Mr Champion's gigantic fire engines

July 30 2020

THE museum exhibitions now include a scale model of the “Warmley Engine”. This engine was used to power the machinery on the William Champion Brass works.

Mr Champion's gigantic fire engines

In 1748 Champion ordered a 36 inch Hornblower Engine for his Warmley works, which was one of the earliest such engines  in this part of the country. Later he replaced it with a 48 inch cylinder engine costing £2,000 (in 1748) which consumed £300 of coal a year.

This would appear to be a great waste of energy and money just to recycle water. However, at this time rotary engines had yet to be developed, so steam driven power could not be harnessed directly to the mills.

In 1761, a 74 inch cylinder engine with a 10 foot stroke was constructed and remained until 1784, when it was dismantled and taken bit by bit to the Bristol Brass Companies main works at Keynsham. The main block
of Battery Mills were probably sited at the eastern end of the Lake.

In 1749 Sarah Farley's Bristol Journal  described the Engine as “the most noble of the kind in the world. It discharges upwards of 3,000 Hogsheads of water in one hour. (1 hogshead = 52.5gallons). The water is buoyed up in tubes of a hemispherical form, and falls into the pool as a Cascade, and affords a grand and beautiful scene".

In 1767 the famous explorer and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks said that "the immense number of wheels which are employed in this work, are turned by water, to supply which, as there is only a small brook, Mr. Champion has erected two of the largest fire engines in England, or perhaps anywhere else, which raise the water that has been made use of, again into the Reservoir."