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Sewage Farm

The town of Burton upon Trent had a more acute problem of sewage disposal in the mid 1800's than any other town or city in Britain, due to the large number of breweries situated in the area. The brewing processes generated a large quantity of foul smelling, high temperature, sulphate rich effluent which also contained a lot of suspended matter. This was all discharged into local brooks and streams, which became open sewers, until eventually the crude sewage ran into the River Trent at an outfall at Wallsitch.

Clearly something had to be done about the situation and in 1866 a sewer was built to take the effluent to an area called Claymills, on the outskirts of the town, where sedimentation tanks were constructed. The sewage was allowed to settle in the tanks, before being discharged into the River Trent. The only effect of this was to transfer the site of the sewage problem - not surprisingly the situation grew worse and it was obvious that further action would be required.

It was decided to build a pumping station on the site of the sedimentation tanks to pump the effluent some 2¼ miles to a sewage farm which would be built to deal with the sewage. The Burton on Trent Corporation obtained an act of Parliament in 1880 allowing them to execute these works.

The sewage farm, located at Egginton & Etwall, at an elevation of 70 feet above the pumps at Claymills was laid out over 300 acres in 1884 and was fully operational by 1886. However, almost immediately there were complaints about the stench coming from the farm, so lime was added to the effluent both at Claymills and at the farm to reduce the problem.

Picture of ploughing engine

The beam engines continued to pump the sewage up to the farm until 1969 when the current treatment works was commissioned. The beam engines were then used to pump sludge to the farm until superceded by electric pumps in 1971. The land is still farmed using traditional methods.

Rising Main

The rising main is the pipeline that was constructed to convey the sewage from the Pumping Station to the farm. It was made from 27 inch diameter cast iron pipes. During 1910-20, the main was dualled to improve the pumping rate and avoid sewage being discharged directly into the river during times of high flow rate. One of the problems of adding lime to the sewage (to neutralise the smell), was that the lime came out of solution and formed scale on the inside of the pipes.

Picture of pipes showing significant limescale

The rising mains were fitted with access hatch boxes at regular intervals to allow the pipes to be cleaned out. The cleaning process was assisted by the use of a steam driven winch which used a wire rope to haul a scraper through the pipe section.

Picture of steam winch

Pipe Drug

In 1912, to assist with the maintainance of the rising main and construction of the 2nd main, a "pipe drug" was purchased. This is a specially constructed horse drawn carriage designed to carry the large sections of cast iron pipe. The carriage was reversed over the top of the pipe and chains with screw jacks were used to raise the pipe off the ground.

In 1973, it was taken to Elvaston Castle museum in Derbyshire where it was stored outside.

Picture of pipe drug at Elvaston Castle

It was returned to the Pumping Station in 2005, where a certain amount of restoration work was carried out and then put on display.

Picture of pipe drug with horse

Unfortunately, with no covered storage, further deterioration took place.

Picture of pipe drug outside E Engine House

In 2022, it was moved to the new covered display building, where a condition survey was carried out.

Picture of pipe drug inside the new display building

In November 2022, the Trust was awarded a Conservation and Collections Care grant of £6,800 by the Association of Independent Museums, supported by the Pilgrim Trust, towards the restoration of this unique vehicle.
By December 2023, the vehicle was back on its wheels.

Picture of pipe drug inside the new display building

The Conservator's report noted: "The overall appearance of the restored vehicle is highly commendable. The attention to detail – from sourcing the correct design of fastenings to the finish of the joinery – is particularly noteworthy. The result is something that will, given the protective environment of its new home and the ongoing care of the Museum’s volunteer team, be a key exhibit for future generations of visitors to appreciate."

© Claymills Pumping Engines Trust
Meadow Lane
Burton upon Trent, DE13 0DA
Registered Charity No. 1030331
Accredited Museum No. 2334