Cambridge Museum of Technology is set to reopen to the public on 7 June, following a major redevelopment funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England. I went to meet Morgan Bell, Assistant Curator, for a peek behind the scenes ahead of opening day.
It’s not hard to find the Museum … just look for the 53 metre tall chimney that dominates the skyline at Riverside. This chimney and the Victorian buildings that cluster round it formed a sewage pumping station where the city’s household rubbish was burned to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton. Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks, so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge. The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.
Post this renovation, you’ll find improved visitor facilities and disabled access and a wealth of new displays, including an interactive model of the pumping station (complete with smell effect!). The historic boiler has been restored so that the Hathorn Davey pumping engines can run again later this year, once all testing of the steam lines is complete.
A new building houses an exhibition about Pye and Cambridge Instrument Company, with artefacts and touch screens telling the stories of how they grew to make so many innovative products and gained an international reputation for excellence and innovation. This space is also for school groups and events plus it will be available to hire to community groups.
The Engineer’s House, just next door to the Museum, is being transformed by partner organisation Othersyde into an indoor cafe space, a bar and escape rooms. There’ll be a summer bar and food kiosk outside in the garden or you can bring a picnic to eat on the lawn at this beautiful riverside spot. Lawn games like skittles and outdoor board games will be available and there’s plenty of space for kids to run around.
Phase 1 of the development will be about 90% complete for this pilot reopening on 7 June so if you go to the Museum before 30 September, you’ll get a ticket for a free return visit in the next twelve months. All the finishing touches will be in place for the grand reopening on 1 October.
Restoration work has been supported by corporate volunteers over recent months. The day I visited, a team from Worldpay was hard at work cleaning the Boiler House and a team from Anglian Water has been busy painting. And there are plenty of regular volunteer roles available. At the moment, the Museum is looking particularly for Welcome Volunteers and Education Volunteers. You’ll find details of these opportunities plus opening times and ticket prices on the website.
The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, CB5 8LD