19 April 2016
SIG: Archaeology and Heritage
The Giants of Brede
Tucked away in a picturesque valley, at the south end of Brede village, and on a still active Southern Water site, is the site of the Giants of Brede. These spectacular steam engines were built to pump water, to reservoirs, destined for usage in Hastings. We (some twenty of us) were lucky enough to have exclusive access for the day to both pump house and also their neighbouring nuclear bunker in joint visit organised by the RPS’ South East Region and the Archaeology & Heritage Group.
Although on entering you are amazed at the sheer size of these engines, it was also the detail and the workmanship that caught my eye with, in the display in the boiler room featuring smaller machines, a myriad of gauges, valves, pulleys and controls. In the main pump room it was a very sunny day and although this created difficulties, it also created opportunities to photograph highlighted areas.
It was fascinating to go down into the basement in the main building to see possibly the largest set of spanners that I will ever see and the huge pipes that by a set of carefully planned valves sent a huge volume of water on its way to Hastings.
In the smaller (using the word loosely - as it is at least three stories high) pump room is a relatively modern engine that was installed in 1940 and was capable of shifting three and a half million gallons a day. This room too has a basement and you were able to go down to see the inner workings in the pipework.
The final building was the nuclear bunker, built at the height of the cold war it was designed to be a control centre for water supply in the south east region. Although mainly empty, it is still a chilling reminder of what might have been with its thick steel doors, complicated air lock system and lead room.
I should finally, add a big thank you to members of the Brede Steam Engine Society for making us all very welcome; all their help and assistance to all of us, as well as (for me) providing a constant supply of coffee.
Images and article by Richard Brown