Son returns to cottage beaming with pride

Howard Bailey returns to Tees Cottage Pumping Station in Darlington


The son of a water worker is to re-live special childhood memories as a site of historical and industrial importance reopens to the public next week.

Howard Bradley, who is now 69 and lives in London, will revisit Tees Cottage Pumping Station in Darlington, which was his home between 1948 and 1975.

William Bradley, Howard’s father, who was born in 1912, worked at the pumping station as a filter house attendant and beam engine driver between 1946 and 1975.

The site, which was originally owned by Darlington Gas and Water Company, began to supply water to Darlington and the surrounding areas from 1850, after the Waterworks Clauses Act was passed by Parliament in 1847. The Act stated that local authorities had a duty to supply clean, safe water.

Tees Cottage Pumping Station’s impressive steam-powered beam engines and gas engines pumped water from the River Tees to homes and businesses. The water was treated by being filtered through sand and gravel.

Northumbrian Water Authority took over Tees Cottage Pumping Station in 1974 and turned it into a museum in 1980. Broken Scar water treatment water works has supplied Darlington and the surrounding areas with water since this date.

Since it was turned into a museum, the site has been maintained and operated by a group of volunteers, known as the Tees Cottage Preservation Society.

Reporters and photographers are invited to Tees Cottage Pumping Station, Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, DL3 8TF, to meet Howard and to see the beam and gas engines operate on Tuesday September 15 between 10.30am and 12.30pm.

The museum has been closed since Easter last year after safety and structural issues were identified. Since then work, funded by Northumbrian Water, has been carried out to remove asbestos from the boiler house, repair roofs and to install new guttering and safety lighting. Electrical testing has also been carried out along with health and safety work in the grounds.

Reflecting on growing up at Tees Cottage Pumping Station, Howard said: “I was two when we moved into the cottage on the site and I have some very happy memories. I used to really enjoy playing on the banks of the River Tees and as I was the only child that lived on the site at that time, it was my domain! I used to fish there too when I was a bit older. I also had fun playing with the children who lived across the road in Jubiliee Cottages. We used to play cricket and football by the filter house.

“I remember the cottage we lived in being cold and I wasn’t too keen on the outside toilet! Although Tees Cottage did have something quite rare in those days, and that was an upstairs bathroom which had a bath and sink in it.

“My Dad was very proud to work at Tees Cottage Pumping Station and he always looked so smart when he went to work – he wore a tie. He was very hard working and worked 48 hours a week. One of his jobs was to sit on top of the huge beam engine, when it ran, to oil it. A very dangerous job and not something I would like to do. He also used to have to take water samples out of the large water tanks. I will always cherish these memories and think it is wonderful that the place I grew up is a museum.”


The site will reopen for its first open days, since its closure last year, on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September between 11.00am and 5.00pm.


Sarah Pinkerton, Northumbrian Water’s partnerships manager, said: “We are very pleased that Tees Cottage Pumping Station is opening again as it has such an important story to tell and a vital role to play in helping people of all ages to engage with and connect to industrial heritage and history.

“We are very privileged and honoured to own this site and to be able to welcome Howard back to his childhood home. He can and should be so proud, as by working at the water works his Dad revolutionised water supply in Darlington and the surrounding areas. As a company we are proud to be immersed in and support the local communities we serve and this site certainly epitomises this.”

Chairman of Tees Cottage Pumping Station, Phil Doran, said: “I am delighted that the recent investment from Northumbrian Water means that Tees Cottage Pumping Station will be open for many years to come. We have a group of very dedicated volunteers who enjoy looking after the site and they are very pleased too.

“To be able to welcome Howard to the museum is fantastic and hearing the tales he has to tell is fascinating! We are really looking forward to the opening our doors to the public again and hope everyone really enjoys their visit.”

Experts from chartered surveyor and property consultancy Sanderson Weatherall, led by associate partner Victoria Bollands, project managed the work which made the re-opening possible. Their service included obtaining consent for the task from Historic England, the Government′s natural and cultural preservation agency, preparing tender documentation and conducting a competitive tendering process, plus monitoring the work on-site.

Victoria Bollands said: "Sanderson Weatherall has a long-standing relationship with Northumbrian Water, for whom we′re an approved supplier and work regularly on a wide range of tasks. These include conducting surveys of sites such as commercial property and treatment works, in addition to project management. It was a particular pleasure to help them with the Tees Cottage Pumping Station project, however, as this is breathing renewed life into a hugely important and valuable part of the region′s industrial heritage."

For further information contact Cara Charlton on 0191 301 6720.

Howard Bradley went to a primary school in Low Coniscliffe, Darlington, and attended Darlington Grammar School.

He left Tees Cottage Pumping Station in 1964 when he went to Newcastle University to study German and Swedish.

After leaving university, he taught at schools in Ferryhill and Spennymoor in County Durham, Germany and London. He decided to stay in London and in 1980 began a career in IT as a computer programmer with Tesco. He continued to work in IT until he retired in 2010.

Tees Cottage Pumping Station

Water was drawn from the River Tees through an intake and culvert into a steam driven beam engine, which raised water to slow sand filters and then delivered the filtered water through a system of pipes and service reservoirs to Darlington, which in 1850 had a population of 11,000. When the site stopped supply water in 1980, Darlington’s population was more than 84,000.

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