Built by the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) between 1893 and 1897, the Spotswood Pumping Station was a key part of Melbourne's first centralised sewerage system. The purpose of the Pumping Station was to raise raw sewage collected through a network of underground sewers and pump it up to the start of the outfall sewer at Brooklyn, from where it flowed under gravity to the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee.
The construction of the Melbourne Sewerage System represented the largest single public infrastructure project in Victoria at the time. With an overall cost of £3.5 million, the project provided a much needed boost to local industry and employment at a time when Victoria was gripped by a major economic recession.
Construction of the Pumping Station began in March 1894 with the excavation of a large 25 metre deep hole, much of which was blasted out of solid basalt. The twelve oval-shaped pump wells were formed from unreinforced concrete thick enough to carry the weight of the buildings and heavy machinery.
The original equipment consisted of four large pumping engines powered by steam from coal-fired boilers. By 1914, ten steam engines were in operation at Spotswood. The first electric powered pumps were installed in 1921, and by 1925 most of the daily flows were pumped by electricity.
The rapid growth of Melbourne after the Second World War meant that by the 1960s, the Spotswood Pumping Station's capacity had been exceeded. Corrosion of the iron and steel rising mains from Spotswood to the outfall sewer led to a decision to build a new pumping station at Brooklyn. The Spotswood Pumping Station ceased operation in September 1965, but sewage still flows under the site today on its way to Brooklyn and the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee.
Following the end of its pumping operations, the Spotswood Pumping Station site continued to be used as an engineering maintenance workshop and deep sewer maintenance depot by the Board of Works until the 1980s. The Spotswood Pumping Station buildings and their entire contents were classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) in 1981 and the site is also listed on the Victoria Heritage Register (H1555).
In March 1989, the Museum of Victoria took over the Spotswood Pumping Station site to develop Scienceworks - an interactive Science and Technology Centre, which opened in February 1992.