In Gdańsk, the term Wasserkunst, or rurmus referred to a set of buildings from the first half of the 16th century on the right bank of the Radunia River canal, at the main entrance to the city, which served as a pump station and water tower of the then water supply network.
Wasserkunst supplied water to many points in the central part of the Main City. It operated since 1536 and was one of the first in Europe to be equipped with piston pumps. It was perfected by outstanding Dutch masters: Adam Wiebe, Peter Willer and Michael Wittwerck. Thanks to this, it was a highly efficient, technically advanced device, which was described in the 17th-century mechanics textbooks.
Documentation from around 1719 shows that the mechanism of Gdańsk water plant was enclosed by a skeletal tower. The water tank was about 9 m high. The core of the device constituted two metal cylinders of suction pumps mounted in the bottom of the tank with pistons moved alternately by means of a connecting-rod and a pendulum lever. The driving force came from a wheel submerged in the Radunia River current. The whole device was made almost exclusively of wood, reinforced with metal clamps and screws. The accumulated water flowed through three water pipes fitted with bronze cast valves. The Wasserkunst operated parallel to the gravitational water supply system supplying mainly public wells. It supplied water under pressure to fountains and ‘springs’ often located on plots of the wealthiest burghers.
Archaeologists have found several examples of wooden piston pumps in Gdańsk, which were used to deliver water from ground wells or sumps. A special discovery is the pump from the southern part of the Wyspa Spichrzów (Granary Island) presented at the exhibition, equipped with two cylinders (water channels). Pumps of the Wasserkunst worked in similar way.
Edited by Bogdan Kościński, Department of Archaeology of the City of Gdańsk, Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk