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Sheila Dibnah keeps heritage flame burning in Somerset

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 14, 2012

  • Sheila Dibnah and Nigel Webber feed timber into the firebox of a Marshall stationary boiler at Westonzoyland Pumping Station

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Sheila Dibnah, widow of TV’s great steam enthusiast Fred Dibnah, fed the flames of Somerset’s industrial heritage when she visited Westonzoyland Pumping Station yesterday.

She was in the county to give a talk to help raise much-needed funds for the trust which runs Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum of Steam Power & Land Drainage, and for the Fred Dibnah Heritage Trust.

The brick engine house is home to Somerset’s first steam-powered drainage machine, produced in 1861 by Easton Amos & Sons of Southwark, and still in perfect working order.

It is capable of raising 100 tons of water six feet high in just one minute, and for nearly a century removed flood water from 1,600 acres of prime farmland. Nowadays the machine, and many other early engines on show, are powered for demonstrations by a 1938 Marshall portable boiler which Mrs Dibnah could not resist helping to stoke.

As she inspected the Grade II* listed buildings, including a forge boasting the original anvil and hearth, she said: “It touches my heart to think of the people working here and how skilled they were. The museum is absolutely amazing. I love the enthusiasm here and the fact that everything is so genuine. This is just the sort of place that Fred loved.”

The museum will stage a special steam weekend on May 19-20, with visiting vehicles and a living history re-enactment camp.

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