the limehouse accumulator

accumulatorI have to admit that I can’t actually remember when I forced took the Cabbie family to visit this place.  It was an Open House weekend but wasn’t this one just gone, maybe 2007 then.  But I loved it.  Not just mild enjoyment at a family day out doing something mildly interesting, but absolutely loved it.  The combination of Victorian grandeur and a clever, if slightly clunky, solution to an engineering problem just can’t be beaten in my book.  Unfortunately I only have a couple of photos from our visit, so thought I’d direct you to someone who took some of the inside as well.  But it’s what it did that is the real winner for me.  Built in 1869 it regulated the hydraulic system that powered various cranes, capstans and lock gates for the Regent’s Canal Dock.  For the Limehouse Basin at Mill place is where the Regent’s Canal finishes the journey that started back at Paddington, linking the Grand Junction Canal to the Thames.  You can walk (give or take the occasional diversion) from one end to the other, not something for the faint hearted, probably better off splitting it in 2 by going Maida Vale to Islington then Islington to Limehouse.  I have done the first leg, but not the second.

But what about how it worked I hear you all crying.  Or is that a collective sigh?  Well it basically went something like this:

  • steam engines fed the system pressurized water.
  • the weight loaded accumulator regulated the pressure of the water.
  • to gain the required pressure they had to build height into the system.
  • but to get the required pressure the tower would have had to have been as high as One Canada Square at Canary Wharf (I may have made that bit up, but it certainly would have been bloody high).
  • so they built an iron cylinder inside the tower, then built a piston loaded with 80 tons of gravel that  could put the water under increasing pressure, therefore meaning it didn’t have to be quite so tall.

As I said, brilliant, if by modern standards a bit clunky.  So if you get a chance, go and have a look, then you can climb up the stairs that now go up through the original cylinder and get to see the view from the top.



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