely on water for power” explains Dr Julian Stirling, Chair of Trustees for the charity that operates the pumping station. “We need two tonnes of water a second to drive the waterwheel. It is hard to think of a location that has enough water in the summer to drive the pump, which isn’t sometimes underwater in the winter.”

The building has flooded regularly for the last 200 years. The oldest flood mark carved into the wall dates back to 1815. But the relentless flooding of this winter is not usual and is starting to cause problems.

“The building is incredibly flood resilient, it has built in drainage channels so water can escape, loads of air flow to help the building dry out. But we have flooded every week or two for the past seven months, there is no time for the timber to dry, and rot is starting to set in.” said Julian.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent flooding. A mill stream runs right through the building to power the waterwheel. When the River Avon bursts its banks the building can be sitting in a 300 metre wide valley full of water.

A view across the flooded valley

Each flood covers the building in a layer of silt. The layer of silt traps moisture in the building, making rot worse. After every flood, volunteers have to clean the building. As the floods get higher more surfaces need cleaning. Floors, cupboards, stairs, window sills. The highest floods reach the next floor, and the even the ceiling below needs cleaning.

“The best time to clean the building is when there is still two inches of water over the floor” added Dr Stirling. “We stir up the silt and the flowing river helps to move it out of the building. If the flood goes down overnight, then it takes much longer to clean up.”

Julian cleaning up during a flood

With with severe flooding predicted to become more common with climate change, the volunteers are worried about the future. They are trying to raise £5,000 to help them repair the building and to make changes where possible to become even more flood resilient.

“It is a lot of work to get ready for the open season after a winter of flooding.” said Julian “Everything from safety guarding, to benches and displays must be moved for the winter, timing when to bring them back into the building is difficult. We got it wrong this year and some of it had to be rescued from a rising flood. We hope to make some changes so that safety guarding is also flood proof and can be left downstairs.”

The pumping station last flooded on the 5th of April. Despite this volunteers have rallied and managed to get the pumping station ready to open for their first open days on the 9th of April and 13th of April.

“If we don’t get any more floods then we will be open. We won’t be able to run the waterwheel as planned on the 13th as the flood has brought down a tree blocking the leat. It has been an incredible effort to get the site ready for opening so soon after a flood. We really need to make some changes before our volunteers burn out.”

Online fundraiser can be found here: