A distinguished engineer who founded the world-famous British Engineerium has died.

Jonathan Minns, of Hove, rescued the historic Goldstone Pumping Station from demolition and transformed it into one of the most influential engineering museums in the world.

He died at home surrounded by family and friends on October 13 aged 75.


The Engineerium was set up on a shoestring budget of just £350 as the world’s only centre for the “teaching of engineering conservation”.

Built in 1866 as a water-pumping station, it was threatened with demolition in 1971 after falling out of use.

Mr Minns won listed status for the buildings and acquired the lease in 1974, before restoring the 19th Century High Victorian Gothic complex of brick buildings, in West Blatchington.

It closed in 2006 and was put up for auction only to be saved at the last minute with a £3 million offer from businessman Mike Holland. Currently closed for restoration, it is set to re-open in 2016.

Jonathan Minns had a long and intricate career devoted to the conservation of industrial antiquities.

Wife Vanessa Minns said: “Contrary to many reports, no grants were forthcoming and the museum was financed both personally by Jonathan and by earning income building museums and exhibitions for customers all over the world, and restoring engines, machines and mills of all types in the workshops at the Museum."

He built up a team of highly trained conservators over time and special exhibitions about the history anything from bicycles to fishing equipment.

The most successful was 'Chain Reaction' the history of the loo and Jonathan gave several media interviews seated on a Moule's Earth Closet.

He was also responsible for restoration projects in Sussex included all four Brighton windmills, Plumpton and Hellingly watermills, the watermill at Batemans (Kipling's House) and a Victorian lift in Lewes crescent.

He was asked to consult on the restoration and value of the West Pier three times over the years.

He trained many young people at the Engineerium and had a deep belief in the apprentice system having been apprenticed himself.

Mr Minns served on the judging panel for the BBC Tomorrow's World Award for Invention, presented annually by the Prince of Wales. The Engineerium was visited privately by Prince Philip and Prince Michael of Kent and officially by the Duke of Kent.

Vanessa Minns, non-exective director of the engineerium 1974-2005, added: “Jonathan had a unique and vast knowledge of his subject to which he was devoted. The loss of all this knowledge is a major tragedy. It was his hope that his restoration work would survive him for a good 100 years.”

A funeral will be held next Thursday October 31, starting with a traction engine procession on Chesham Road, Kemp Town at 2pm.