9 Oct 2020
Throughout the recent Birmingham Heritage Week we have been fascinated to learn more about the city’s rich history. During the week we told the story on our social channels of the Boulton and Watt pump engine which was part of Upper Trinity Street’s (UTS) history until its removal to America by agents for Mr Henry Ford. Read on to find out more….
Boulton and Watt built one of their famous pump engines for the Warwick and Birmingham Canal Navigation Company in 1796. It was used at Bowyer St, part of the UTS site, to pump water on the Bordesley Canal until 1854.
That year, a new, more modern Boulton and Watt engine was installed and remained on site until 1929. This image was taken in the early 1900s and shows the scale of the Pump House, next to the Lock Keepers Cottage. We are delighted that the Lock Keepers Cottage is being retained and reimagined as a community resource for future UTS residents.
In 1928 Henry and Clara Ford, travelling under the pseudonym of Mr and Mrs Robinson, visited the UK and proceeded to buy huge amounts of industrial heritage related to the Industrial Revolution. They were acquiring it for the newly opened Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Detroit, site of the first Ford production line. One of the places they visited was Birmingham.
The Fords paid a secret visit to Bowyer St to view the Boulton and Watt pump engine and agreed to buy it and ship it back to Detroit, piece by piece.
A new pump house and engine was opened in 1936 and remains working and onsite to this day. As part of the UTS scheme it will become a feature of Pump House Park, sitting proudly amongst the new landscape
The Boulton and Watt pump house engine was reconstructed in Detroit and became one of the museum’s most loved and viewed artefacts. We know this because we asked if we could have it back and they said it was too popular!
As part of the UTS scheme we will be creating the first new park in Digbeth in a 100 years. We thought if we can’t have the original pump back then we’ll create our own!
Connecting and understanding the history and heritage of the site, and by celebrating it through our proposed public art interventions has helped guide our design plans for UTS and Digbeth for the next 100 years of heritage and culture.