27 October 2010
What does a steam powered pumping station and a hi-tech space centre have in common?
They are both at the site of the former sewage works in Leicester.
Perhaps a rather unusual thing to have in common, but there's more as the Abbey Pumping Station which was responsible for pumping Leicester's sewage is now Leicester's Museum of Science and Technology. The museum may not be in the same league as the Space Museum, but it's free and is a good way to spend a spare hour or two.
Both times I've visited the museum has been on the same day as visiting the National Space Centre. Reading my review of the National Space Centre you may wonder why I'd want to leave the Space Centre early to spend time looking at a steam powered sewage pump. The first time was out of curiosity as we just went in briefly on our way out, but the second time was something we'd decided to do to get a change of scenery and to go from the busy space centre to the almost empty museum. If you live nearby then the pumping station is worth a visit in it's own right, but Leicester is over an hours drive from our home so a visit to the pumping station needs to be combined with something else (although the City Centre is also worth a visit, especially popular with photography shops).
I had two 5 to 6 year old children with me and they both liked the idea of visiting a "Toilet Museum", just about the right age when anything to do with a toilet is amusing.
A large part of the museum houses the original Gimson beam engines which have been preserved in working order. Next to the stationary pumping engines is a video showing how they look in action. You can also see the pumps working during special events throughout the year (5 times during 2010).
The rest of the museum is a collection of mainly interactive exhibits covering different aspects of science and technology from toilets and drains to cinema and toys. The exhibits are fairly basic, but the children liked them and the educational aspects were easy to understand. The most popular were the two trams (one on cobbles, the other on rails) and the flushable cut-away toilet. The only thing with the toilet in that it took a long time to refill between goes. Not too bad with only two children and only a few others in the museum, but I expect more frustrating with school visits.
The museum is free and worth a short visit for a couple of hours. Also look out for the special events running throughout the year.