New facilities mean disabled visitors will be able to explore one of Sunderland’s finest industrial monuments for the first time in almost 150 years, thanks to a North East water company’s fund.
Access into the historic Ryhope Engines Museum, which was built in 1868, was difficult for wheelchair users, people with mobility problems and parents with pushchairs.
Now, a £30,000 grant from Northumbrian Water’s Green Scheme at the Community Foundation, has helped to improve accessibility into the Grade II (starred) listed building.
A platform wheelchair lift has been installed into a gallery of the museum, which will allow disabled visitors to enter the engine house, where two 100 horsepower steam powered beam engines are kept in working order by volunteer members of the Ryhope Engines Trust.
This comes as good news for 18-year-old Ellie-Jane O’Ware from South Hylton, who uses a wheelchair after contracting meningococcal septicaemia at just 9-months-old.
Ellie-Jane, who is a member of 2nd South Hylton Guides, was unable to join the rest of her Girl Guides in exploring the museum when they were there to complete their Blacksmith Badge.
She said: “I was a bit disappointed because I had to wait downstairs while everyone else was upstairs, so I’m really excited to finally see inside Ryhope Pumping Station.”
New technology also means those unable to climb the stairs inside the engine house to the upper floor exhibits can view them by connecting to a free Wi-Fi Info-Point on their smartphone or tablet.
Info-Point directs users to a dedicated intranet page where historical archive information and images, along with guided tours and live footage from various CCTV cameras in the museum can be streamed to visitor’s personal media devices.
The museum also has a number of tablets that visitors can use during their visit.
Ahead of Disabled Access Day (Saturday March 12, 2016), Ryhope Engines Trust will be putting on a special steaming day for invited guests on Friday March 11, 2016, 11am until 2pm.
The museum will then be open to the public on Disabled Access Day, Saturday March 12, 2016 from 11am until 4pm.
Visitors with mobility problems will be able to use the lift and take a tour round the engine house to see the mighty beam engines working at full steam.
Keith Bell, Chairman of Ryhope Engines Trust, said: “The Trust and volunteers have operated the former Ryhope Pumping Station as a successful museum since 1971. During this time we have had many hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum.
“Friday will be a milestone moment in our preservation aims for the site, as, after many years of planning and preparation at the museum we are now able to accommodate both wheelchair and non-ambulant visitors for the very first time.
“This has been achieved in no small part due to the tremendous support of Northumbrian Water who have been instrumental in assisting the Trust in the preservation of an important part of the region′s industrial Heritage."
Ryhope Pumping Station once provided clean water to the people of Sunderland, but ceased operations in 1967.
Though the Victorian building and grounds are owned by Northumbrian Water, who have a programme of ongoing work to maintain the building, the museum is run entirely by volunteers, and steaming events take place a number of times a year.
The station will next be open to the public over the Easter weekend for steaming on Friday March 25, 2016 to Monday March 28, 2016, 11am until 4pm.
As part of the money donated by Northumbrian Water, the museum will also train volunteers in traditional masonry skills to help sustain the restoration of the building’s stonework.
Jane Morland, Partnerships Assistant Manager at Northumbrian Water, said: “Supporting Ryhope Engines Museum is very important to us. We like to play an active role in the communities we supply drinking water to and working with the Community Foundation through our Green Scheme Fund means we’ve been able to help extend the museum to an even wider audience.
“We value the hard work of the volunteers who have given so much of their time to make this accessibility come to fruition in time for Disabled Access Day.”
Since the Green Scheme Fund was set up in 2000 by Northumbrian Water and SITA Environmental Trust (Entrust), nearly £115,000 has been awarded to 26 organisations across the North East.
The fund was used to support environmental projects that met certain Entrust criteria, but in 2011, it was agreed the £90,000 remaining in the fund would be spent out by Northumbrian Water to support larger green projects.
A grant has also been awarded to Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s new Hauxley nature reserve visitor centre, and the water company are looking for an environmental project in Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside or South Tyneside to award the remaining £30,000 to.
Organisations interested should apply via www.communityfoundation.org.uk by Friday March 18, 2016.
** Media opportunity **
You are invited to a special preview event at Ryhope Engines Museum, Waterworks Road, Ryhope, SR2 0ND.
Date: Friday 11 March 2016
(The first disabled visitors will be accessing the museum for the first time, using the new chairlift at 11am, but guests are welcome between 11am and 2pm).
- Ellie-Jane O’Ware, aged 18, from South Hylton, who will be the first to access Ryhope Engines Museum using the new platform wheelchair lift.
- Keith Bell, Chairman of Ryhope Engines Trust.
- Jane Morland, Partnerships Assistant Manager at Northumbrian Water.
- Su Legg, Senior Philanthropy Advisor at the Community Foundation.
- Volunteers from Ryhope Engines Trust, including oldest volunteer, 86-year-old John Fraser.
- See the museum′s mighty engines working full steam in the Grade II (starred) listed building.
(Refreshments will be available and we recommend wearing sturdy footwear (flat shoes) and warm clothing)
Please confirm your attendance at the launch by Wednesday 9 March by contacting Janine Scott from Northumbrian Water:
Tel: 0191 301 6713 or email Janine.firstname.lastname@example.org