Brighton and Hove Engineerium
To stave off the boredom of cold January days, I paid a visit to the open day at the Goldstone Pumping station (formerly the Brighton and Hove Engineerium) in Neville Road, Hove.
Many of you will recall the Engineerium contents were due to be sold off on site by Bonhams in 2006. Indeed I was there for the auction which was called off at the last minute due to a buyer being found. Many were disappointed but also pleased that the historic engines and building had a secure future.
We later learnt that the buyer was property tycoon Mike Holland. Since then, work has been ongoing to repair the buildings, return the engines to steam and bring the buildings back to a fit state for public opening. Entrance was directly to the Corliss Steam Engine level. This area is destined to be the restaurant with the Corliss Engine running at one end and other larger exhibits, a steam car, steam fire engine, antique printing presses etc located around the perimeter. The eating area is in the centre of this hall. The first floor level where all the glass display cases full of model steam engines and the museum entrance used to be located is now empty and was were various preservation societies had set up their displays for the day.
Moving on to the boiler room, this was immaculate and a lot of work clearly had been done. One boiler was in steam driving the Easton and Anderson 1875 engine of Number 2 Engine House. It was warm in there and a number of `Friends of the Museum’ dressed in period clothing lent atmosphere. Number 2 Engine House was pretty much as I remember it but has probably benefited from much remedial work.
The earlier Number 1 Engine House of 1866 had changed completely. The engine is dismantled for restoration and old exhibits cleared (cases full of old tools etc). A number of interesting stationary steam engines were in process of being set up at the end farthest from the door. A lot of work has been done to repair rotten roof trusses and windows in this hall and although not as glamorous as working on the engines, it is essential work to preserve these listed buildings and their contents for future generations.
It will be interesting to see how the rebuilding of the engines progresses. In general, work is ongoing to provide up to date toilet facilities and an underground kitchen area for the restuarant. There will also be an exhibition area under the courtyard at the front of the two engine houses with a new skylight, built to provide natural light, the onyl visible evidence of this. Also proposed is a two storey exhibition area next to the workshop.
In these hard times, all museums have to pay their way so incorporating a restuarant for visitors as well as functions has to be a good idea and will generate much needed revenue. However, fantastic though the three engines are, I can’t help feeling the place was rather empty… I hope that most of the smaller exhibits that used to litter the buildings and provided keen sense of discovery for visitors are retained somewhere to re-appear in the exhibition areas oncethe restorationand building work is completed.