Tucked inside this tiny village, almost lost in the immense fenland landscape, is a fascinating industrial story. Prickwillow is a former diesel pumping station built to drain the fens.
Man´s struggle to control this landscape took many generations and vast capital and human resources. Originally an arm of the sea, England´s fenland has been heavily influenced by Dutch reclamation methods. It was in the seventeenth century that Sir Cornelius Vermuyden was employed by the 4th Duke of Bedford to cut two new channels to allow river water, from the Great Ouse, to get away to the sea without flooding the entire landscape. However, the Old and New Bedford Rivers did not remove all the water from the flooded fens and it was not until the invention of the steam engine that man finally took control.
Prickwillow tells the early story but also the later one too, when steam pumps finally gave way to the more efficient diesel. Here at Prickwillow, the surface of the river is over a metre below the outfall on the Wash in Norfolk, so pumps had to be efficient. On running days, the Museum powers up its original Mirlees pumping engine, dating from 1924 and believed to be the only blast-injection engine remaining in working order. See too, the Vickers Petter, built in Ipswich under licence from the German inventor Rudolph Diesel.