Miss Fisher’s Spotswood Pumping Station Adventure

The Phryne Fisher detective series by Melbourne author Kerry Greenwood has been delighting and exciting those of us who have a passion for, or even a passing interest in, the dynamic and ever changing history of Melbourne. The television adaptation of the adventures of the sassy super sleuth has set the scene of 1920s Melbourne for avid readers of the series.

We are excited to say that Museum Victoria’s very own Spotswood Pumping Station will star in this Friday night's episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (27 April 2012, 8:30pm on ABC1, repeated Sunday 29 April, 10:15pm on ABC1). To help you spot our beloved Pumping Station, we have included some terrific images from our collection in this post.

Spotswood Pumping Station, North Engine House interior, 1930s Spotswood Pumping Station, North Engine House interior, 1930s.
Source: Museum Victoria

The heritage-listed Spotswood Pumping Station was built by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works and completed in 1897. It formed a crucial link in Melbourne’s first sewage collection system by pumping the raw sewage from the underground sewers around Melbourne to Brooklyn, from where it flowed under gravity to the final processing site in Werribee.

Melbourne’s growth as an internationally renowned city was dependent upon being able to manage its waste in a safe and efficient fashion, and the Pumping Station certainly played a most important role.

Spotswood Pumping Station, eastern frontage, 1930s Spotswood Pumping Station, eastern frontage, 1930s.
Source: Museum Victoria

Imagine our delight and intrigue when we heard that the Spotswood Pumping Station, located at Scienceworks, would play host to a TV shoot and be transformed into a 1920s factory. The upshot of which: this Friday night, episode ten of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries sees Phryne (Essie Davis) investigate the death of a young female worker in a factory 'accident'. She soon learns that the woman's death might not be the misadventure the police think it is. Faced with a wall of secrecy and lies, Phryne sends her trusty maid Dot (Ashleigh Cummings) undercover into the factory to investigate. When a second suspicious death occurs, Phryne fights desperately to save one of her closest friends from the gallows.

Still from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Dr Mac (Tammy MacIntosh) in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries episode 10, 'Death by Miss Adventure', in a scene shot in the Spotswood Pumping Station.
Source: Provided courtesy of ABC TV

In the above image, Phryne’s best friend Dr Mac is standing in the South Engine Room in front of one of the electrically powered air compressors built by local engineering company, Kelly & Lewis, circa 1926. Most of the Pumping Station interior and machinery seen in the background of factory scenes during the episode have barely changed since the decade in which the series is set.

Spotswood Pumping Station, North Engine House interior, 1930s Spotswood Pumping Station, North Engine House interior, 1930s.
Source: Museum Victoria

The Spotswood Pumping Station has been the site of many a dalliance with the silver screen and we are all excited to continue our sleuthing into the many uses of this wonderful part of Melbourne’s history in film and television. To be continued...

Comments (7)

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Damien 27 April, 2012 19:10
Interesting, but doesn't trump the station's appearance in Mad Max!
Jan 28 April, 2012 14:50
The pumping station looked equally fantastic as the scene of foul deeds as it did for a wedding party we went to last year - congratulations!
Lynne 1 May, 2012 08:01
Saw the episode in question & was delighted that we can hold our own when it comes to making period specific series. It is great that our public builings are being utilize in a very creative way.
DEBBIE RILEY 11 May, 2012 00:04

What a surprise, how many noticed the west gate bridge in full operation in the above window of the pumping station complete with trucks and cars buzzing by. Strange sight for 1928 :) a glimpse into the future maybe ????? My family (having worked there for many years) spotted it straight away.

Gemma 14 May, 2012 12:44
This may be old news to people in the west but there is a brillian t osnf called 'Spotswood' by Melbourne band The Orbweavers which also freatures the pumping station. Beautiful
belinda 8 November, 2013 21:52
And whats wrong with the good ol pumping station? Dont complain too much it was the workhorse that kept the air smelling sweet otherwise spotswoode would be called sulphurwoode True
Maggie 3 November, 2014 07:27
Good work guys, I love a good pumping station!
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.