Brighton Visitor takes a peek at the developments at the Engineerium in Hove & meets the man behind the machine
It was full steam ahead in April, as the Engineerium in Hove opened its doors to the public for the first time in almost four years. Hundreds of eager visitors flocked to see how work was progressing on this wonderful old steam museum and former pumping station. Due to enormous public interest a further open day is now planned for later in the year.
Saved from dereliction by businessman and visionary Mike Holland, work on the building is now fast moving ahead for a grand opening in 2012. Stepping in at the eleventh hour to save this local treasure was an act of love on the part of Mike. His passion and commitment to restoring this wonderful Victorian structure to its former glory has been all-consuming. Those fortunate enough to have paid a visit would quickly have seen why.
On entering the building one is immediately confronted by its huge power house, giving a dramatic sense of stepping back in time. The great age of industrial change is all around. Finely crafted instruments of gleaming brass, huge furnaces of cast iron and a workshop crammed with fascinating tool-making equipment are all in evidence. However, it is the massive, and truly magnificent, beam engine, at the hub of the museum, which takes one’s breath away. Not only is it impressive in size but, moreover, as a quintessential example of precision engineering. It is a mechanical masterpiece turning smoothly and silently, with the same meticulous exactitude it did more than a century ago.
Such inspired invention and craftsmanship has subsequently motivated Mike, who sees the Engineerium as a place of learning for all ages, offering insight into the Industrial Revolution and its many great inventors and engineers, and who claims: “We should be celebrating engineering nationally and, more importantly, locally.”
There are plans for themed events, educational workshops, conference facilities and inter-active displays for children. An underground railway is also afoot to transport visitors on a fascinating journey through the best and worst in engineering. The restaurant and grand function room is also nearing completion with its central feature of yet another imposing mechanical marvel. Two cinemas are planned that will show historical footage of Brighton and Hove alongside exciting 3D films on advanced technology.
The extensive work being undertaken at the Engineerium is one of sympathetic restoration as opposed to transformation. The exterior of this historical, grade II listed building will remain the same, as will its ornate gardens. There are certainly no plans for any dizzy jumble of fairground rides or noisy amusement arcades. Family-orientated themed entertainment will exist, however, both inside and out, with costumed actors portraying a host of Victorian characters and events.
The restoration of this magnificent structure, and all its exhibits, is indeed an ambitious project. Furthermore, it is a worthy cause to save yet another example of notable Victorian architecture from tumbling into dereliction. Sadly, in recent years, all too many similar structures have become dejected and forgotten; an unpardonable crime for a nation that spawned the Industrial Revolution.
Finance, passion, imagination and, moreover, an understanding of the building’s enormous educational potential and historical significance have saved it from abandonment. Its future is now assured and it will remain as a legacy to the people of Brighton and Hove, and a proud reminder of a great industrial heritage.
Long may the wheels of its awe-inspiring engines continue to turn, with timeless precision and accuracy for many years to come.
The Engineerium is currently closed to the public – we’ll bring you the next Open Day date when we have it.