A unique day out is offered at Markham Grange Steam Museum, a privately owned museum next to one of Doncaster’s largest garden centres. Covering steam engines, marine engines and steam pumps, there are a varied selection of machines to view and witness in action. Before visiting, people need to check the website, as there are only limited steaming days throughout the year.
The Steam Museum is found in the large building at the far end of the Garden Centre car park at Markham Grange, just on the outskirts of the town, near to the village of Brodsworth.
The Nursery and Garden Centre on the site was established around 40 years ago offering a variety of locally grown plants and gardening essentials. After a number of years Tom Nuttall, Markham Grange’s owner, decided to build a large dedicated building to house his growing collection of early steam engines. With other steam enthusiasts volunteering and donating, the museum’s collection has steadily grown to its present size.
Entrance to the museum is entirely free, with maintenance and running costs being met by donations from the visiting public. Also helping is the fact that Markham Grange is run almost entirely by volunteers, who restore, run and maintain the engines.
The collection of the mechanisms from yesteryear is uniquely housed alongside the lively garden and nursery, providing options for couples and families who may have somewhat divergent interest groups. Steaming days offer a glimpse of these old-world machines in action. The friendly team of volunteers are keen to share their knowledge about the marine engines, steam engines and pumps that helped with the birth and growth of Britain as an industrial nation throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
The range of engines in the privately owned collection are some of the finest examples in the country. The pumps and mechanisms have been lovingly restored over time to their full working capacity, at least running as engines, even if the machines they were attached to are no longer present. For example the “Agnes” engine from 1909 was crafted in Sowerby Bridge and helped power a nearby woolen mill, becoming the first engine to be restored to operational capacity and powered up in October 1999.
Examples of steam engines used in a marine capacity, such as the Fleming & Ferguson inverted vertical compound, and the Plenty & Son triple expansion, are now based at the museum on land, although were both designed to operate on boats.
To see the countless pieces that make up the engines in operation, visitors need to schedule in a trip to the museum on a Wednesday. By and large this is when the Steaming Days happen, making use of the same boiler that serves the adjoining Markham Grange Nurseries and Garden Centre, but allowing people to experience the sights and sounds and smells of working engine machinery. A living piece of industrial history.
Markham Grange Steam Museum stands between Pickburn and Woodlands in the northwestern outskirts of Doncaster. You can drive from the centre of town to the museum in about 15 minute. There is free parking provided at the museum, catering for the Nursery and Garden centre through the same facility.