The Crossness Pumping Station

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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I love historical places and architecture that offer insights into the past. In London, there are never shortages of heritage buildings with significant importance; in fact, there are so many that we often forget their existence until the annual Open House weekend!

I enjoy visiting hidden gems all year round, hence when I found out about the open day at the Grade I listed Crossness Pumping Station, I suggested it to my equally curious friend. Although we are both Londoners, we have never visited this historical building before (not sure how many Londoners have) and so we were both quite enthusiastic until the actual day.

I would not recommend visiting the site without a car. Not only did we have to take the tube, train and bus (since the site's mini bus was not running on the day of our visit), we also had to walk for 20 minutes in heavy rain from the nearest bus stop. It was then we realised that sometimes a car is needed if we decide to venture out of zone 3!


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Displays of Victorian engines and toilets at the visitor centre


Opened by the Prince of Wales in 1865, the Crossness Pumping Station was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as of his radical scheme to improve the heath and sanitation of Victorian London. The pumping station contained four of the world's largest remaining rotative beam engines, originally built by James Watt & Company. These engines were used to pump London's sewage into a reservoir before discharged into the Thames. The old beam engines remained in service until the mid 1950s before it was abandoned and neglected for decades. In 1987, the Crossness Engines Trust was formed to preserve and restore the building and engines to their former glories.


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The ground floor beam engine house


Constructed in the Romanesque style, the building features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork to be found today. Visitors can admire the decorative iron work on the ground floor, as well as the original remains of the earlier paint work.


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 The beam floor


On the beam floor, visitors can see the upper part of the four beams, the restored tiled floor, and the preserved original painted panel from 1865 in the octagon. It was quite amazing to watch the huge beams moving from the upper floor. Aside from the heritage factor, the site is also a celebration of British engineering.


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Workshops and other machinery


Outside of the pumping house, there are also workshops full of machinery, which would undoubtedly satisfy many machine-thirsty males.

Since restoration work is still ongoing at the site, the pumping station is only open to the public on certain dates. The last open of this year is 11th October, and visitors will have to check the website to find out more about Open days in 2016.


The Crossness Pumping Station, The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W., Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood, London, SE2 9AQ.



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