Our latest Curiosity of the Week might cause a bit of a stink! We’re taking a look at the Victorian wonder that is Crossness Pumping Station, a Grade I way to rid London of its raw sewage.
The Great Stink
Crossness Pumping Station was originally opened in 1865 to help combat London’s mounting poop problem. So much sewage was being dumped into the River Thames that it was becoming hard to ignore. In fact, it was known as ‘The Great Stink’ (lovely, eh?). It wasn’t just a stink of course, but Cholera was a big killer at the time. People were unwittingly drinking contaminated water.
And so, Crossness Pumping Station was built to help take the sewage away from the city and out to the Thames estuary. Yes, the sewage was still being dumped, but this time it was a bit less on the doorstep. Rather typical of the Victorians, the pumping station wasn’t built as a merely functional building. Instead a wonderfully ornate temple to waste was constructed.
Saved from demolition
Designed by engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and architect Charles Henry Driver, the pumping station was operational by 1865. Sadly, by the 1930s the pumping station wasn’t really needed anymore, and by the 1950s it fell silent. Then, in the 1980s, after the station narrowly avoided demolition, plans were formed to begin restoration.
The station is now Grade I listed and for very good reason. Step inside the Beam Engine house and you will be greeted with a magnificent, colourful, display of industrial architecture. This unusual and visually stunning building with its ornate Victorian ironwork has undergone extensive restoration.
This restoration work is ongoing, but it’s thanks to the hard work of The Crossness Engines Trust volunteers that we can enjoy this fantastic piece of heritage.
The good news is you can now visit Crossness Pumping Station by booking a guided tour.
More info: www.crossness.org.uk
We are always on the lookout for interesting customs, hidden places, and unique buildings and landmarks, to share with our readers. If you have an idea for Curiosity of the Week then please do get in touch, we welcome suggestions from everyone. You can contact us by emailing [email protected] or send us a message via Facebook.