The perilous situation of an engine house belonging to one of Britain’s great engineering sons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel owned by Dairy Crest Group Plc in Totnes, Devon was covered in RN 104 and 105. The site was built to house Brunel’s atmospheric railway propulsion system and represents one of only three surviving engine houses from his time. The fact that his system was eventually superseded by direct steam powered traction makes the remaining buildings all the more important for industrial archaeology.
From 2007 onwards there was a hard fought campaign to save the building, requiring local activists and the involvement of TV personalities such as RESCUE Council member Prof Mark Horton of Coast fame and Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear, to persuade the owner, Dairy Crest, and English Heritage that the building was worthy of protection. Fortunately, the present situation is that Brunel’s Building has received Grade II listing, the owner stopped all plans to demolish the property (which it had started without permission) and a coalition of community groups called the Totnes Development Trust and the Transition Town Totnes scheme have created a management plan and project proposal to first buy and then develop the site with the Brunel Building at its heart.