Alongside the well-known Cambridge of dreamy medieval colleges and spires, lies the first pumping station in the world powered by re-processed household waste. Before the pumping station was built in 1894, untreated sewage from Cambridge was poured directly into the River Cam. combating the situation, a new sewage works was built two and a half miles away at Milton and was supplied by the pumping station at Cheddars Lane. To generate steam to work the pumps it was decided to charge the boilers with household and trade waste for fuel as this contained a high percentage of combustible materials such as coal, textiles, paper and bones as well as general waste.
The importance of the building has been recognised by Scheduled Monument status. The pumping station dominates the riverside landscape at Cheddars Lane in Cambridge and has been lovingly renovated by a group of enthusiasts. Re-christened the Cambridge Museum of Technology, it contains a variety of original pumps and boilers, together with steam engines, printing presses and gas engines.
Historic engines run in steam on open days. They include:
Hathorn Davey Steam Engines - Double acting compound engines with unique valve gear and the only ones of their kind left in the world.
J.I.Headley Steam Engine - The only full size steam engine left in existence made by a local Cambridge company. For over 100 years it drove the machinery in a local leather works.
Babcock & Wilcox 1895 boilers - Amongst the oldest water tube boilers in existence.
The No 4 Coke-fired boiler was installed in 1923 to provide greater heat. It is fired up on steaming days.
But the restoration was a difficult and dirty task. It was immortalised in verse by one of the volunteers:
Oh what a place of bliss this is
For connoisseurs of smells
For those who love machines that clank
And sights of sewage wells.
So Cheddar´s Lane, I think of thee
In all the wind and rain
My fondest memories urge me on
To visit thee again.