'Humphrey' star of the show as London flings open its doors

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Humphrey Gas Pump

Thames Water’s Grade II listed King George V pumping station, home to three of only four surviving ‘Humphrey’ gas pumps in the world, drew huge crowds last weekend.

The site in Enfield, north London, which is usually off limits to the public, flung open its doors as part of Open House weekend, which gives the public free access to some of the capital’s best buildings, showcasing the best in architectural design.

Invented by British engineer HA Humphrey, the 104 year old pumping station was originally home to five gas pumps housed in deep brick-lined pits (pictured).

Kirsty Halford, from Thames Water, said: “The response we had from the public at this year’s Open House has been amazing and our world-famous pumps have been the stars of the show. We even had a surprise visitor - a Humphrey pump fan all the way from Australia!"

New River Head

[Pictured] The Oak Room at New River Head, a late Renaissance room with a 1697 carved oak interior attributed to sculptor Grinling Gibbons.

She continued: “Humphrey was a revolutionary. He didn’t use traditional pistons and flywheels, but instead relied on the free movement of water between the pump and water tower. We’re so fortunate to have three of only four surviving pumps here in Enfield.”

The pumps used internal combustion to raise 40 million gallons of water from the Lea Navigation to the King George V reservoir every single day – enough to fill 60 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Gas would have been supplied to the pumps from bags inside cast iron casings, with water then compressed into a network of pipes, passing through the sites water tower and over a weir before entering the reservoir.

The Humphrey pumps were used until the 1960s, when they were finally replaced with electric pumps.

The weekend also saw the UK’s largest water and wastewater company open up London’s fourth largest sewage works at Deephams, to highlight the ongoing £250 million upgrade work which will account for population growth and climate change and New River Head, former headquarters of the Metropolitan Water Board.