Leawood Pump House – Whatstandwell, England - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Whatstandwell, England

Leawood Pump House

Its impressive still-working beam engine is a thing of beauty for engineering history fans. 

The Leawood Pump House in Derbyshire was built in 1849 to supply water to the Cromford Canal, which had itself been built in 1794. The canal ran 14.5 miles from Cromford to the Erewash Canal, which connected to the River Trent. By 1849 the canal was suffering from water shortages caused by a change in the drainage of the lead mines in the area; hence the need for a pump.

The pump house building stands on the right bank of the River Derwent. It has an impressive 95-foot chimney with a cast-iron cap. It also still has its impressive beam engine, which is now in full working order following restoration by the Cromford Canal Society in 1979. For engineering history fans it really is a thing of beauty. 

The engine was designed and erected by Graham and Company of Elsecar, near Rotherham (which has its own historic pumping engine). The beam is 33 feet long and the piston has a stroke of 10 feet. The engine was designed to work at 7 strokes per minute and the pump lifts water up 30 feet, at almost 4 tons per stroke from a reservoir in the basement of the building, fed by a 150-yard tunnel from the River Derwent. 

The impressive size of the pump is explained by the fact that there were restrictions on removing water from the River Derwent. Pumping was limited to between 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 p.m. on Sundays, presumably so as not to interfere with water demands for the many water-powered mills on the river.

This pump house worked continuously from 1849 until 1944, when the canal closed. It is now run periodically by volunteers of a historical society that also runs the Middleton Top Engine House a few miles away. To see the engine and pump running is an unforgettable experience. 

The pump house is in an idyllic setting in the limestone region of Derbyshire and is close to numerous other natural and historic landmarks including the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Crich Stand, and the Crich Tramway Village.

Know Before You Go

The dates when the pump runs vary from year to year and are available on the official website. The Cromford Canal itself is partially open (about 6.3 miles) and runs regular boat trips from Cromford Wharfe to the High Peak junction, some of which are on a horse drawn narrow boat.