Claverton pump opened specially for descendants of the last engine keeper
When the descendants of Benjamin Whitaker, the first engine keeper of John Rennie’s water driven pump at Claverton on the Kennet and Avon Canal, returned to Bath from the four corners of the earth for a family wedding they took the opportunity to visit Claverton.
They were enthusiastically welcomed by The Claverton Group who maintain the pump. The Grade 1 listed building was opened and the historic pump run specially for the visitors. The group had travelled from Stirling in Scotland, Victoria Island, Canada and Melbourne, Australia.
After watching the starting of the pump, which Benjamin would have done in exactly the same way thousands of times, there was time for tea and cake in Benjamin’s mess room before walking in the steps of their ancestor across the railway, broad gauge in his day, to his home, Engine Cottage, directly opposite the pump house.
Benjamin Whitaker, had started working for the canal company as a general labourer before the pump had been completed and probably assisted in its erection. On completion of the pump in 1812/13 he was appointed Engine Keeper and remained in the post until1876 when he retired aged 84 having worked for 74 years of his life. He and his wife Anna Maria brought up 14 children in the two bedroom Engine cottage. Benjamin died in 1882 aged 91 years having outlived all his children bar three.
Volunteers are always welcomed at the Pump House, phone Peter Dunn on 07719911421 or have a look at the website www.claverton.org
Benjamin Whitaker’s cottage built by the Kennet and Avon Canal Company in 1813, specifically to house the Engine Keeper and his family, has recently been sold by the Canal and Rivers Trust to a private buyer, the last canal worker having moved out a couple of years ago.
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