Last Saturday I had the distinct pleasure (bit of a weird word to use, but we’ll go with it) of visiting Abbey Pumping Station. Being a lifelong Leicester resident, it’s almost shameful how I’ve managed to avoid it for so long.
APS is essentially the place to go to if you’re interested in either steam or sewage. Set next to the National Space Centre, the two attractions together “tell the story of over 200 years of science and technology from the early days of steam and industry to the space exploration of today.” And yes, that is taken directly from the website.
So what does APS have to offer? Well, a lot of steam related stuff – ye olde engines and the like. Some old-school cinema things – cameras and zoetropes and things. There’s also some bits about Leicester’s tram history (yes, we have a tram history) and the history of washing, both with clothes and bodies.
And then we come onto the history of the toilet (the ‘Flushed with Pride’ exhibit) and Thomas Crapper’s role in it. Now this is where it gets really interesting.
First of all, let me point out that I went to this museum by myself, which already made me a little weird. In a building full of families or the elderly, I was neither old nor with a child.
The museum features one of the best interactive demonstrations ever, especially if you’re a small child or just really immature – Where Does Poo Go When You Flush It (*not the official name of the demo).
At one end of the room sits a toilet with a transparent cistern full of water above it. Put an object in the toilet bowl, pull the chain to flush it and watch through see-through pipes as the water takes the object down along the pipes to the drainage system at the bottom, fish it out (by hand) and start all over again. In itself, not an overly interesting demonstration. What makes it much more fun, however, is seeing (or being) a little kid shouting, “it’s a poo! IT’S A POO! Dad, I’m flushing my poo!” and then watching them race the water to end and hearing, “I’M GETTING MY POO OUT NOW!” So much fun, but very much not designed for 32 year old women there by themselves.
Always fun to start with the steam stuff, and end up with the poo.
**The photo below was taken from the display boards that are all around. Apparently this is some old form of washing that’s being depicted. It looks painful.