William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944) is an artist renowned for his cartoons of weird inventions. The Heath Robinson Museum, which recently moved to a new building in Pinner (north west London) explores this and other sides of his work.
Having trained as an artist, he sought to pursue landscape painting. However the need to earn a living led him to join his brothers Charles and Tom in a book illustration business. His output covered Shakespeare, contemporary writers such as Kipling, and children’s books, extending to high qulaity magzines such as Tatler. The humorous side of his work can be seen, for example in satirising GF Watts.
The First World War brought shortages which affected the publishing industry, and Heath Robinson focussed on his humorous cartoons, contributing to the war effort with bizarre ideas for battlefield tactics.
The museum opened in 2016, in a new building in Pinner Memorial Park, alongside the Georgian West House. Beyond the park is Pinner village, with 16th century buildings lining the mainstreet, which leads up to the 14th century church at the top.
The afternoon took us to the London Museum fo Water and Steam for a guided tour. The museum is located in the 19th century pumping station at Kew, on the north side of the Thames. The site dates from the 1830s, though its origins go back to the early 19th century and the need to supply water both for the canals and for the population of London.
A section on water supply traced the history back to the 16th century, with the use of wooden water pipes – elm was a favoured material. A water main was formed by boring a hole along the length of a tree trunk – hence the names ‘trunk’ and ‘branch’ for main and secondary service lines. Wooden pipes were superceded by iron piping during the 19th century.
The Kew pumping station housed a number of steam engines, together capable of pumping several million gallons per day. Diesel powered pumps were introduced during the 20th century, though the steam pumps were retained as a backup until WWII. Electric pumps were introduced post war.
Several of the steam engines have been restored.The museum also houses various engines brought in from other sites. One engine is run in steam each weekend – fuel costs prevent more frequent operation. On the day of our visit, it was the turn of the Easton and Amos engine. Built on 1863, it had operated at a waterworks in Northampton until 1930.
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‘Love and Time’ image courtesy of Heath Robinson Museum.