The Coultershaw Beam Pump is located in the South Downs National Park near Petworth. It is part of the Coultershaw Heritage Site, run and maintained by volunteers from the Coultershaw Trust, a registered charity. It has a waterwheel, historic water pump, a state-of-the-art 21st century water turbine and historic buildings around the mill pond. It is an important example of 18th century industrialisation in a rural area. It was the site of several corn mills from before 1086 up to 1973 and was on the routes of the Rother Navigation (1794-1888), the Petworth to Chichester Turnpike (1800-1877) and the Mid Sussex Railway to Petworth (1859-1966).
The 3rd Earl of Egremont, a good friend of JMW Turner the artist, was interested in science and in improving his estates. He obtained a private Act of Parliament to enable him to ‘make and maintain’ the River Rother Navigation, at his own expense. Construction work took place between 1791 and 1794, with the work at Coultershaw being completed by 1792. Here the river continued to flow through the watermill, with barges using the waterway and lock, a short distance to the south.
In those days many roads were poor and so where possible goods were taken from sea ports as far as possible along rivers and navigations. Coultershaw was once a very busy area with goods arriving by boats to the wharves, which were then loaded onto carts and taken along the turnpike. The tolls received for goods using the navigation were an important source of income for the Petworth Estate. The heyday of the navigation was from 1823 until 1859, when the arrival of the railway brought its commercial use to an end.
The Coultershaw Beam Pump was installed alongside the corn mill in 1782 to provide an extra water supply for Petworth House and the town. It was powered by a waterwheel, and pumped river water for 1½ miles to Petworth through a cast iron pipe. The water was stored in two cisterns; one on Lawn Hill for Petworth House, and the other in Grove Street to serve the town. The Beam Pump was capable of delivering up to 20,000 gallons of water a day to Petworth. In 1839, as well as Petworth House, the Beam Pump was supplying water to 7 public stopcocks and 137 private taps owned by 69 people in the town. It survived after the last mill building was demolished in1973. The water from the pump has now been diverted to the fountain just outside the Pump House.
In 2012 the Coultershaw Trust installed an Archimedes Screw turbine in one of the sluices, it uses water power to generate electricity. The turbine normally operates for 24 hours a day and generates 70,000 KW hours of electricity per annum, which is exported to the National Grid,saving over 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The project was largely funded by our Patron, the present Lord Egremont through the Leconfield Estate, with contributions from the South Downs Joint Committee (predecessor of the SDNP) and the Coultershaw Trust.
A visit to Coultershaw can be combined with a visit to Petworth House or historic Petworth town, where there are several pubs, cafes and restaurants. The excellent Badgers Pub is also nearby.
Caroline Douglas, Trustee