The London Hydraulic Power Company opened in the early 1880s, and it was established to create hydraulic systems in London. It was expanded in order to handle the needs of the central London when the population was at its peak. It was installed prior to the installation of electric power lines, and the last pump house was closed in the late 1970s.
The History Of The Hydraulic System
This company was created by the government as an Act of Parliament, also known as the London Hydraulic Company Act of 1884. This act was sponsored by a railroad engineer by the name of Sir James Allport. The company was commissioned to install cast iron water mains that could handle high pressure under the city.
The company then merged with the Wharves and Warehouses Company. This company was established in 1871 by founder Edward Ellington. These companies formed a network that slowly grew to cover an area located north of the Thames River through Hyde Park to the west, and the Docklands to the east.
The network was seen as a much cleaner and safer alternative to steam engines. It was also a more compact solution to lifts, cranes, power workshop machinery, safety curtains and lifting mechanisms for various theaters and other venues in London. Hydraulic systems in London were also used as a supply for fire hydrants that were located inside of these venues. This allowed water that was pumped from the Thames River to enter directly into the buildings, and the water was able to be heated in the winter.
The Different Pumping Houses/Stations
The pressure in these pumping houses was maintained at a minimal 800 pounds/square inch. This pressure was housed in several different pumping houses that were once powered by coal before being powered by hydraulic power. These pumping houses were:
City Road Basin
Wapping Hydraulic Station
There were also short term storage facilities that were housed in hydraulic accumulators. These accumulators were nothing more than vertical pistons that contained heavy weights.
The system proved to be very successful. In the late 1890s, it pumped almost 7 million gallons of water every week. However, by 1933, the amount of water that was pumped grew to over 30 million gallons every week.
The Decline Of Londons Hydraulic System
After the early 1900s, the new century began to see a decline as electricity became increasingly popular. As a result, the company ultimately replaced all of its steam engines with motors that were electric around 1923.
However, during the companys peak, the network covered over 180 miles with pipes. The total amount of horsepower output from the pipes was 7000.
The hydraulic systems in London finally closed down in 1977. Because the company was considered a UK statutory authority, it could dig up the highways if necessary in order to maintain existing pipe and install new pipe. This was seen as a benefit to other companies in London, and eventually the company was sold to a telecommunications company. Many of the pumping houses were converted into art and entertainment venues.