Nowadays we take the purity of tap water for granted. Yet less than 150 years ago this was the exception rather than the rule, and polluted water supplies were often the cause of disease. Life expectancy was only about 30 years in 1800; by 1900 it had risen to 50. The installation of piped, drinkable water had a big part to play in bringing about this major improvement.
In Hereford, the Improvement Act of 1854 was the instrument that started the ball rolling. By 1856 the Hereford Pumping Station was built and, using a Simpson beam engine, started pumping water from the River Wye to filtration beds and reservoir on high ground at Broomy Hill. Demand for the service was such that over the next 50 years the Works was gradually extended with new pumping machinery installed at each stage to keep place with demand and the latest innovations in pumping technology. The Waterworks operated until 1976 by which time the pumps were electrically driven. By remarkable good fortune, this building and the machinery it housed has largely remained intact and represents a time capsule of industrial heritage. Consequently a whole range of working pumping equipment can still be seen and on steam days the sounds, sights and smells of the waterworks can be fully experienced.
There is also a fine collection of water pumps, designated as a collection of national importance. There is a pump representing virtually every decade since 1850 including the oldest working triple expansion stream engine in the UK. Most engines are in working order. The Museum is set in a beautiful setting beside the River Wye in large grounds.